By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Jan. 23 marks the first day of the Lunar New Year, and this year happens to be the Year of the Dragon. Occupying the fifth position in the Chinese Zodiac, the dragon is the mightiest of the signs.
The dragon signifies luck and symbolizes such character traits as dominance and ambition. People born in the Year of the Dragon, “dragons,” prefer to live by their own rules and, if left on their own, are usually successful. They’re driven, unafraid of challenges, and risk-takers. They’re passionate in all they do, and they do things in grand fashion.
While dragons frequently help others, rarely will they ask for help. Others are attracted to dragons, especially to their colorful personalities. However, deep down, dragons prefer to be alone. Perhaps that is because they’re most successful when working alone.
And like the mythical creature, dragons have tempers that can flare fast! Dragons can also be arrogant, tactless, and hot-headed.
A number of notable Asians were born in the Year of the Dragon. Below, we look at a few who exemplify dragon characteristics, some more than others.
Iva Ikuko Toguri D’Aquino (born 1916), also known as Tokyo Rose, was a Japanese American and propaganda broadcaster in the South Pacific during World War II. Though born in the Year of the Dragon, “a tiger does not change its stripes.” This quote was attributed to Rose at a time when she was stranded in Japan during the war. The Japanese government pressured her to give up her American citizenship, but she refused and became a prisoner of war. She was later asked to broadcast to soldiers over the radio, but she refused to say anything negative about Americans.
At one point during her broadcasts, she risked her life by smuggling food into a nearby prisoner of war camp, where her radio producer and colleague were being held. Always full of courage, but sometimes troubled by misfortune, Rose epitomized the dragon through her lifelong struggles and journey.
Bruce Lee (1940) was the Chinese icon that changed and influenced martial arts and martial arts films in Hong Kong and around the world. There is no doubt that Lee was unafraid of challenges and passionate in martial arts. In fact, appropriately enough, Lee’s Chinese name translates into “little dragon.”
Haing Ngor (1940) is best known for winning the 1985 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his debut performance in “The Killing Fields,” in which he portrayed Cambodian journalist and refugee Dith Pran. By assuming this role in a controversial film, Ngor was bold and took risks. The trained surgeon and gynecologist had no prior acting experience before his role in the film. He was later murdered by three gang members outside his Los Angeles home.
Amy Tan (1952) is best known for authoring “The Joy Luck Club.” It was published in 1989, and adapted into a commercially successful film in 1993. Tan surely possesses the traits of a successful dragon.
Mark Dacascos (1964) seems to have followed a similar path as Lee, one of his role models.
Dacascos is another prominent figure known for his acting skills and martial artistry. He won many karate and kung fu championships when he was younger, and now has a recurring role on the reboot of the popular show, “Hawaii Five-O.” For all you foodies out there, he also plays the “The Chairman” on “Iron Chef America.”
Maggie Cheung (1964) has seen a great deal of success in her career. In addition to being a superstar, she is multilingual and fluent in English, Mandarin, French, and Cantonese. She has won several awards for her performances and is well regarded as one of the top actresses in Hong Kong. She took a step back from acting in 2004 and has since shifted gears to contributions to philanthropy, music, and editing.
Laura Ling (1976), who is the younger sister of Lisa Ling, a special correspondent for multiple broadcast shows, was born in the Year of the Dragon. In 2009, Ling and her colleague Euna Lee were detained in North Korea after they crossed the border illegally though unintentionally. The bravery exhibited by Ling is a quality possessed by a dragon.
Vanessa Hudgens (1988), known for her portrayal of a main character in Disney’s High School Musical series, was also born in the Year of the Dragon. She seemed to be dragon-like when she tactlessly put herself in a situation that led to the scandalous release of self-taken nude photographs on the Internet. (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.