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In the Year of the Dragon, Confessions of a Supposedly 'Auspicious' Dragon Baby

During high school, I learned that babies born in years of the dragon were thought to be “fortunate” and thus, highly sought-after.

As a 14-year-old dragon baby who just started reckoning with existential questions like “why am I here,” learning that one possible answer might be “because my parents believe I am the epitome of greatness” prompted me to seek out my parents, in hopes of finding out more about the circumstances behind my birth. Alas, our conversations were brief and unfruitful, as they both put to rest the idea that they were trying to have me in a specific year. I was disappointed that my birth didn't carry any grand meaning, but too young to realize that one's birth bearing no monumental expectations, other than being a decent human being, is actually a blessing.

Intricate dragon motifs on the roof of Hà Chương Guild Hall, a historical Hoa-Vietnamese building in Chợ Lớn.

It is considered auspicious to give birth in dragon years of the Asian zodiac cycle, as these babies are believed to lead highly successful lives and careers. The age-old maxim often results in high birth rates in years like 2000 and 2012; the phenomenon can be seen in countries following this zodiac system, including China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam. Fascinatingly, babies born in 2000 weren't just any dragons, but are said to be “golden” dragons, coming into existence at the start of a new millennium.

“Golden” is not how I've felt most of my life; it's been more grey-ish with a dash of pitch-black desperation and maybe a speck of ephemeral pastel pink every now and then. They say dragon babies are destined for greatness, but the only thing I have ever considered myself being great at is eating. They say dragon babies will be successful — I guess I’ve succeeded in living this long, at least.

Dragon-themed reliefs are very common at spiritual venues across Saigon's temples and pagodas.

Being a dragon baby meant that I always had to study much harder just to get into a decent school, because of the increased competition during entrance exams. There were so many more of us dragon babies compared to other school years. I was under more pressure not because my parents imposed greatness upon me, but because of a cultural belief over which I have no control. I felt like a log drifting on a ferocious current that I would inevitably drown in. 

Yet, I have made peace with being a dragon baby at this point in my life, as I came to realize that our culture would not be what it is without relying on arbitrary powers to make sense of the world or to blame for our shortcomings. All things considered, I would say life is good now, but being a dragon baby certainly plays no part in any success or stability I have now or might in the future.

Vignette is a series of tiny essays from our writers, where we reflect, observe, and wax poetic about the tiny things in life.

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