Friday, February 1, 2008

Year of the Wu Zi …

or Rat/Mouse in English. Most of you may be aware that the Chinese New Year is soon approaching. Stores are jammed with people buying gifts, red lanterns are hung by the chimney with care, oh, wrong holiday, but they’re still hanging everywhere. Trains are packed (or delayed if you’re in Guangzhou) with everyone travelling home for the holidays.

So the Chinese will say goodbye to the Pig and welcome the Rat. According to the Chinese, the Rat is the first in the cycle of 12 animals representing each year.

How did they get chosen?

This is what I found on the Travel China Daily website:

In ancient times, our ancestors counted the years with 10 celestial stems and 12 terrestrial branches. Although this was scientific, most people were illiterate and could not memorize or calculate easily. Thus the animals that influenced people's lives were chosen to symbolize the terrestrial branches: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Legend has it that one day the gods ordered that animals be designated as the signs of each year with the twelve who arrived first selected. At that time, the cat and mouse were good friends and neighbors. When they heard of this news, the cat said to mouse: 'We should arrive early to sign up, but I usually get up late.' The mouse then promised to awaken his friend and to go together. However, on the morning when he got up, he was too excited to recall his promise, and went directly to the gathering place. On the way, the mouse encountered the tiger, ox, horse, and other animals that ran much faster. In order not to fall behind them, he thought up a good idea. He made the straightforward ox carry him on condition that he sang for the ox. The ox and mouse arrived first. The ox was happy thinking that he would be the first sign of the years, but the mouse had already slid in front, and became the first lucky animal of the Chinese zodiac. Meanwhile his neighbor the cat was too late; when it finally arrived, the selections were over. That's why other animals appear behind the little mouse and why the cat hates mice so much that every time they meet, the cat will chase and kill the mouse.
Mark and I will be travelling to Laos and Cambodia during this time and will not be updating our blog as there is limited internet.

By the way, Mark is the Rat and I’m the Tiger..

Chun Jie Kuaile


Lisa Wilson said...

Thanks for the lesson in how the animals were chosen! I always wondered!! have fun on your trip! I'll miss the blog while you are away!!

Christine said...

Hello Tina,
Funny... I wrote 75% of an article on the same subject on the plane yesterday and was planning to post it today... I guess we were on the same wavelength...