Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Chinese Zodiac

Going into the Panda Express for food, I caught a glimpse of a rabbit sticker on the window. I soon realized that the sticker was a representation and celebration for the new zodiac animal of the year – the rabbit. On February 3rd, the Tiger year came to an end and the Rabbit year begun. But how did the Chinese zodiac come into being and what do each animal represent? The Chinese Zodiac is made up of 12 animals (some mythical, some real) that run in a cycle. In the following chart, I have listed the animals that make up the zodiac and some characteristics of each. The zodiac typically starts with the Rat and end with the Cow.

Quick witted, clever, charming, funny; good friends and generous but can be greedy
Steadfast, solid, goal-oriented, hard-working, stubborn, serious, protective, strong companion
Authoritative, self-possessed, moody, highly seductive, ready to pounce
Popular, compassionate, sincere, like to avoid conflict, pushovers, enjoy staying at home
Powerful sign! Energetic, warm-hearted, lucky at love and egotistic, natural born leaders
Seductive, gregarious, introverted, generous, charming, good with money, analytical, insecure
Energetic, self-reliant, enjoy traveling, great at seducing, sharp-witted, impatient, drifter
Enjoy being alone, creative, thinkers, wanderers, unorganized, can be anxiety-ridden
Energetic, upbeat, good at listening, like being active, lack self-control
Practical, resourceful, observant, analytical, straightforward, trusting, honest
Loyal, faithful, honest, distrustful, temperamental, dogmatic, sensitive
Extremely nice, good mannered, perfectionists, enjoy helping others, intelligent

My zodiac sign is the dragon, so I am partial to believe that the dragon sign is the best! My name in Chinese actually means “Heaven’s Treasure”, which my parents had named me because I was born in the Dragon year.

History of the Zodiac

There are a few legends regarding the history of the zodiac and how it came into being. One of the legends states that one day the gods ordered that the animals be designated signs in which order they arrived at a designated location. In this day and age, the cat and the rat were good friends, and made an agreement that they would arrive together, and that the rat would help wake up his friend…but the rat forgot, and went directly to the designated location. On his way there, he encountered the ox and several other animals, and had the ox carry him. The rat was able to slip off the ox and became the first one to the spot, which is why the rat is the first in the zodiac…the cat on the other hand was too late, and was not included in the zodiac…which is why the cat and rat are not friends any longer.

Another history of how the order of the zodiac came into being originated during the Han Dynasty (206-220 AD) and is based on 12 time periods during the day:

11 PM – 1 AM  à rat is actively seeking food
1 AM – 3 AM à Oxen regurgitate
3 AM – 5 AM à Tiger hunts prey
5 AM – 7AM à Jade Rabbit on the moon is pounding herbs with a pestle
7 AM – 9 AM à Dragon is said to hover in the sky and make it rain
9 AM – 11 AM à Snakes start to leave burrows
11 AM – 1 PM à Day is flourishing and is as vigorous as an unconstrained horse
1 PM – 3 PM à Sheep is eating grass and grow stronger
3 PM – 5 PM à Monkeys become lively
5 PM – 7PM à Roosters return to roost since it is dark
7 PM – 9 PM à Dogs carry out duties to guard entrances
9 PM – 11 PM à All is quiet and pigs are sleeping

There are quite a few legends and thoughts about how the Chinese Zodiac came into beings, but it is an interesting aspect of Chinese History.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tina!

    I love that you chose to do a blog-centered theme about Chinese culture! I have been fascinated by the Chinese culture that I have experienced at Duke so far and can't wait to learn more. Look forward to reading more of your posts!