Monday, December 20, 2004

Chinese New Year and the Zodiac

You may want to share this overview with your child's class or their teacher.

Chinese New Year is the second new moon after the winter solstice. The next Chinese New Year begins is Feb. 7, 2008, Year of the Rat. More dates are given below. The rat is first and the cycle is repeated every twelve years. (Some say that the years should more properly be numbered from 0 to 11.)

1........2..........3.....4.......5.........6........7.....8..........9........10......11.....12...
rat . ox . . . tiger hare dragon snake horse ram . . monkey rooster dog . pig
鼠 . . 牛. . . . 虎 . . 兔. . . 龍 . . . . 蛇. . . 馬 . . 羊 . . . . 猴 . . . . 雞 . . .狗 . . . 豬
shu3 niu2 hu3 . . tu4 . long2 . she2 . ma3 yang2 . hou2 . . ji1 . . . gou3 zhu1
shǔ . .niú . hǔ . . . .tù . . lóng. . .shé . . mǎ . .yáng . . hóu . . . . jī . . . . gǒu . .zhū

Rat can be rat or mouse. The Year of the Ram, can also be the year of the sheep or goat as all of those words are based on the same character in Chinese. Some prefer the last year to be the Year of the Boar. (Pinyin for the Mandarin is given. The number represents the correct tone since not all programs were displaying the tone marks.)

rat . . ox . tiger . hare . dragon snake horse . . ram hou ji/hen . . dog . . . pig
1919 1920 1921 1922 . . 1923 . . 1924 1930 . . 1931 1932 1933. . . 1934 . 1935
1936 1937 1938 1939 . . 1940 . . 1941 1942 . . 1943 1944 1945 . . 1946 . . 1947
1948 1949 1950 1951 . . 1952 . . 1953 1954 . . 1955 1956 1957 . . . 1958 . 1959
1960 1961 1962 1963 . . 1964 . . 1965 1966 . . 1967 1968 1969 . . 1970 . . 1971
1972 1973 1974 1975 . . 1976 . . 1977 . 1978 . .1979 1980 . 1981 . . 1982 . . 1983
1984 1985 1986 1987 . . 1988 . . 1989 1990 . . 1991 1992 1993 . . 1994 . . 1995
1996 1997 1998 1999 . . 2000 . 2001 . 2002 . 2003 2004 2005 . .2006 . 2007
2008 2009 2010 2011 . 2012 . . 2013 . 2014 . 2015 2016 . 2017 . . 2018 . 2019

Since the lunar calendar does not line up with January first and is not on the same day of the solar calendar each year, if your birthday is January 1st through 20th, you are in the zodiac sign of the previous year. If your birthday is between January 21st and February 19th, someone will have to look up you zodiac sign. For example if you were born in 1975, you would need to know that the Chinese New Year that year fell on February 11th. (See more 1973-1984 Chinese New Year dates, Chinese New Year Dates from 1900, and Future Chinese New Year dates.)

Some Chinese believe the animal ruling the year in which a person is born has a profound influence on personality, saying: "This is the animal that hides in your heart." Others use the zodiac just for fun. The Chinese Lunar Calendar names each of the twelve years after an animal. One legend has it that the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came to bid him farewell and as a reward he named a year after each one in the order they arrived. Another legend says that the years are named, in order, for the animals that raced for the Green Emperor.

So, for example, if you were born between January 23, 1974 and February 10, 1975, you are a (green wood) Tiger. Tiger people are competitive (especially in business dealings) and must be careful not to create enemies during their quest for success. They are not easily influenced by others. Tiger personalities are also sensitive, emotional, and capable of great love, but have a difficult time understanding the meaning of moderation. They often approach love with as much ferocity as a good fight.

If you were born February 11, 1975 to January 30, 1976, you are a (wood) green Hare. Other rabbits include Michelangelo, Napoleon, Albert Einstein, Walt Whitman, and Marie Curie. Hares (rabbits) are happiest with friends and do not like to argue. They typically have beautiful homes, love of good conversation, reading, and intellectual discussions. Hares are sincere and are often make gifted healers, herbalists, and doctors. They are traditionally associated with clear-sightedness, excellent judges of character and have the ability to recognize when others are lying.

Monkey celebrities include Julius Caesar, Leonardo daVinci, Captain Cook, Elizabeth Taylor and Edgar Faure. Monkeys are inventive, quick-thinking and never at a loss for words. Charming, they are often popular but not always taken seriously which can lead to frustration. They crave knowledge and are good at problem-solving.

