Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Story of the Chinese Zodiacs

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There are 12 zodiacs in the Chinese astrological cycle; which is also similar to the Western horoscopes.
Many may have heard of the origins of the 12 zodiacs, which was quite interesting.
The 12 zodiacs are based on 12 different types of animals, and the questions that are often asked include:
1. Why are there only 12 zodiacs?
2. Out of so many types of animals, why only these 12 made it to the calendar? Based on what criteria are they selected?
3. How do we determine which sign we are?

There are just so many questions, and though I may not be the expert to tell you every little thing about the above but I can share on my findings and stories I have heard since I was a child.

The Origin
The 12 zodiac's story of origin is one that interests many and is quite fascinating, in my opinion.
The following is a version I have heard/read/watched:

It was said that the Jade Emperor issued a decree to select 12 animals for the calendar, and that the first 12 animals to arrive at the selected meeting place would be included in the calendar. The animals would be named according to the order they arrive at the meeting place.
Most of the animals, upon hearing this, were excited and looked forward to have a calendar year named after them and made plans to arrive early at the meeting place.

The animals would have to cross a river in order to get to the meeting place.
The cat and the rat were reputed to be of the weakest in swimming among all the animals, but that did not stop them from making their way to the meeting place as well. They befriended the ox, a rather naive, kind and patient animal and the ox agreed to bring them over the river on its back.

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As they were one of the earlier ones, and the rat, being an ambitious one, schemed to be the first to reach the meeting place but he also knew that it may not be possible given he was with cat and the ox.

Therefore, during their journey, the rat inadvertently pushed the not knowing cat into the river. As the Ox approached the river bank, the rat immediately leapt off the ox's back onto the shore and ran towards the meeting point, making its way as the first animal to arrive, followed by the ox.

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In a short while, the tiger was spotted running all the way and panting towards the meeting point. The tiger explained that it was extremely difficult to cross the river due to the heavy water currents but the strengths and determination of the tiger placed him in the third place in arrival.

The rabbit soon arrived shortly after, and the mild natured creature also explained how difficult it was to cross the river but it was nimble enough to hop from one rock to another and caught onto a log to finally make it to the shore, and the rabbit became the fourth animal in the zodiac cycle.
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The rabbit was succeeded by the dragon, who flew over and landed.
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However, the Jade Emperor was perplexed as to how a mighty and flying creature such as the dragon did not make it as the first animal to arrive. The dragon explained that it was held back by responsibilities to arrange for rain to help some of the people who were suffering in the dry season, and then as it was arriving, it spotted a poor rabbit caught on a log and decided to give a puff to blow the log towards the bank.

The Jade Emperor was extremely pleased with the excellent qualities possessed by the good-natured dragon and made it the 5th animal in the zodiac cycle.

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In an instant, the galloping sounds of the horse hooves were heard and the horse appeared, running towards the meeting point. However, the horse was suddenly startled by the appearance of a snake behind its hooves and the snake, jumping at opportunity of overtaking the horse, slithered ahead of the horse to be the 6th animal while the horse was the 7th.
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Three animals which were apparently good friends arrived together in a short while; which were the goat, rooster and the monkey.
The trio helped each other across the river; with the quick-witted rooster spotting a raft and helping the goat and the monkey onto it, while the goat and monkey helped to clean and prepare the raft for their journey.

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The Jade Emperor was proud to see such teamwork and cooperation displayed, and named the Goat the 8th, Monkey 9th and the Rooster the 10th animal respectively.
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The dog came panting after that; and landed the 11th place despite being the best swimmer among all the animals.
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However, the dog was a little playful and was playing in the river thus causing its delay. Just as it was about to end, there was a little oink and a pig appeared. The pig was distracted by food on its way to the meeting point and thus landed the 12th and final place in the zodiac cycle.

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This was how all the 12 animals made it to the Chinese astrological calendar, and how they were placed in order. There were probably a few other versions, but this is definitely one of the most popular and most told by far.

It is said that people who are born in the year of the named zodiac would tend to possess some, if not all, of the characteristics of the particular animal.
That being said, it does not mean that one born in the year of the monkey would be jumping from one branch to another on a tree!

In general, it just means that some of the deterministic or obvious characteristics could be seen in one's personality.

The following are the description of each of the zodiac sign; it's more of an association with the animal's behavior really.

