The mighty Jade Emperor called all the animals to him for a meeting but only twelve turned up; the rat came first followed by the ox, a tiger was next and then in bounced the rabbit, a fiery dragon flew down from the skies as a snake crawled up from the earth, a horse and a goat trotted to the meeting whilst a cheeky monkey swung through the trees. A rooster arrived crowing followed by a dog and last but not least a pig showed up. They all came to listen to the Emperor speak and for their attendance he dedicated a year to each one of them.
In another version of this tale, it is the Buddha who summoned the animals to come hear him and since these were the only animals to turn up, he named a year after each one in honour of their presence.
On the first new moon of spring, the Chinese New Year begins. Each year is associated to an animal and 2019 is year of the pig. There are twelve animals associated with the years, it begins with the rat, then ox follows, then tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and finally the pig. A twelve-year cycle divided into animals, 6 of the animals are wild, the other six are domesticated. But why these animals?
Each animal represents a human type and character traits; a pig is often seen as greedy, a tiger as ferocious, a monkey as mischievous, a snake as sneaky, and so on. And so, the year that one is born is dedicated to an animal and those animal qualities are incorporated into that baby’s personality and as they grow up, they will exhibit this animals’ traits.
But it is not just the year that influences the person, it is also the hour that one is born, as every two-hour period is dedicated to one of the animals starting with the rat between 11pm-1am, the ox covers the hours of 1-3 am, followed by tiger for the next two hours and so on in order back round to 11pm. The same goes for the months of the year, they are divided up into the twelve animals, each one representing a certain period of the year.
The twelve years are one cycle that repeat over five times, making a 60-year cycle in total. Each cycle of twelve is also represented by a nature element, which can be either earth, water, fire, wood, and metal.
In the Chinese calendar, the day begins at midnight and thus ends at midnight. The year begins at the first new moon of the spring and carries through on a lunisolar calendar, as it is not the date that is important but the astronomical alignments and calculations of the moon and the sun. Whereas in the West the new year always starts on January 1st, in the Chinese calendar it differs every year because the new moon is never on the same day.
The Chinese had their own calendar of years which was set up by the Emperor Huang Ti back around 2650 B.C.E. It was not till 1912 that they took on the Western world calendar. 2019 is the Western calendar is the year 4716 in the old-style Chinese calendar.
Whatever Chinese animal you are, The Sunday Tribune wishes you a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year!