There are a number of sites on the web with more information on the Chinese zodiac, Chinese New Year, and Chinese date converters. There are also solar to lunar date converters available for Palm Pilots. They are also useful if you want to know when the next Chinese New Year will be. (Or if you want to look up the date for Autumn Moon Festival, or any of the Chinese festivals that are celebrated according to the lunar calendar.)

1993 January 22 - February 9, 1994 (Water) Chicken 4661
1994 February 10 – January 30, 1995 (Wood) Green Dog 4662
1995 January 31 – February 18, 1996 (Wood) Green Pig 4663

1996 February 19, 1996 – February 6, 1997 (Fire) Red Rat 4664
1997 February 7, 1997 – January 27, 1998 (Fire) Red Ox 4665
1998 January 28, 1998 – February 15, 1999 (Earth) Brown Tiger 4666
1999 February 16, 1999 – February 4, 2000 (Earth) Brown Hare 4667
2000 February 5, 2000 – January 23, 2001 (Metal) White Gold Dragon 4668
2001 January 24, 2001 – February 11, 2002 (Metal) White Snake 4669
2002 February 12, 2002 - January 31, 2003 (Water) Black Horse 4670
2003 February 1, 2003 – January 21, 2004 (Water) Black Sheep 4701
2004 January 22, 2004 – February 8, 2005 (Wood) Green Monkey 4702
2005 Wed. February 9, 2005 – (Wood) Green Chicken 4703
2006 Mon. January 29, 2006 - (Fire) Red Dog 4704
2007 Sunday, February 18, 2007 - (Fire) Red Pig 4705

2008 Thursday, February 7th - (Earth) Brown Rat 4706
2009 Monday, January 26th - (Earth) Brown Ox 4707
2010 February 14th - (Metal) White Tiger 4708
2011 February 3rd - (Metal) White Hare 4709
2012 January 23th - (Water) Dragon 4710
2013 February 10th - (Water) Snake 4711
2014 January 31st - (Wood) Horse 4712
2015 February 19th - (Wood) Sheep 4713
2016 February 8th - (Fire) Monkey 4714
2017 January 28th - (Fire) Chicken 4715
2018 February 16th - (Earth) Dog 4716
2019 February 5th - (Earth) Pig 4717

To check your zodiac animal; and element for other years, check Chinese New Year Dates from 1900.

(Traditional) Chinese believe that the first king of China was the Yellow King (he was not the first emperor of China who completed the Great Wall). The Yellow King became king in 2697 B.C.; therefore China entered the 4701st year on January 22nd, 2004.

What is the stem-branch system? In addition to the Chinese zodiac animals (the 12 branches) there are 10 Stems. The stems are named for with Yin-Yang and Five Elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth). The Stem sequence order is Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, Yang Earth, Yin Earth, Yang Metal, Yin Metal, Yang Water and Yin Water.

Branches use the animal names. The Branch sequence order is Rat, Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and Pig. Stem and Branch are used together to form a cycle of 60, which begins with Wooden Rat and ends with Water Pig. A complete cycle was from 1924 to the year 1983. Our current cycle started in 1984.
[I have not tried this but] There is an algorithm online now to determine the stem and branch for any year at:
http://www.hermetic.ch/cal_stud/ch_year.htm

You may remember that there was a boom of Chinese babies in 2000. The Chinese New Year in 2000 was a year of the Metal Dragon – a Gold Dragon - which is a very auspicious time to be born. [Personal note: Many said it is especially auspicious for a boy to be born, but I have not been able to confirm that in writing.]

Some web sites say the year 2004 is the 4702nd Chinese year. If you cannot find the explanation, here is one possibility: The Yellow King's inauguration was held in the spring of 2697 B.C. But the calendar of Yellow King used the winter solstice day as the first day of the year. So the first winter solstice was on around December 23rd, 2698 B.C. The Gregorian calendar January 1st meant nothing to the Yellow King. If we count that extra eight days in 2698 B.C. for a year, then year 2004 is the 4702nd Chinese year.

Much of stem and branch information is from Chinese Astrology Online from 2003 and 2004. To learn about 2007, see: www.chineseastrologyonline.com/2007.htm

There are many good websites on Chinese New Year (in English). I am not saying that the ones above are the best. They are listed because they give the most detail on the 60 year zodiac cycle (although I suspect that is more detail than your readers will be interested in, and it is more background information for you). The ntdttv also gives coverage of their New Year Global Gala but you may have to register to see it.
2005 New Year's Gala Coverage
2006 New Year's Gala Coverage
For more on the Chinese Zodiac, see these lesson plans. They have good background material even if your students are older:
Or, see Chinese New Year Lesson Plans.

These links were correct and working as of March 2007.
Last updated: April 2007

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