Chinese New Year is still over two weeks away, but dragon fever is already hitting parts of China.

Earlier this week, divers at a Beijing aquarium started celebrations early with an underwater dragon dance, while residents in Suining, Sichuan welcomed a floating dragon-shaped lantern.

A commemorative stamp, however, has been received with mixed reviews. The dragon-themed stamp, sold all over China, displays a somewhat scary image of the zodiac character.

The stamp's designer, Chen Shaohua, stands by his design.

The dragon . . . is used to exorcise evil spirits and offer blessings, so we needed a touch image, Chen told state media.

Those born in the year of the dragon will turn 12, 24, 36, 48 (and so on) years old this year, according to the Chinese zodiac.

The Dragon is the mightiest of the signs . . . [symbolizing] such character traits as dominance and ambition. Dragons prefer to live by their own rules and if left on their own, are usually successful. They're driven, unafraid of challenges, and willing to take risks . . . unfortunately, this passion and enthusiasm can leave Dragons feeling exhausted and interestingly, unfulfilled, according to

Dragons are most compatible with the Monkey or Rat, and least compatible with the Ox and Goat.

The Year of the Dragon begins on Jan. 23.