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China's New Dragon Stamp Breathes Criticism, Fear

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BEIJING -- A stamp designed to mark China's upcoming Year of the Dragon is drawing unusual criticism for its fang-bearing monster.

The stamp went on sale Thursday, drawing the heavy crowds that normally flock to buy the annual Lunar New Year stamps. But the dragon's attacking pose on this year's stamp has led some people to call it too ferocious.

Zhang Yihe, a renowned Chinese writer, wrote on her Sina Weibo microblog that she was "scared to death" when she first saw the red and yellow creature with scales and claws.

Another writer, Tan Xudong, called it an "incomparably ugly dragon-year stamp."

Its designer, Chen Shaohua, said he had received criticism, abuse and support for the stamp, brought out ahead of the Chinese New Year, which is Jan. 23. Chen has defended his design, saying that the dragon should be interpreted as a symbol of China's rising confidence.

"As a large country which has major influence in the world, China is ushering in the restoration of national confidence," he wrote on his blog.

"From sternness and divinity, to a representation of China's self-confidence, a dragon which is tough, powerful, stern and confident is an appropriate choice," he wrote.

According to The Global Times newspaper, Chen said that his design derives from the pattern on "dragon robes" worn by Chinese emperors – whose symbol was the dragon – in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and a screen featuring dragons in a Beijing park that was a pleasure ground for the emperor.

Mythical legend claims that Chinese people are descended from the dragon, and many believe it's an auspicious symbol.

The controversial dragon stamp is already ushering in good fortune for some. One stamp seller was reportedly selling a set of 20 for 178 yuan ($28) – much higher than the 24 yuan ($4) face value.

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