Happy Loong or Dragon New Year and Family Day the Canadian Way

By Yang Wang
February 19, 2024

CCB Toronto Visionaries, a peer support organization for the blind, organized a trip to the Lunar New Year Reading and Tea at Montgomery’s Inn yesterday. The event was a celebration of the Lunar New Year (Feb 10-24) and the Family Day (Feb 18). Montgomery’s Inn was a museum in Toronto, turned from a historic inn built in the early 19th century. It was free for visionary members but was attended by a full room of people from across the city from all kinds of cultural backgrounds, age groups, and professions.

Toronto-based Children’s author Catherine Little read her picture books Twelve In A Race, and Dragon’s Dilemma. Catherine was a Chinese descendent. The two children’s books told stories about how the 12 animals were chosen as the Chinese Zodiac signs through a race, and specifically how Dragon, the most powerful animal and the only one who could fly, came in fifth place in the race. I really enjoyed the stories. They were simple but beautiful, lovely, and heart-warming.

Afterward, some publishers and authors asked Catherine questions about the process of publishing a book. I also asked a question out of a cultural concern. As I could not see, I wondered what the animals looked like; especially, did the dragon look lovely or fierce and formidable? I asked because in the Chinese community, people were talking about the English translation of the name
of the animal sign. In Chinese, we call it Loong, a powerful, just, and benevolent animal who was in charge of the weather and brought rain to the Earth in mythology. Some people said maybe we should call it the Year of the Loong instead of the Year of the Dragon since, in Western culture, the dragon had a very different connotation from the loong in its Chinese counterpart. Dragons seemed to be purely bad animals in the West.

My question seemed to interest People. Catherine came to where we were seated and explained in detail how the dragon was depicted. I still could not see but guessed it must look somewhat lovely because, in the story, it was an adventurous and kind-hearted character.

After the reading, the Visionaries had an afternoon tea together. It was just great to meet with friends and chat to get to know each other better.

I took the Wheel Trans to and from the event. On the way to the Montgomery’s Inn, another Visionaries member, Jason, and I happened to be in the same taxi. He mentioned that he participated in quite a few events organized by the East and West Learning Connections (EAWLC). He even brought another blind
friend, Peter, to go to a peace concert in January that was thrown by an EAWLC’s guest speaker, Sheila White. I shared the info on the concert in our newsletter. They enjoyed it a lot, and got to talk to Sheila, and Peter signed up with their open mic program. It was just uplifting to see so many connections
happening! Jason introduced Bob Marley and his music to me. The driver joined our conversation because he liked Bob Marley as well. I was excited to know the driver was from Ghana, a West African country. In March, two guest speakers who live in Ghana will come to our East&West Dialogue program to share their living experiences and culture on Zoom. I asked the driver how to say ‘hello” and “thank you” in Ghanaian. He was very happy and enthusiastic to teach me. I wrote down the words, and recorded the pronunciation in my cell phone. I was so looking forward to the event to surprise our guest speakers!

Back to the English translation of the animal sign of this Lunar New Year, I had not figured out which would be better – the Year of the Loong or the Year of the Dragon. I could understand why some people worried about how the connotation of the dragon might add to the adversity against the Chinese
community. At a time when the relationship between China and the Western countries went intense, we worried that Chinese descendants would further fall victim to anti-Asian racism when some people did not treat others as equal individuals or cared enough to separate people from the government.

Yesterday, a friend of mine told me that at a gathering over the Family Day weekend, her friend told her about a recent incident on the street in Toronto. The friend’s son and daughter were walking and talking to each other in Mandarin. A local man behind them shouted at them and spat just because
they were Chinese. My heart ached upon hearing it. The boy and the girl were about the same age as my boys. How devastating and traumatizing would it be to the innocent minds of the youngsters? I myself had gone through a scary racist attack in a subway station back in December. I could totally understand some Chinese diasporas wished we could appear perfect, that every trivial cultural detail would bring no more unnecessary or unfair adversity to other people’s perception of us. On the other hand, I was thinking why we should be so sensitive and fragile. An animal sign was but an animal Sign. Its connotation was given by people. If people were kind and inclusive to each other, they would not discriminate against each other whatsoever. Beautiful things, like art, music, dialogues, and communications, could promote mutual understanding between people. What the children’s book author Catherine, the Montgomery’s Inn, and CCB Toronto Visionaries
did was admirable in that way. People from all walks of life had a lovely Family Day afternoon together, getting to know about some different cultures and walking home with heart-warming stories.

