What A Difference A Year Makes: China's Year of the Dragon stamp, left, is decidedly more fearsome than last year's model, of a rabbit.
To welcome the Year of the Dragon, China's postal service plans to release commemorative postage stamps featuring the fabled beast. But many customers are finding the image to be a little over the top.
Here are some reactions cited by China's Xinhua news agency:
"'The moment I saw the design of the dragon stamp on newspaper, I was almost scared to death,' wrote Zhang Yihe, on weibo.com, China's Twitter-like social networking service and microblogging service provider, on Tuesday.
'The dragon on the stamp looks too ferocious,' echoed one post on the Web.
'It is roaring and intimidating," read another."
The new image for year 4710 is quite a turnaround from that of 4709, which was the Year of the Rabbit. The stamp issued by China Post to mark that occasion features a cuddly rabbit with a shy streak — a far cry from the roaring demon staring out from the new stamp.
But perhaps customers in China shouldn't complain too much: after all, the price of the stamp hasn't changed — although there are reports that the stamp is expected to become scarce enough to warrant high resale prices.
And the dragon image is meant to invoke another stamp, from back in 1878 — when the Qing Dynasty still ruled. Postal officials and the stamp's designer defend it on those grounds, saying that the image of an iconic beast, engrained in China's historic identity, should never be rendered as a mere cartoon.
The new stamp will officially go on sale Thursday.
Celebrations for Chinese New Year kick off in earnest on Jan. 8, and culminate in the start of the new year on Jan. 23.