Tomorrow, February the 16th will be Chinese New Year for 2018 and herald in the Year of the Dog. known as Sheng Xiao, the Chinese Zodiak is based on a twelve year cycle, with each year of the cycle represented by an animal and is calaculated based on the Chinese lunar calendar.
The twelve animals are (in order of the calendar) the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
Why these animals, you may ask?
As the calendar dates back to the Han Dynasty (and possibly earlier) the truth may have been lost, but there are several legends.
One ancient tale tells the story of the great race. The Jade Emperor (the head of the Chinese pantheon of gods) had called a meeting of the animals and had decreed that the years of the zodiac would be named according to the order in which the animals arrived. To reach the emperor, all of the animals would have to cross a wide river. Now, the Rat and the Cat were not very good swimmers, so they asked the Ox if they could ride on his back. The Ox (who was very kind) agreed to carry them, but half way across the river, the Rat pushed the Cat in! He then jumped of the Ox and ran to the emperor’s side, becoming the first animal of the Zodiac. It is said that this is the reason Cats hate Rats.
Conversely, a Buddhist story tells of the Buddha summoning all of the animals of the earth to come before him before he departed, but only twelve came to bid him farewell. As a reward, the Buddha named the years for these twelve.
Would you like to know more about Chinese New Year? Why not check out some of the library resources on the subject? Or, if you have pre-school aged children, why not come to a special Storytime in the library tomorrow at 10:15am?