Chinese calendar of animals in the museum "Collection" exposition

On the cover - 12 animals of the Chinese lunar calendar. The 20th century

Usuallu, on the eve of the New Year, and especially before the onset of the New Year according to the Eastern calendar, we are wondering what animal is going to symbolize the coming year according to the eastern calendar. The tradition of naming a year after an animal came to us from China.

Each year of the Chinese calendar has its own patron animal and they are arranged in a certain order. There are twelve in total: Rat or mouse, Bull, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, horse, goat or sheep, Monkey, rooster, Dog and Pig. The Chinese in ancient times believed that the movement of the planet Jupiter brings benefits and virtues. It turns a complete circle around the Sun in 12 years. Thus, there are twelve patron animals. With a new rotation of Jupiter, a new cycle begins. After the year of the Pig, the year of the Rat begins again. Five twelve-year cycles are combined into a 60-year cycle. The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac were not chosen by chance. These were animals either closely associated with the daily life of Ancient China, or those that, according to Chinese beliefs, brought good luck.

A Bull, a horse, a goat, a rooster, a Pig, and a Dog are six animals traditionally kept in the Chinese household. A well-known proverb in China says, "Six animals in the house means prosperity". That is why these six animals were chosen. The other six - Rat, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake and Monkey - are the animals beloved in Chinese culture.

According to the Chinese horoscope, there are five basic elements: metal, water, wood, fire and earth. Each element has its own color: metal - white, water - blue, wood - green, fire - red, earth - yellow. Accordingly, 2022 is the year of the blue Tiger. Each animal from the list has one of the five colour elements, due to which the 60-year cycle of the Chinese calendar is formed. Animals change each other every year, and elemental colors - once every two years.

The Chinese traditionally considered long timespans in sixty years’ periods, and not centuries. In the old days, a new cycle began with the ascension to the throne of a new emperor. Now there are no emperors in China, and sixty-year cycles just go one after another. In this case, the count of years starts from 2698 - the first year of the Yellow Emperor. The current sixtieth year began in 4682, or 1984 in the Gregorian calendar.

There are several legends that explain the reasons for the emergence of the Eastern calendar.
The most prevalent Chinese legend says that once, the Buddha invited to his birthday (celebration of the New Year, feast, the day of the departure of the Buddha from this world - depending on the interpretation) all the animals that express their desire to come. Twelve animals came: the time was cold, and in order to get to the Buddha, it was necessary to cross wide river. To each animal, on “first-come-first-serve” basis, the Buddha granted one year of ruling. The Rat came the first – she got the first year of the 12-year cycle. However, eyewitnesses of this event claimed that the Bull was the first to reach the opposite shore, and the Rat, that did not want to get wet in cold water, asked the Bull to carry her on his back, and he, being goodhearted, agreed. While the Bull was shaking off to stand in front of the Buddha in decent shape, the Rat, jumping off his back, quickly ran forward, and was the first in line. She was rewarded for efficiency and ability to take advantage of circumstances. Slightly behind the Bull was the Tiger, who got the third year. Fans, carried away by the competition between the Bull and the Tiger, did not consider who came fourth - the Rabbit or the Cat. It is impossible to establish the truth behind the prescription of years, and among the various eastern peoples there is still a discrepancy regarding the fourth year ruler. The fifth was the Dragon, the sixth was the Snake and the seventh was the Horse. Then the fog went down the river, and again it was not clear who was the eighth - the Goat or the Sheep. The Monkey became the ninth - only after making sure that it was safe, she entered the water. The tenth ran the Rooster, who delayed since he described his large family for a long time and in detail, how it should live in his absence. The Dog came running the eleventh. She had many of the domesticities, and, as soon as she managed them, she threw herself into the water. Finally, the Boar appeared, according to other sources, he sent a Pig instead. The Buddha gave him the last remaining year.

According to Eastern cosmogonic theory, 12 mythological animals represent an equal number of cosmic mergers that influence the character, inclinations and, as they say in China, determine the fate of a person. 12 representatives of the calendar, each of which patronizes its own year, are divided into four "triads". The first triad of the eastern horoscope includes the Rat, the Dragon and the Monkey. The Chinese horoscope says that the people of these signs are energetic and active. The second triad is the Bull, the Snake and the Rooster. Those that are born in the years of these animals are hardworking and active. The third triad of the Chinese horoscope is comprised of the Tiger, the Horse and the Dog. People born under these signs handle conflicts with ease, smoothing things over and being reliable. The fourth triad include the Cat, the Goat and the Pig. According to the eastern horoscope, people born under the signs of these animals have a heightened sense of beauty, and they have highly developed creative abilities.

In ancient China, each zodiac animal was endowed with a certain symbolic meaning - a distinctive feature. 12 animals were divided into 6 pairs in such a way that distinctive features of one animal in a pair were opposite to those of another animal from this pair. Thus, harmony was achieved - Yin and Yang. The order of the animals of the zodiac, presumably, was not chosen by chance: in China, it is customary to start with the most important, and then put all the other features in descending order. As well as in the beginning, always is a strong, dominant beginning of Yang, and then giving harmony Yin.