I felt I tasted so many elements of Canada of today on this Family Day – multiculturalism, connections, lots of joys, and a bit of pain – at a renovated historical site. Let’s hope for more renovations for a better future. Wishing everyone a very Happy Lunar New Year and a belated Happy Family Day the
Canadian Way!

More materials to read:

Books by Catherine Little | Indigo

Kelly and Ramya: A racially motivated hate crime that happened to Yang Wang on Apple Podcasts
(Starts at 2’35”)
https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/kelly-and- ramya/id1235188417?i=1000641891467

About the CCB Toronto Visionaries

Montgomery’s Inn – City of Toronto

4 thoughts on “Happy Loong or Dragon New Year and Family Day the Canadian Way”

  1. Below comments were from Mr. Ian White, the president of CCB Toronto Visionaries:
    “It was lovely indeed to meet you at the Montgomery’s Inn Lunar New Year celebration! And this article is wonderful, too.
    Personally, I like that this is the year of the Dragon, as it shows the cultural distinction between Eastern and Western interpretations, highlighting the mythical significance of the dragon in Eastern mythology, and challenging the stereotypical Western idea that all dragons are fierce, terrible creatures. It shows that there is more than one way to look at the world, and that’s a good thing.”

  2. Below comments were from Mr. George Elliott Clarke, Canadian Poet Laureate (2016-2017).

    “I laud your humane, balanced, civil, and civilized view of the issues of racism and the need for openness. I’m so glad that you have found your way to Bob Marley–a huge global artistic influence.

    As for the issue of “Loong” or “Dragon,” one should note that dragons are featured as amiable beasts–at least in some English children’s books, so the depiction is not always negative. Indeed, children seem to need to believe in unicorns and dragons, and seldom view the latter as only monstrous, but rather as fascinating, fire-breathing, winged dinosaur-type beasts.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts. And I feel deep regret again for the racism that you experienced in December–and for all of us Canadians “of Colour” who are under suspicion due to a wave of anti-immigrant/immigration hostility.”

  3. Some interesting historical discussions on loong vs dragon I found in an article showing the research work by a Chinese scholar, Huang Ji.

    Quotes from J. E. Walker (an American pastor in China) in his article ‘Pagoda, Loong and Foong-Shooy’ published in 1882:
    “The loong or dragon, as it is commonly translated, is to the Chinese nation all that the eagle is to us, and a great deal more. It is a mysterious, fabulous creature in many respects like the dragon of western fables, but far surpassing it. Not only supernatural, but almost divine qualities are attributed to it.”

    Quotes from The Chinese Dragon , a book published by The Commercial Press, Shanghai, in 1923:
    “We do not know who first attached the English name “dragon” to the Chinese conception “lung,” but it is hardly fair to the Oriental ruler of the sea to be branded with the stigma which accompanies the English designation. …… The dragon of the Chinese differs from the generally accepted Western idea in three striking particulars: in appearance, in disposition, and in the regard in which it is held.”(

    Quotes from William Edward Soothill (Oxford University Professor of Chinese Literature and pastor ) given at a seminar at the Royal Asiatic Society on February 12, 1931,
    “…… Again, in China, it is always beneficent, while the dragon of the west, for the most part, has been considered as maleficent, injuring the people, stealing princesses, and calling forth the heroism of, say, an St. George, for its destruction.”

    Excerpts from Chinese online magazine 文化纵横:
    ‘把“龙”误译“dragon”: 中国形象对外传播的大败笔’
    by Huang Ji of East China Normal University

  4. I think the idea of the difference between eastern and western images of the dragon is interesting. in western fantasy literature it’s a common figure of danger. As a blind person it was only last year that I got a description and explanation of the eastern dragon, less threatening but just as powerful.

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