What’s your sign?
In Western astrology,
it’s a constellation determined by when your birthday falls in the calendar.
But according to the Chinese zodiac, or shēngxiào,
it’s your shǔxiàng,
meaning the animal assigned to your birth year.
And of the many myths explaining the animal signs and their arrangment,
the most enduring one is that of the Great Race.
As the story goes, Yù Dì, or Jade Emperor,
Ruler of the Heavens,
wanted to devise a way to measure time,
so he organized a race.
The first twelve animals to make it across the river
would earn a spot on the zodiac calendar
in the order they arrived.
The rat rose with the sun to get an early start,
but on the way to the river,
he met the horse, the tiger, and the ox.
Because the rat was small and couldn’t swim very well,
he asked the bigger animals for help.
While the tiger and horse refused,
the kind-hearted ox agreed to carry the rat across.
Yet, just as they were about to reach the other side,
the rat jumped off the ox’s head and secured first place.
The ox came in second, with the powerful tiger right behind him.
The rabbit, too small to battle the current,
nimbly hopped across stones and logs to come in fourth.
于是敏捷地踏石 跃原木而过 位列第四
Next came the dragon,
who could have flown directly across,
but stopped to help some creatures she had encountered on the way.
After her came the horse,
galloping across the river.
But just as she got across,
the snake slithered by.
The startled horse reared back,
letting the snake sneak into sixth place.
The Jade Emperor looked out at the river
spotted the sheep, the monkey, and the rooster all atop a raft,
看到一艘船载着羊 猴子 公鸡
working together to push it through the weeds.
When they made it across,
the trio agreed to give eighth place to the sheep,
who had been the most comforting and harmonious of them,
followed by the monkey and the rooster.
Next came the dog, scrambling onto the shore.
He was a great swimmer,
but frolicked in the water for so long
that he only managed to come in eleventh.
The final spot was claimed by the pig,
who had gotten hungry and stopped to eat and nap
before finally waddling across the finish line.
And so, each year is associated with one of the animals in this order,
with the cycle starting over every 60 years.
Why 60 and not twelve?
Well, the traditional Chinese calendar is made up of two overlapping systems.
The animals of the zodiac are associated with
what’s called the Twelve Earthly Branches, or shí’èrdizhī.
Another system, the Ten Heavenly Stems, or shitiāngān,
is linked with the five classical elements of
metal, xīn, wood, mù, water, shuǐ, fire, huǒ, and earth, tǔ.
即”金” “木” “水” “火” “土”
Each element is assigned yīn or yáng,
creating a ten-year cycle.
When the twelve animals of the Earthly Branches
are matched with the five elements
plus the yīn or the yáng of the Heavenly Stems,
it creates 60 years of different combinations,
known as a sexagenary cycle, or gānzhī.
So someone born in 1980
would have the sign of yáng metal monkey,
while someone born in 2007 would be yīn fire pig.
In fact, you can also have an inner animal
based on your birth month,
a true animal based on your birth date,
and a secret animal based on your birth hour.
It was the great race that supposedly determined
which animals were enshrined in the Chinese zodiac,
but as the system spread through Asia,
other cultures made changes to reflect their communities.
So if you consult the Vietnamese zodiac,
you may discover that you’re a cat, not a rabbit,
and if you’re in Thailand,
a mythical snake called a Naga replaces the dragon.
So whether or not you place stock in what the zodiac says about you as an individual,
所以无论你在哪里 黄道纪年让你知道 你是独立个体
it certainly reveals much about the culture it comes from.
What’s your sign?