2017 – The Year of the Rooster

Photo Credit: www.dreamstime.com

Photo Credit: www.dreamstime.com

It is officially the year of the Rooster; this means that all children born between January 28th, 2017 to February 16th, 2018 will have the Rooster as their Chinese zodiac. However, in Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is not just associated with an animal sign, but also one of five elements: Metal/Gold, Wood, Water, Fire, or Earth. These element sign combinations recur once every sixty years and 2017 just happens to be the year of the Fire Rooster. Children born under the sign of the Fire Rooster are “trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work”. Some notable fire roosters, people born under the astrological sign of the fire rooster, turning sixty this year are: Hans Zimmer and Martin Luther King III.


Now some of you may be asking “how did the Chinese zodiac come to be?” and the answer is quite simple. It is said that the Jade Emperor, one of the representations of the first god in Chinese culture, traditional religions, and myth, decreed that the years on the calendar would be named for each animal; however, only the first twelve that arrived would be selected.


Upon hearing the news the Rat, wanting the honor of being the first animal of the calendar, began to hatch a plan. He knew that he was not as fast as the other animals or the best swimmer, but he was the most cunning. The rat knew that the Ox was swift and accustomed to crossing rivers and planned to slip upon the Ox and ride him to victory.


The day of the race arrived and the rat silently slipped upon the back of the Ox and the Ox, being rather thick-headed, was oblivious to the rat. As Ox lumbered towards the finish line, unimpeded by the water, the rat climbed atop his head and leaped across the finish line becoming the first zodiac sign. The Ox followed shortly thereafter upset that the rat had used him, but not wanting to make a fuss at the Jade Emperor’s party.


It was then that the Tiger suddenly burst from the river. The water had weight down upon him, but the Tiger pushed forth and with one final fierce stride, claimed the third spot in the Zodiac.


After applauding the Tiger for his endurance and strength, the Jade Emperor returned his attention to the race and saw that the Rabbit was perched upon a rock in the river. With her powerful hind legs she had been able to keep pace with the Tiger by hopping from one rock to another. After the Tiger passed her, she began to worry. “What if others pass me as well and I lose my place in the zodiac cycle,” she thought. As her fears began to consume her, she threw caution to the wind, leaping hurriedly towards the finish line. In her haste, she slipped off the rock into the turbulent water. Fearing she would drown, she looked around with wide eyes for anything that might save her. Luckily for her a sudden gust of wind sent a log her way. She latched onto the log with all the strength she could muster as the wind propelled the log towards the embankment. With her final bit of strength she hopped across the finish line and collapsed from all the excitement.


A deafening roar pierced the air as the Dragon soared over the finish line, his body moving like a serpent through the sky. The Jade Emperor watched perplexed as the Dragon made his descent. The Dragon, with his great speed and ability of flight, should have surpassed even the mighty Ox. The Emperor addressed the Dragon with his questions and the Dragon replied, “Exalted Jade Emperor, on my journey I witnessed a village’s crops being engulfed by flames. I knew that my spot in the Zodiac was on the line, but I could not stand by and watch. I stopped to aid them by summoning the rain to extinguish the blaze. After aiding the villagers, I continued on my way and I was almost to the finish line when I saw a tiny rabbit struggling in the water, fearing for its life. I did not wish her to perish so I used my breath to propel a log towards her and send it to the embankment.”


Pleased by his answer, the Jade Emperor sent the Dragon on his way to enjoy the festivities with the other animals.


As the Dragon gently lifted the Rabbit in his talon to take her to the festivities and nourish her, the Horse was in the midst of the river. His hooves split the water as he galloped and he burst from the water with incredible speed and power. It was at that moment that the Snake, who had been coiled around the Horse’s hoof, darted out from between his legs. Stricken with fear the Horse reared back, his front hooves lashing out at anything or anyone foolish enough to approach him.


The Snake made haste across the finish line in fear that the Horse may regain his senses at any moment. As soon as the Snake crossed the finish line, the Horse lowered his head. His fear was gone, but in its place was a burning shame. His legs, which moments ago had carried him in an untamed gallop across the water, were now locked in slow trembling gait.


Soon after the Horse, came the Sheep, the Monkey, and the Rooster. The Rooster had found a raft  on the opposite shore, unclaimed by anyone, and claimed it along with the Monkey and the Sheep. Together, the three of them worked furiously to reach the other side. When the trio reached the other side, the Jade Emperor was very pleased with combined efforts and promptly gave the Sheep eighth spot, the Monkey claimed the ninth, and the Rooster the tenth. Each animal was pleased with its placement in the zodiac cycle and continued on their way to the festivities.


In eleventh place came the Dog. While the Dog may have been the fastest swimmer of all the animals, he had not bathed in quite some time. Therefore the temptation of the water was just too much for the Dog to resist. He spent the day bathing and frolicking in the water without a care in the world. That is, until the raft carrying the frantic Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster passed by. Thus the Dog hurried to towards the finish line, becoming the eleventh animal in the zodiac cycle.


The Jade Emperor waited patiently for the final animal to arrive when over the horizon a blob of pink came into view. It was the Pig, running with surprising speed, towards the finish line. The Jade Emperor watched in amusement as the pig waddled through the water towards him. When he finally reached the finish line, the Jade Emperor questioned the Pig about what had hindered him.


The Pig looked down in embarrassment as he pawed at the dirt. “Oh exalted Jade Emperor,” began the Pig, “I became so hungry I couldn’t resist stopping to eat and after I ate, I couldn’t help but fall asleep.” The Jade Emperor simply laughed at the Pig’s response and informed him that there was more food to be had at the party. This caught the attention of the pig as he hurried off to join the other animals.


It was at this moment that the Jade Emperor began to wonder where the Cat was. The Cat was a proud creature and he couldn’t image that the Cat wouldn’t even attempt to have a spot in the zodiac cycle. Unbeknownst to the Jade Emperor the Rat, being scheming and opportunistic in nature, decided to trick his neighbor the Cat upon hearing the news of the race. Instead of telling the Cat that the race was the next day, he told the Cat that the race was the day after tomorrow. So while everyone was vying for their spot in the zodiac, the Cat was at home dreaming of the race and all the fun he would have at the race that he would never get to participate in.


This, of course, is just a myth and like all myths there are various versions. While this story may be just a myth, to many it signifies so much more. The Chinese zodiac, in many areas of the world, determines the birth rate for that year. For example, according to priceonomics “in 2011 and 2012, prospective parents in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore admitted to consciously timing their pregnancy” so that their child would be born under the sign of the dragon.


Sophomore Peter Pan says, “the zodiac acts just like the western one. It is said to determine a child’s personality and fortune just like the western one.” However, its popularity with the current generation in fading. Peter Pan goes on to say that “there are many people who would not know what the zodiac is.”


The Chinese New Year, which signifies the changing of the animal zodiac and was traditionally used to honor deities and ancestors, is now a time to reunite with family and celebrate the coming year. Junior Frank Zhu said that the Chinese New Year “is a time to celebrate my relationship with my family and friends.” Sophomore Catherine Si says that her favorite thing to do during the new year is her “reunion with my family and making new year’s dinner together.” However, regardless of a person’s awareness of the Chinese Zodiac, sharing the creative mythology of the culture promotes its history and legacy.