The characteristics
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From the story above, it is obvious and logical to say that the rat is an extremely intelligent animal. Also, the rat is also shrewd, well-liked, sociable, straightforward, meticulous yet at the same time charming and sensitive.
The rat can also be calculative and manipulative as well.

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The ox is patient, kind, trusting, and reliable. At the same time, the ox is also hardworking, ambitious and is a born leader.
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This does not mean that the ox is all good, as it can also be extremely hard-headed, demanding and short-tempered.

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Fierce and fearsome by appearance, the tiger also possess an impulsive, powerful, aggressive, reckless, impatient and obstinate nature. Easily provoked, the tiger can also be quick to flare in temper, but yet at the same time passionate and rebellious.

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Tame and mild in nature, the rabbit is one of the amicable animal of all as it is gentle, soft-spoken, kind, patient, gracious, shy and reserved. However, the rabbit is also extremely cautious, artistic, and opportunistic.

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Being one of the strongest yet mythical animal among the 12, the dragon is definitely proud, strong, confident, passionate and decisive. It is definitely not wrong to say that the dragon is fiery as well due to its nature. The good qualities of the dragon is intellectual, artistic, generous and loyal.

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Sly and shrewd are the second names of this creature, as it can be cold, possessive, and distrustful. However, the snake can also be extremely cautious, wise, responsible and creative.

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This is definitely a quick-witted, brash, agile and free-willed animal. The horse can be cheerful, talkative, and open minded yet at the same time also, stubborn, anxious, childish and rude too.

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This is a gentle and mild-mannered animal, and is motherly in nature. Caring, sensitive, sincere and peaceful are some of the goat's stronger characteristics. The goat also tends to be a worry-wart, indecisive, weak-willed and also pessimistic.


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Vibrant and cheeky, the monkey can be really intelligent, quick-witted, inquisitive, creative and good in solving problems. On the downside, the monkey tends to be arrogant, selfish, reckless, self-centered, cunning and easily suspicious.

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Cocky is part of its nature, but the rooster can also be a conservative, perfectionist, critical, responsible, acute, practical and organized. The rooster can be over critical sometimes, and over confident/arrogant as well.

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The term Man's best friend did not come from nothing as the dog is known for its loyalty, righteousness, reliability, honesty and being trustworthy, intelligent and attractive at the same time. Due to the exceptional qualities of the dog, it is very popular and thus is sociable and well-liked as it is also attractive, affectionate and easy to get along with.
The dog, however, can also be stubborn, judgmental, and worrisome too.

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Laid back and easy going, the pig is often chided for being lazy, overly dependent, self-indulgent and materialistic. The pig's qualities which are often shadowed include honesty, patience, peace-loving, loyalty, and understanding.

Which zodiac do you belong to?
Do you feel you have some of the characteristics shared above?

Happy Chinese New Water Dragon Year 2012~

Phew, a long title for the post, but sums up the Lunar New Year of the year 2012.
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To those of you who are celebrating the Chinese New Year, I am sure you are already well aware that this year is the year of the Dragon; in the Chinese cycle of the 12 zodiac animals, in fact, it is a Water Dragon year, to be precise.

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The dragon is highly regarded as an auspicious symbol in the Chinese culture for centuries, as it is viewed as one with power, authority and prosperity. The dragon is often depicted with such might and strength that there is no wonder it is also often associated with the Heaven above.
Known as a mythical figure with a long body, scale-like skin surface, sharply clawed feet, and a huge and majestic head which looked ferocious and fearsome from the outside.
The dragon is said to have the ability to brew and spur smoke, and spurt fire from its mouth when angered/provoked.
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The dragon is believed to be a mystical (and mythical) animal sent from Heaven and carries the symbolism of heavenly authority to fight against evil.
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The mystical powers of dragon are as such that in ancient China, the Emperor is believed to be a dragon sent from Heaven to carry out the mandate and duties from the deities above.
The dragon is idolized and worshipped in the Chinese community and it is no wonder that most of the auspicious symbols are inspired by the dragon motifs.
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It is believed that the dragon, due to its mythical and heavenly powers protects against evil.

