You may have heard that 2016 is the Year of the Monkey, but what does this mean, exactly? Animals are an important part of the Chinese Zodiac. Unlike the Western Zodiac, which cycles through months, the Chinese Zodiac cycles through years. Also worth noting is that it follows the Chinese New Year, which means that the Year of the Monkey technically started Feb 8, and won’t end until January 27, 2017. The Chinese New Year is celebrated every year and is the largest festival in China, marking it as an important Asian cultural event.
Asian Culture and History: A Race
The Chinese Zodiac was originally developed as a way to keep track of the passage of time around the era of the Han Dynasty, some 2,000 years ago. It roughly follows the 11.86 year cycle of Jupiter. The most popular mythical legend says that there was once a great race held for all the animals to cross a river, and the order they finished the race determined their place in the zodiac. The snake, for example, wasn’t a great swimmer but was able to get ahead by catching a ride on the horse’s hoof.
There are 12 animals in all: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The birth year is taken seriously by many Asian cultures, and corresponding attributes are seen as belonging to people depending on their animal. Six groups in the U.S. make up about 83% of the Asian-American population, and several of these groups, including Vietnamese and Korean-Americans, often look to the zodiac for guidance (whether seriously, or for entertainment).
Check Event Listings: Who’s Your Match?
What can you expect from your zodiac animal? The tiger, rabbit, and dragon have the element of wood; snake, horse and goat have the element of fire; monkey, rooster and dog have the element of metal; and pig, rat and ox have the element of water. Each individual animal has attributable characteristics; snakes, for example, are intelligent and can be a bit distrustful of others. Certain zodiac animals have corresponding compatibility signs for love, marriage, friendship and enemies. A rat’s best match, for example, is an ox, dragon or monkey.
Interested in being a part of Chinese New Year celebrations, or learning more about the zodiac? There are 18 million Asian-Americans in the U.S. planning events! Check your local event listings for asian celebrations and festivals!