Comparable to zodiac signs, the Chinese calendar includes 12 animals—however each is matched to a lunisolar calendar year which approximately equals a Gregorian calendar year instead of 4 weeks plus/minus a few days.
Each animal has a unique personality and traits which are believed to influence events—and those born—within the year they represent. Generally, dragons are a symbol of good fortune, and are considered powerful—possessing great strength and capabilities—the greatest of the 12 animals.
Depictions of them often incorporate characteristics of other animals—such as claws like the eagle or scales of fish—but its the only one of the 12 that never existed. Ancient stories include details about the dragon’s 9 sons—each of them having a specific personality and duty.
As part of the dragon tea cup set and from left to right, the yellow dragon represents San Mi, Suan Ni or Suanni—depending on who you ask. He’s fond of fire and smoke and is often found on incense burners, especially in temples. He’s also the guardian of homes perched at doorways. The red dragon with fish fins represents Gong Fu. He’s believed to reside in pools of water, since he’ll fight against water disasters, and he’s often found in balustrades of the Emperor’s palace.
The other red dragon represents Ya Zi or Yazi—with the strong, powerful and brave fight of a tiger, his image is often carved on weapons to make them more powerful. Representing Bi Xi or Baxia is the green dragon. His tortoise shell symbolizes longevity and he’s also incredibly strong so he’s often found supporting building elements.
Lastly, the red symbol on the backside of each cup means dragon and is comparable to a traditional Chinese cinnabar wax stamp signature.