Lion dancers outside Mon Hei Bakery on King Street • Wikimedia Commons

The Year of the Dragon is always punctuated with an air of excitement in my life, most notably because I am a dragon. Often associated with luck and prosperity, Dragon’s years are characterized by an abundance of determination and a sense of purpose.

Learning about Chinese astrology was one of the few ways I felt rooted in ancestral wisdom whilst growing up as a first-generation American in white suburban Washington State. This, along with juk and mahjong, kept me connected to my Chinese family, who I only got to see every couple of years when my parents could afford a trip back to my mother’s birthplace of Hong Kong (HK).

Dragons innately carry a sense of hope and the ability to dream up new possibilities. Being the only mythical creature in the zodiac, they are said to breathe clouds, persuade the seasons, and control water in its various forms. The other-worldliness of the dragon invites unbridled imagination along with the power to materialize the grandest of visions. They live life with open hearts and feel most at ease when their skills and talents are used to support and care for the beings around them.

According to myth, Dragon came in fifth place in the 12-animal zodiac race after diverting without hesitation to aid villagers who were in danger. The kind and compassionate nature of the dragon differs greatly from the greedy villainous one that exists in Western tales.

At a young age, I often felt myself grasping for slivers of stories like this one — parts of Chinese culture that had evaded being buried or exoticized by globalized Eurocentric norms. Naturally, Seattle’s Chinatown International District (CID) became my favorite part of the city and I savored every occasional Sunday excursion to Jade Garden for family yum cha.

Author Katharina 梁美花 Brinschwitz • Courtesy

Leaving with the warm taste of bolay, or black tea, on my tongue, we would walk down King Street and parts of my heart would feel alive with remembrance of Hong Kong. Although lacking HK’s feverish rush of bustling people in sticky humid air and the eclectic energy of its cramped architecture, I was, and still am, utterly charmed by the CID’s landscape and the visceral sense that I belonged.

How appropriate that I should find myself living in the heart of this neighborhood now as I enter my 24th year and second Dragon cycle. The CID community is rich with seeds of reciprocity, care, and perseverance planted many generations ago. That nurture is still evident in the people I meet here today. I hope that this Year of the Wood Dragon imbues our communities with courage, compassion, tenderness as strength, and an ethereal optimism rooted in wisdom from both the past and future ancestors.

The CID community mirrors that of my family in Hong Kong, whose fierce love transcends the barriers of language, time, and space and reminds me that I, their Golden Dragon baby, will always have a place to call home.

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