Chinese Zodiac

What’s in a Chinese New Year?


Background and Concept
The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time (as opposed to the Western linear concept of time). The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February. The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, but the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year.


Background Information
In Canada and the United States, the years are dated from the birth of Jesus Christ, for example, 1977 means 1,977 years after the birth of Christ. This represents a linear perception of time, with time proceeding in a straight line from the past to the present and the future. In traditional China, dating methods were cyclical - meaning something that is repeated time after time according to a pattern. A popular folk method which reflected this cyclical method of recording years are the Twelve Animal Signs. Every year is assigned an animal name or "sign" according to a repeating cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Therefore, every twelve years the same animal name or "sign" would reappear.

A cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore is that horoscopes have developed around the animal signs, much like monthly horoscopes in the West have been developed for the different moon signs (i.e. Pisces, Aries). For example, a Chinese horoscope may predict that a person born in the Year of the Horse would be, "cheerful, popular, and loves to compliment others". These horoscopes are amusing, but not regarded seriously by Chinese people.

The animal signs also serve a useful social function for finding out people’s ages. Instead of asking directly how old a person is, people often ask what is his or her animal sign. This would place that person’s age within a cycle of 12 years, and with a bit of common sense, we can deduce the exact age. More often, though, people ask for animal signs not to compute a person’s exact numerical age, but to simply know who is older among friends and acquaintances.


Legend
According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.

All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.


Zodiac Chart
The rotating cycle of twelve animal signs was a folk method for naming the years in traditional China. The animal signs for one another in an established order, and are repeated every twelve years. 1976 was the Year of the Dragon; 1977 was the year of the Snake; and 2007 was the year of the Pig.

2017 - Year of the Rooster
Chinese New Year Zodiac - Year of the Rooster

 

Chinese New Year Calendar

Rat born in 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008
Ox born in 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009
Tiger born in 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010
Rabbit born in 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011
Dragon born in 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012
Snake born in 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013
Horse born in 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014
Sheep born in 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015
Monkey born in 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016
Rooster born in 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017
Dog born in 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018
Pig born in 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019


 

Chinese New Year Dates

2000 February 5
2001 January 24
2002 February 12
2003 February 1
2004 January 22
2005 February 9
2006 January 29
2007 February 18
2008 February 7
2009 January 26
2010 February 14
2011 February 3
2012 January 23
2013 February 10
2014 January 31
2015 February 19
2016 February 8
2017 January 28
2018 February 16
2019 February 5


QuotaBills
China is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese. - Charles de Gaulle

I just love Chinese food. My favorite dish is number 27. - Clement Attlee

I look like I'm Chinese or Thai or Japanese - very different. - Mary Kom

I liked being a teenager, but I would not go back for all the tea in China. - Rob Lowe

What else is there to live for? Chinese food and women. There is nothing else! - Dudley Moore

No Chinese Catholics are allowed to worship ancestors in their familial temples. - Pope Clement XI

Many agree that the worst thing that could ever happen is if Russia and China get closer. - Donald Trump

I just wasn't cut out to be a Chinese Tiger Mom. I'm more of an Irish Setter Dad. - P.J. O'Rourke

When my friends and I played cowboys and Indians, I was always the Chinese railroad worker. - Robin Williams

I want to have a bunch of kids so I can open a factory and have free labor. Beat that, China! - Jarod Kintz

Like a bull into a china closet. Like in that picture, "The Prince and The Porpoise." - Archie Bunker

I had a meal last night. I ordered everything in French - surprised everybody, it was a Chinese restaurant. - Tommy Cooper

My big focus is China and OPEC and all of these countries that are just absolutely destroying the United States. - Donald Trump

Just because I have rice on my clothes doesn't mean I've been to a wedding. A Chinese man threw up on me. - Phyllis Diller

When was the last time anybody saw us beating, let's say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. - Donald Trump

Living in China has made me appreciate my own country, with its tiny, ethnically diverse population of unassuming donut-eaters. - Jan Wong

A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he'll never crow. I have seen the light and I'm crowing. - Muhammad Ali

I thought about how mothers feed their babies with tiny little spoons and forks so I wondered, what do Chinese mothers use? Toothpicks? - George Carlin

She's so fat she's my two best friends. She wears stretch caftans. She's got more chins than the Chinese telephone directory. - Joan Rivers

I deal with foreign countries. I made a lot of money dealing against China. I've made a lot of money dealing against many other countries. - Donald Trump

I'll love you, dear, I'll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street. - W H Auden

When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity. - John F Kennedy


see also   Nationality  &  New Years  Sections
Beijing Redneck - Highlites and Lowlifes of the Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year Greetings
Chinese Sudoku