Thursday Feb 07, 2008

Year of the Rat

This will be my 3rd installation of Chinese New Year blog. There had been sad departures this year in Beijing. We have seen many friends leaving their posts, often for something better or bigger. This is a vibrant and fast-paced city. People come and go. Many left their imprints on our hearts.

I wrote two years ago that

Years are numbered in cycles of 60. You can think a Chinese "century" is 60 years. Instead of numbers, Chinese name these 60 with two counters: one in the cycle of 10 and the other 12. The former is called the "heavenly" counter (天干, TianGan) and the latter "earthly" (地支, DiZhi). The earthly counter is actually 12 animals.

Similarly, I wrote last year that.

Chinese years are counted with two cyclical counters, one has ten symbols and the other 12. Together, they make up cycles of 60. In a way, a Chinese century is 60 years. Each counter is characteristically categorized into one of the 5 elements — metal, wood, water, fire, and earth — that make up everything in the universe. These 5 elements are assigned to the first 5 planets of the solar system, respectively Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn.

Not only each counter has an element, it is either of Yin or Yang. This year is the 5th on the heavenly counter and 1st in earthly: 25th in the cycle or the year of 戊子 (WuZi). In Chinese numerology, odd numbers are Yang and even numbers Yin. The 5th heavenly counter, 戊, is of the earth element. Adding all these together, we have a earthy and masculine (Yang) rat coming.

This reveals a rarely known factoid about the earthly counters: why are those 12 animals chosen? It turns out the sequence of these 12 animals are alternating in Yang and Yin. Those with odd numbers of toes are Yang animals and those even Yin. The Yin or Yang of heavenly and earthly elements always matches: Yin with Yin and Yang with Yang. The world is in harmony and all is good, except for rats.

Rats have an unique Yin Yang quality. They have 4 toes in their front paws and 5 in the rear; they are both Yin and Yang! For this reason, rat designates the mid-night hour, the time in between Yin and Yang. This makes many Chinese not sure about rats: ghosty, sketchy, shifty. On the other hand, rats reproduce quickly and are impossible to exterminate: proliferating, energetic, diligent, and tenacious. There are advantages to be in the year of the rat. <script language="JavaScript"> TagStart() Technorati("China") Technorati("Chinese Calendar") TagEnd() </script>

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