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The year the water dragon roared

The Chinese year that began in January 2012 gives a powerful opportunity to witness.


Illustrated by Caleb Salisbury8452dragon

This year, 2012, is the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese calendar. It didn’t start on January 1, but 22 days later. January 23, 2012 marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year (sometimes referred to as the Chinese lunar New Year).

The Chinese year, the full delineation of which is based on the movements of both the sun and moon, has considerable significance not just for people living in China, or overseas Chinese. The Chinese calendar is also used by non-Chinese in several other Asian countries, though with modifications varying from country to country. Though the chronology of ancient China is not without controversy, the calendar in its present form appears to have been in operation for at least five centuries before the time of Christ; its origins are possibly several centuries earlier, perhaps not that long after the Babel dispersion.1

In matters of practical commerce, Chinese businessmen today mainly use the Western (Gregorian) calendar. But the Chinese calendar still retains huge cultural significance, and is even used to denote birthdays. A person might therefore celebrate two birthdays in each calendar year—their Chinese birthday and their ‘western’ one. However, because the Gregorian and Chinese calendars will mostly line up at 19-year cycles, most people will find that in their 19th, 38th and 57th year, both birthdays will likely fall on the same day.

Chinese horoscopes and the like

In addition to being a time marker, with seasonal notations and festivals, the Chinese calendar is associated with what is sometimes called the Chinese Zodiac. Each new year is assigned to one of 12 animals, with an exact sequence, in a cycle of 12. Always in the same order as in Figure 1 below.

Thus, the Year of the Rat is always followed by the Year of the Ox, and so on. This sequence is as follows, cycling over and over:


There are a number of fables concerning these animals in the calendar. Also, varying beliefs associate each particular ‘animal year’ with a number of matters of alleged significance, just as with the types of astrological superstitions westerners are used to. Again similarly to Western zodiacal nonsense, the year one is born in is claimed to affect one’s personality and outcomes in life—as well as having ‘matchmaking’ significance. Dragon years are supposed to be particularly ‘lucky’ ones in which to have babies. So, not surprisingly, there is a spike in the number of babies born every twelve years in parts of the world with substantial Chinese populations.

No, it’s not Leviathan

To be more specific, 2012 is the year of the Water Dragon; this has nothing to do with the common lizard of that name, though. Nor even with dragons living in the sea. The ‘water’ part of the label comes about because superimposed on this 12-year cycle is a 5-year one consisting of the five traditional Chinese ‘elements’: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth.2 These supposedly impart specific characteristics or temperaments to the animal concerned, and/or to the person born in that year.

This is also a regular cycle. For example, the Chinese year that largely overlapped with the Gregorian year 2000 was that of the Metal Dragon. And since 5 × 12 = 60, the previous Metal Dragon year corresponded to (most of) 1940. The Gregorian year that will largely overlap with the next Year of the Water Dragon would be 60 years hence, i.e. 2072.

The 12 creatures

We have commented before (see Crouching tiger, hidden dinosaur) on the intriguing fact that 11 of the 12 animals in this list are ones that are alive and well in today’s world. Only one seems to be missing from the roll-call of animals around today—the dragon. The secular view of dragons is that they are purely mythological. But why would 11 be real, and only one a myth?

Secular reasoning for why dragons are purely myth goes something like this.

  1. They are not around today, as far as one can reasonably tell.
  2. There is nothing like any dragon in the fossils from say, the Ice Age, a time when everyone agrees that people were already around.
  3. Therefore, a story about dragons could never have been based on actually seeing one.

Now where that strikes a hitch is that there are creatures in the fossil record—lots of them—that could easily give rise to stories like the dragon legends all over the world if people had witnessed them in life—namely, many of the dinosaurs. But, according to long-age dogma, that’s impossible. Long ago, the lawyer/geologist Lyell set out to consciously undermine Genesis and its record of a year-long, global Flood.3 The way in which his sort of uniformitarian assumptions (based on the rejection of diluvial catastrophism) have shaped the interpretation of the fossil record to this day, the last dinosaur must have died out a very long time before the first human appeared on Earth. This is normally said to be at least 65 million years ago.

Facing up to the issue

The late evolutionist, Dr Carl Sagan, famous host of the Cosmos TV series, squarely faced this conundrum that dragon stories pose for evolutionists and other long-agers. Namely, that such stories are found in cultures right across the globe, and that they are amazingly like several types of dinosaurs—which no-one is supposed to have seen! Recognizing it quite properly as a puzzle to be solved for long-agers, he wrote a book about it, The Dragons of Eden. In this he proposed that somehow one part of our brain (the one that was inherited from whichever of our alleged reptile ancestors, in the evolutionist scenario, were living at the same time as dinosaurs) had retained its memories of what those ancestors had seen.

Imagine if someone were to seriously suggest that deep down, our brain remembers (without being told) what our ancestors living 500 years ago saw around them. With what is known about the principles of heredity, which is quite a bit these days, that would be incredibly farfetched. So much so that one could not imagine a serious scientist giving it other than a bemused smile.

Now imagine that this idea is extended back so that our alleged ancestor tens of millions of years ago is supposed to have somehow transmitted the visual information his brain processed ‘back then’—through all of the intervening generations, to people alive today. It is not hard to understand why most of Sagan’s scientific colleagues maintained a somewhat embarrassed silence, and probably wished he had stuck to astrophysics.

The fact that he went to such extraordinary public lengths to explain it away, though, is a testimony to the reality of the phenomenon; the dragons of ‘legend’ really do sound amazingly like many of the dinosaurs of history. And then there are the repeated biblical mentions of ‘dragon(s)’, as the Hebrew תנין tannyn was translated in the 1611 King James, before the word dinosaur had even been coined in the English language.

