2018 is the year of dog. Why it is the year of dog you ask?
First, we need to understand what Chinese Zodiac is. The Chinese zodiac is a classification scheme that assigns an animal and its reputed attributes to each year in a repeating 12-year cycle. Scientifically, the 12-year cycle is the orbital period of Jupiter, the largest planet of the Solar System. For ancient Chinese, it is considered every 60 years is a round; when all the dates are repeated once again every 60 years. That is what I learnt from my grand uncle. The 12 animals also represent different five elements based on their characteristics: –
1. Rat : Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water
2. Ox : Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Earth
3. Tiger : Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood
4. Rabbit: Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood
5. Dragon: Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Earth
6. Snake: Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire
7. Horse: Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire
8. Goat: Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Earth
9. Monkey: Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal
10. Rooster: Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal
11. Dog : Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Earth
12. Pig: Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water
You may ask why the rat goes first and the pig is the last one? How is the order set?
An ancient folk story tells us that the cat and the rat were both very bad at swimming. Although they were poor swimmers, they were both quite intelligent. To get to the meeting called by the god, they had to cross a river to reach the meeting place.
The god had also decreed that the years on the calendar would be named for each animal in the order they arrived at the meeting. The cat and the rat decided that the best and quickest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of Ox. The ox, being kind hearted and naive, agreed to carry them both across as he trusted the rat and said no matter what he will be the first one to win.
Midway across the river, the rat pushed the tiger into the water. Approaching the other side, the rat jumped off the ox and rushed to the god. It was named as the first animal of the zodiac calendar. The ox, came in second and the third one to come was the tiger. Even though it was strong and powerful it explained to the god that the currents were pushing him downstream. I always thought that the god was not smart when I heard this story as a kid.
Suddenly, from a distance came a thumping sound, and the rabbit arrived. It explained how it crossed the river: by jumping from one stone to another in a nimble fashion. Halfway through, it almost lost the race, but it was lucky enough to grab ahold of a floating log that later washed him to shore. For that, the rabbit became the fourth animal in the zodiac cycle. In fifth place was the flying dragon. The god was wondering why such a swift airborne creature such as the dragon failed to come in first.
The dragon explained that it had to stop by a village and brought rain for all the people, and therefore it was held back. Then, on its way to the finish, it saw the helpless rabbit clinging onto a log so it did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore. The god was astonished of the dragon’s good nature, and it was named as the fifth animal. As soon as it had done so, a galloping sound was heard, and the horse appeared.
Hidden on its hoof was the snake, whose sudden appearance gave it a fright, thus making it fall back and giving the snake the sixth spot, while the horse placed seventh. After a while, the goat, monkey and rooster came to the heavenly gate. With combined efforts they managed to arrive to the other side. The rooster found a raft and the monkey and the goat tugged and pulled trying to get all the weeds out of the way.
The god was pleased with their teamwork and decided to name the goat as the eighth animal followed by the monkey and then the rooster. The eleventh animal placed in the zodiac cycle was the dog. Although it should have been the best swimmer it wanted to stay in the water and play for a bit. Though his explanation for being late was because it needed a good bath after a long spell. For that, it almost did not make it to the finish line.
Right when the Emperor was going to close the race, an “oink” sound was heard: it was the pig. “Lazy little pig” originated from this story. The pig felt hungry in the middle of the race, so it stopped, ate something and then fell asleep. After it awoke, it finished the race in twelfth place and became the last animal to arrive. The cat drowned, and did not make it in the zodiac because the rat pushed the cat into the stream in the middle and told the ox not to save the cat. It is said that this is the reason cats always hunt rats.
The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac were developed in the early stages of Chinese civilization, over hundreds of years before it developed into the current version; it is difficult to investigate its real origins. Most historians agree that the cat is not included, as they had not yet been introduced to China from India, with the arrival of Buddhism.
The story was what I heard when I was a kid. Though the rat tricks the ox and the cat, I love the rat and happy it got the first position of the Chinese zodiac.
Because I was born in the year of RAT! hahahaha
Read my other posts about Chinese New Year.