However, do take note that this is the belief in the East as the dragon does not enjoy such adoration in the West as it is viewed as a creature of evil.
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It is funny, yet ironic how the same animal could be given the highest honor in one culture yet receive the lowest level of condemnation in another.
The dragon is depicted to be of much evil that it was considered victorious to have it killed; as portrayed in the famous story of how St George killed the dragon.
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Back to the East, it was frowned upon to bad mouth the name of the dragon, let alone Kill it!
The dragon takes on so many forms in the Chinese culture, but mainly in godly or heavenly forms.
The dragons were also depicted as being in control of the weather and climate; with dragons positioned in all the directions to control the rain water and wind.

With such popularity, it is no wonder that the dragon will make its way into the 12-zodiac of the Chinese astrology; being the only mythical animal compared to the other 11 which are all real and existing animals.

The year 2012 brings forth the arrival of the Dragon; and a year regarded with much favor and anticipation by the Chinese community due to its symbolism.
Most are hoping that there will be a change in their luck and wealth in the year of this mythical yet powerful animal.

Fret not, as according to the astrological elements, the Dragon this year is of the Water element (most of the Chinese characters/symbols are associated to five worldly elements surrounding us such as: Wood, Fire, Metal, Water, Earth).
As we very well know, Water is constantly changing its form and as such, the Water element associated with the Dragon this year is believed to be a year of change, as predicted by most Chinese astrologers and Feng Shui experts.

The Year of the Dragon is believed to be one full of good things but also due to the ferocious nature of the dragon, it could also bring challenges.
Due to the favoritism for the mythical creature, the elders often would urge the married ones in the family to have a baby born in the dragon year as it symbolizes the good and success. Most people would also love to tie the knot in the dragon year due to its auspicious nature.
It is a tough decision to make too; as some would prefer to marry in the year of the mild Rabbit so that they could have a Dragon baby, and yet there are those who wants to marry in the year of the Dragon so that their marriage would be blessed with good things.
Whichever it is, it is easy to say that the Chinese community truly does prioritize the dragon.

I have heard from my mother and grandmother about the dragon. It seems that although babies born in the year of the dragon are often favoured, they are also at the same regarded with caution.
It is all to do with the nature and characteristics of the animal itself.
As mentioned, the dragon possess a fearsome outlook and possess extremely strong and ferocious characteristics. The dragon can be fearless, bold, out-spoken and strives on success yet at the same time also proud and confident. It can be perceived both ways, whether these are good or bad characteristics.

I was once told that the day, date, time, month and year of birth of a Dragon baby also determines the success path of the child. At the same time, the upbringing and education of the child do greatly influence the future of the child, which is a commonly known fact.
It is said that if a dragon is properly nurtured, he/she could truly be enjoying flying success and popularity everywhere they go, just like a dragon but on the contrary, they could also be at their lowest point if they were not brought up properly.
(Well, I think this is also applicable to every child!:)

This year is believed to be an exceptionally auspicious year to tie the knot, as there is two springs within the same year.
How did this happen?
Well, we celebrated the first day of the Lunar New Year on the 23rd of January, but the first day of spring is actually on the 4th of February!
The Lunar New Year in 2013 will be in the middle of February, after the 4th of February; the first day of spring and therefore, from the 4th of February 2012 to 2013, there is actually 2 springs in the Water Dragon year!
How auspicious is it, I am definitely no expert to tell you, but the Chinese are definitely often raving about the symbolism of spring which is also considered good in their beliefs.

Therefore for those who are planning to tie the knot, it may not be a bad idea to consider getting hitched this year *winks*, although, I must warn that plans are to be made immediately to avoid disappointment, as this is a very popular year for weddings.
In fact, I've already have more than five weddings lined up for this year!:p

For those who are already married, is a Dragon baby on your roadmap? *winks*
One question though, since the year of the Dragon is highly popular, won't it be a problem for children to get into school in the future? The answer is Yes, as I learnt that every time it comes for the Dragon babies, they have to compete fiercely to obtain a place in a good school!

Whatever the Year of the Water Dragon holds or whatever readings you have heard from Feng Shui experts or astrologers, it is still up to us to make this a great year, which I am sure will be for everyone!
I am sure everyone is still enjoying the festive mood and the goodies shared, and let's look forward to welcome the Year of the Dragon with happiness and enthusiasm!

Have a FANTASTIC year filled with wonderful returns, blessings and joy!
I wish you and your family a very Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year 2012!~
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