One of China’s most important cultural festivals otherwise known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year marks the turn of the Chinese traditional lunisolar calendar, meaning the specific day changes annually, falling any time between 21 January and 20 February depending on when the new moon is. A major cultural institution amongst Chinese communities around the world, the festivities have also gained a substantial international following due to the rich mythology surrounding them.
There are several myths and legends surrounding Chinese New Year and the holiday is a time to honour deities and historical ancestors. The most widely known aspect of the mythology is the Chinese Zodiac – a 12-year cycle in which each year is classified under an animal and its attributes. These attributes are said to reflect the characteristics of the person born in that particular year. These numbers are dictated by their placing in a legendary swimming race undertaken by all the animals.
YEAR OF THE RAT
The first animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac, the Rat was the animal which won the legendary race due to its devious manipulation of the ox. Aware of its lack of physical strength and endurance, the rat instead hid upon the ox, jumping ahead at the last minute to win the race. Positive attributes of the rat are its ambition, intelligence, sociability, charisma, tenacity and eloquence. Negative attributes are its opportunism, manipulative nature and cunning.
YEAR OF THE OX
The second animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac, the Ox placed second in the race. In spite of its physical dominance, it fell victim to the Rat’s clever manipulations. Positive characteristics of the Ox are its dependability, determination and honesty. Negative characteristics are stubbornness and difficulty in communication.
YEAR OF THE TIGER
The third animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac. The tiger’s positive characteristics are its self-confidence, bravery and charm. Despite this, the tiger’s negative characteristics are its irritability and stubbornness.
YEAR OF THE RABBIT
The fourth animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac. The rabbit’s positive characteristics are elegance, patience and a sense of responsibility. Its negative characteristics include superficiality, secretiveness and melancholy.
YEAR OF THE DRAGON
The fifth animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac and the only imaginary one. The dragon’s positive characteristics are courage, intelligence and confidence. These qualities reflect the dragon’s innate importance as a cultural symbol in China. Its main negative quality is its aggression.
YEAR OF THE SNAKE
The sixth animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac, the snake is known to be the most enigmatic of the twelve. The snake’s positive characteristics include intuition, wisdom and determination. Negative qualities include materialism.
YEAR OF THE HORSE
The seventh animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac, the horse’s positive characteristics include enthusiasm, generosity and independence. Negative attributes include over-zealousness and financial irresponsibility.
YEAR OF THE GOAT
The eighth animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac, the goat’s positive characteristics are its gentleness, amicability and compassion. Negative attributes are a lack of independence and a sense of delicacy.
YEAR OF THE MONKEY
The ninth animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac. The monkey’s positive characteristics are its enthusiasm, confidence and sociability. The animal is often associated with success. Negative attributes include arrogance, selfishness and cunning.
YEAR OF THE ROOSTER
The tenth animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac. The rooster’s positive characteristics include independence, honesty and ambition. Its negative qualities include impatience, narrow-mindedness and selfishness.
YEAR OF THE DOG
The eleventh animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac. The dog’s positive characteristics include loyalty, responsibility and liveliness. Negative qualities include oversensitivity and stubbornness.
YEAR OF THE PIG
The twelfth and final animal chronologically in the Chinese Zodiac. The pig is not regarded to be a particularly intelligent animal in China. Its positive attributes include loyalty, gentleness and good-naturedness. Negative characteristics include laziness, naivety and gullibility.