FEBRUARY 14 — No year in the Chinese zodiac is celebrated as much as Dragon year. I wonder if the other animals get jealous.

Feng shui masters find their appointment books full and even people I know who I’ve never thought to be superstitious are suddenly asking out loud if their “year animal” will do fine in 2024.

As I’m writing this, my Latin music playlist is on but in the background I can hear the not-too-distant sound of firecrackers.

You would think I’d be used to it by now, but it still fills me with wonderment to be woken up by the sound of lion dance processions and peeking out the window at night to see fireworks being set off across the highway.


Maybe it’s because I’m feeling my age; in five more years I’ll be 50 and I feel as though time is no longer marching on, but speeding past faster than I can catch up.

I remember so many dragon years. The rush for couples to get married and have precious dragon babies happens each time, something the Singapore prime minister (also a dragon baby) is trying to make use of to encourage his fellow citizens to procreate.

Interestingly Bank Negara is running an interesting anti-scam campaign by using a Cantonese expression “邊度會有咁大隻蛤乸隨街跳㗎” or literally translated: “Where would there be such a big frog hopping around the street?”


It simply means a situation that is just improbable or basically, “You’re kidding, right? That couldn’t possibly be true.”

The Malaysian Chinese community has to be exceptionally resilient to put up with constantly being made the scapegoat for all ills in the country.

It’s only during festive seasons or political campaigns that they can feel actively pandered to; otherwise, they will always be the target of some snide remark or conspiracy allegation.

Apa lagi Cina mahu (what else do the Chinese want?)” a former prime minister said after a good number of Malaysian Chinese did not support his government at the polls.

Perhaps they just want to be treated as Malaysians and not just Chinese? Just a thought.

It was laughable that McDonald’s Malaysia has pivoted to heavily marketing to the Chinese demographic after the brand became the target of the BDS movement.

Sure, I understand targeted marketing yet at the same time it leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

I also learned recently that Chinese often call themselves “descendants of the dragon” due to that legend of an emperor being part-dragon.

Though there’s also that pesky bit of history about how dragons were considered imperial symbols and the penalty for commoners using them was death.

History or no, Lee Chien Fu’s classic song 龙的传人 (Descendants of the Dragon) is played every Chinese New Year without fail but it’s also a song with a complicated background.

Originally, it was written to protest the US recognising the People’s Republic of China but when Lee moved to China, it somehow became co-opted as a pan-China song, which bothered him greatly.

What many Chinese do agree on — however they view the China-Taiwan question — is that the song is about Chinese pride.

The recent furore over submitting the Chinese New Villages as Unesco World Heritage sites is again a sad reminder about the refusal among some quarters to accept that Malaysian identity goes beyond just one race or faith.

We are kinder to imaginary dragons; but less so to the ones among us. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
We are kinder to imaginary dragons; but less so to the ones among us. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

Yes, you can be Chinese and Malaysian. Serani? Still Malaysian? Indian? Yes you’re Malaysian as are all the peoples in East Malaysia.

I know that some people think it would be easier to just not rock the boat and pretend to be colour blind, saying some pithy slogan such as “I can’t see race.”

Race is a construct, yes. At the same time, I don’t think how someone identifies themselves should become a barrier to being accepted as a full citizen of this country.

West Malaysians have taken to jeering at East Malaysians for being a little too smug about racial relations being a little less fraught.

Terpaling harmoni (The most harmonious)”, is now an insult when the greatest tragedy is that it is not our greatest truth.

We should be happy to see Malaysians’ different faces, to celebrate our different customs and to be thrilled to see each other by chance when we travel abroad.

Unity is still to me a concept that smacks too much of fascist ideology but acceptance? Accepting that Malaysians that don’t look like me, speak like me or worship like me is the purest thing and that is what I hope more people will embrace with the coming of the dragon.

Happy Lunar New Year.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.