Also, there is the majestic poetic description of the Behemoth (‘beast of beasts’) in Job 40:15 ff. This ‘chief of God’s ways’, which God was pointing Job to as an example of His creative power, is described as the mightiest land-dwelling, grass-eating creature God ever made. The description of his tail as moving like a mighty cedar tree puts paid to suggestions of this being the elephant or the hippo, given their diminutive tails (unless this was meant to be restricted to only bonsai cedar trees).

Lots of evidence

And then there are the man-made artefacts which depict unmistakeable dinosaurs, displayed on decorations that are universally accepted as dating from hundreds of years before there were books showing from fossil reconstructions what these impressive beasts looked like.

For example, the strikingly realistic-looking brass behemoths adorning a 15th century cleric’s tomb in a UK cathedral, and the carving of an unmistakeable stegosaur in the ancient temple ruins of Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Finally, there is the sensational evidence, now widely accepted as real, of soft tissue in dinosaur fossils that are supposed to be tens of millions of years old, a finding that has been repeatedly confirmed in an increasing number of specimens. This includes transparent, branching blood vessels, and within them an ooze that could still be squeezed out like toothpaste and contained obvious nucleated red blood cell structures. Not to mention the identification of proteins like osteocalcin, collagen and more, which should have disintegrated in far less than 65 million years!

In short, there is a large body of evidence supporting the deduction from Genesis six-day creation that people and dinosaurs must at one stage have lived on the same earth at the same time.

Therefore, the reason the dragon is the only one of the creatures in the Chinese calendar not alive today is not because it is mythological, but because dragons are now extinct. And the reason they were included in the first place in this zodiacal roll-call of otherwise living creatures is likely because they (dinosaurs) were still around when the fables about all 12 of these animals accreted a few thousand years ago.

So why is this important?

More than 1 in 7 people in today’s world are Chinese, so a lot of people know about the Year of the Dragon. I suggest that the majority of readers of this website either have ethnic Chinese friends or workmates or are themselves Chinese. In this globalized age, vast numbers of non-Chinese people have also heard about the Year of the Dragon. What a great opportunity, therefore, to start a conversation about why this one creature is the only one that seems out of place today. The context, of course, is all about the truth and authority of the Bible and its claims upon all of our lives.

Rather than attempting to explain it all in one long monologue, it’s a great idea to ask questions, as this article (coincidentally by an ethnic Chinese lady) explains. Get people intrigued enough to want to find answers about, for example, the dinosaur-dragon conundrum that stumped Sagan. The Chinese Zodiac gives an excellent ‘opening line’. E.g.: “Have you ever wondered why the Year of the Dragon is the only one that does not refer to an animal you can point to as real and alive?” Let the conversation flow naturally to a point where you can ask whether the person concerned would be interested in finding out more of the amazing evidences of dinosaurs in human history.

And if you don’t have it all at your fingertips (which most of us don’t), ask them if you can arrange a time to watch a DVD about it together, or if you can lend them a book on this fascinating subject. We have a number of great dragon/dinosaur books and DVDs on our store; a new book that many may have not seen yet is the visually stunning Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons.

And seeing it’s specifically the Year of the Water Dragon (roaring4 or otherwise), you can tap into that, too. There were ‘dragons’ in the water, not just on land. Marine reptiles are not dinosaurs, technically, but encounters with some of them would have certainly justified such terms as dragons or sea serpents. In fact, a book I wrote a few years ago, Dragons of the Deep, takes a look at many of these creatures, including not just extinct ocean monsters, but ones known to be alive today. (Like the Colossal Squid, capable of duelling with sperm whales. Like dragons, it too was long thought to be a figment of sailors’ imaginings.)5

The bottom line

Any year is a good year to witness to the truth of the Bible and its glorious Gospel of Good News. But this year of 2012 (and probably for a few years after that, looking back) seems to give a special and easy opportunity to get past first base in sharing Christ with some of your friends and acquaintances (and maybe even family). As one of my first pastors said to his congregation decades ago about the people we would love to see saved: “Yes, pray for them—fervently—but it won’t honour God to just leave it at that. Put wings on your prayer. That means going and doing what you can to make sure they hear about the Lord and His great salvation (Romans 10:13–16).”

Published: 31 January 2012


  1. Some sources give dates for the commencement of Chinese history which predate the biblical Flood, which of course cannot be. But even some secular authorities are beginning to be aware that dynastic and regnal lists, particularly those used in the ‘standard chronology’ of ancient Egypt (which is often used to ‘calibrate’ non-Egyptian dates) are usually in need of substantial shortening. This is due to such things as embellishment of regnal length, overlapping reigns, co-regencies and more. Return to text.
  2. The ancient Greeks had Air, Fire, Earth, and Water; plus sometimes a fifth called ‘Aether’. Return to text.
  3. His own writings stated that his goal was to “free the science [of geology] from Moses” (for background and documentation, see creation.com/Lyell) Return to text.
  4. Despite its likely historical roots, the zodiacal Water Dragon, being a mythical accretion, cannot roar, of course. The literary licence applied in the title is intended to encourage more people to read the article, so they might thereby be motivated to reach others. It will have served its purpose if as a result only more voice is added to the sound of the assembled multitudes described in Revelation 19:6 as like the ‘roar of many waters’ in praising God’s Lamb. Return to text.
  5. One section deals with the best candidate to date in the fossil record for the huge and fierce water-dwelling creature called Leviathan in the Bible (Job 41, just after the section on Behemoth in the preceding chapter). Return to text.

Helpful Resources

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Dire Dragons
by Vance Nelson
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Dragons or Dinosaurs?
by Darek Isaacs
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Dragons of the Deep
by Carl Wieland
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