Sep 12, 2012

As we all known, culture is ubiquitous, multidimensional, complex, and all-pervasive. It is very difficult to define the meaning of culture exactly. There is ancient and modern culture, Asian and European cultue, Chinese culture and American culture. And culture can be pided into diffierent types according to different views. For example: tea culture, clothing culture, etc. All of us have own definition about culture. In my opinion, culture is a system of shared customs, behaviors and thoughts that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning. It is the group’s knowledge stored up for future use. First, culture is a system of shared customs, behaviors and thoughts.

Every culture has its ways of doing things in daily life, such as ways of eating, drinking ,dressing, finding shelter, making friends, marrying and dealing with death. For example, someone is invited to join the host’s party in America, when the party is over, the host stands and watches the guess walk to the door, open it, and disappear down the hall. While in China, the host accompanies with the guess for a short distance, takes a taxi for the guess, even opens the taxi’s door for the guess. That is to say, the different behavious are influenced by the different cultures. Besides, culture can be transmitted and maintained through learning. If a Chinese child is born in U.S.A, he is influenced by American culture. Just as I have mentioned, culture can be pided into diffierent types according to different views. For example: tea culture, clothing culture, etc. Therefore, we can know the Chinese culture from Chinese zodiac, which is the uniquely Chinese cultural aspect.

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Tai Chi & Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese animal signs a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. In the Western country, the years are dated from the birth of Jesus Christ. They represent a linear concept of time, with time proceeding in a straight line from the past to the present and to the future. While in China, they represent a cyclical concept of time, which is repeated time according to a pattern. A popular folk which reflects this cyclical method of recording years are the Twelve Animal Signs. That is rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

 According to the Chinese legend, one day the twelve animals quarreled about who was the head of the cycle of the year. Therefore, the gods decided to hold a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be the first, and the rest of the animals would follow. All the animals gathered at the bank of the river and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. When the ox was about to jump the bank, the rat jumped off the ox’s back, and won the race. The pig, which was very lazy, ended up the last. This is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second and the pig last.

A cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore is that horoscopes have developed around the animal signs, which is much like monthly horoscope in the western country, Pisces, Aries, etc. For example, a Chinese horoscope may predict that a person who is born in the year of the rooster would be “a deep thinker”. The animal signs in an established order are repeated every twelve years. 2007 is the year of the pig, and 2008 will be the year of the rat.

The animal signs can serve a useful social function for finding out people’s age. People often ask what is his or her animal sign instead of asking age directly. This can place the person’s age within a cycle of 12 years, and with a bit of common sense, we can deduce the exact age. For example, “what animal sign were you born under? I was born in the year of the rooster.” From this we can know that she was born in 1981 or 1993.

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Chinese zodiac paper cuts

According to a repeated cycle, every year is assigned an animal name or sign: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. And we will explain these animals one by one.

Rat: we also use Chinese zodiac to record time in China. Rat begins to find the food everywhere from 11pm to 1 am, so this period is called Rat Charm. Person who was born under rat sign is charming, imaginative, and generous to the person you love. Besides you are well respected for your abilities, and sometimes feared for your power. In addition, you tend to be ahead of the crowd, always the leader. However, you have quick-tempered and overly critical. While in English, rat means disloyal person, especially one who deserts a cause in times of difficulty. The phrase “the rat race” means fiercely competitive struggle, especially to keep one’s position in work or life.

Ox: The peasant prepares grass for the ox from 1am to 3am, so this period is also called Ox Patient. Person who was born in the year of ox is conservative, methodical, and good with your hands and always demanding your own way. You are strong and silent, always cautious but never inactive. Besides people look at you with respect,because of your calm attitude and natural confidence in your own abilities. In addition, you are an important leader of the successful team because you are the one who makes sure that the work gets done at the end of the day. While in English, ox means a clumsy, stupid fellow.

Tiger: The tiger is very fierce from 3am to 5am, so this period is also called Tiger Sensitive. Person who was born under tiger sign is sensitive, emotional, and capable of great love. You are a lover who lives for excitement. Besides you are very social and enjoy having many friends, some of whom have been with you for years. In addition, your desire for anything new that keeps you active and alert. You trust your instincts and act on impulse. What’s more, your aggressiveness is your strength, and your sense of self drives your determination. However, you have a tendency to be stubborn about what you think is right, sometimes seen as a Hothead. In China the phrase “a paper tiger” means person or thing that is less powerful or threatening than he or it seems or claims to be. While in English, tiger also describes the person resembling a tiger in fierceness, courage.

