WHEN the calendar year of the Chinese zodiac begins on Monday it will mark the beginning of the one year in 12 presided over by a mythical creature - the dragon.
In Western mythology, the dragon has been something to be feared. And, if you're much of a hero, the dragon is something to be slain.
But in Chinese folklore the dragon is respected and revered, honoured for bringing luck, success and ambition to those under its influence. As such, it is one of the most auspicious of the zodiac signs.
Where 2011 was the year of the rabbit, meant to be calm and placid, years of the dragon are said to be packed with power and punch.
Chinese emperors have appropriated the image of the dragon for imperial prestige.
And years of the dragon are always a popular one for anyone getting married, starting a business, or having a child. Dragon years bring luck and vim.
The idea of ''dragon babies'', who are said to possess great strength and leadership qualities like the emperors of old, has even prompted a baby boom in years associated with the dragon.
In his 1992 PhD thesis, Daniel Goodkind, at the University of Pennsylvania, noted the spike in births in the dragon years of 1976 and 1988.
Among Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia, for instance, birth rates compared with the preceding year of the rabbit rose about 25 per cent.