Rabbit: The rabbit likes to eat the grass with dew from 5am to 7am,so this period is also called Rabbit Articulate. Person who was born in the year of rabbit is a strong sense of self. Rather than building your own home, you seek an existing and established space that has proven itself. Although you are never the innovator, you are the emblem of success. Any team with a rabbit will surely find fortune. While in English, the phrase “run with the hare and hurt with the hounds” means person who tries to remain friendly with both sides in a dispute.

Dragon: According to the legend, dragon likes to get up with the sun rising from 7 am to 9 am, so this period is also called Dragon Healthy. Person who was born under the dragon sign is full of vitality and enthusiasm. And the Dragon is a popular inpidual. You are intelligent, gifted, and a perfectionist but these qualities make you unduly demanding on others. In addition, you tend to be a little stubbron with your opinons and sometimes lacking focus. While your tendency for extravagance can lead you into financial trouble, but you smarts quickly conteract your faults. While in English, dragon means a fierce person, especially for a woman.

Snake: The snake gets out the hole to seek food from 9am to 11am,, so it is also called Snake Deep. You are romantic and deep thinking and your intuition guides you strongly. Keep your sense of humor about life. Capable of extreme seriousness, you are a natural mediator who is trusted by all. Your ability to process complex problems, tackle sensitive issues, and make rational decisions are key factors for success. Although people tend to take advantage of your abilities, you often do not receive the respect you deserve. Your ability to focus is highly acute. Always desiring a better life, you can step away from your seriousness and adopt a fun loving attitude that makes you the private friend for all. While in English, snake means treacherous person, for example, “ a snake in the grass” means deceitful person who pretends to be a friend.

Horse: The horse whinnies around the grassland from 11am to 1pm, so this period is called Horse Popular.Your capacity for hard work is amazing. You are very independent. While, intelligent and friendly, you have a strong guard against being self-centered. You are a warm and kind-hearted person who enjoys all types of people. Your generosity is one of your more dominant traits that win the respect of your friends, family and colleagues. Your communication skills are excellent, and your sense of perception is finely tuned. You are the best friend, intimate friend, and confident for everyone.

Sheep: It’s a good time to herd sheep form 1pm to 3pm, so this period is called Goat Elegant. You are elegant and artistic but to complain about things. You are soft and gentle and well liked by your friends, family and colleagues. You are a very strong and generous person who is more of a parent than a peer. When friends are in difficult, you come to help them. Your warm personality makes people feel comfortable. You also have a deep private life of dreams and aspirations. You are always the optimist and live a private life. However, Put aside your pessimism and wory and try to be less dependent on material comforts. While in English, the phrase “like sheep” means the person is too easily influenced or led by others.

Monkey: It is the time that monkeys are active from 3pm to 5pm, so this period is called Monkey Clever.You are very intelligent and very clever. Because of your extraordinary nature and magnetic personality, you are always well-liked. Your sign promises success in any field you try. You possess a keen mind that is quick and accurate. You have ideas and plans that you know are right because you have done the research and planned them out. Although you possess such a powerful mind, you tend to wrap your own desires and ideas in. Gradually, you have a tendency to lose confidence and trust with your peers. While in English, “monkey” means a lively mischievous child.

Rooster: Rooster likes to stay near the hen house from 5pm to 7pm, so it is called Rooster deep thinkers. The Rooster is a hard worker; shrewd and definite in decision making, often speaking his mind. Because of this, you tend to seem boastful to others. You are also a dreamer, flashy dresser. Always shining, your sociability is a true mix of bravado and secrecy. You are a deeply intellectual person who is constantly thinking and considering. You etch your opinions in stone and never stray from them once formed. You feel your superiority wherever you go, but leave people guessing who you are and where you came from. Also in English, the phrase “cock of the walk” means person who dominates others within a group.

Dog: It is the time that dog stays the gate silently after people finished the today’s job from 7pm to 9pm, so it is called Dog Loyalty. Born under this sign you are honest and faithful to those you love. You are annoyed by constant worry, a sharp tongue. However, you would make an excellent businessman, activist, teacher, or secret agent. While,in English, dog means sly, lucky, guy.

Pig: It is the time for pig sleeping from 9pm to 11pm, so it is called Pig Chivalrous. You are a splendid companion, an intellectual with a very strong need to set difficult goals and carry them out. You are sincere, tolerant, and honest. Besides, you are a well-rounded person who is capable many things. Your positive and warm attitude makes you well. You don't consider yourself a master socializer, and find it hard to make new acquaintances, but you underestimate your own appeal. In addition, you are the object of desire for many people. You keep a tight group of friends and find family life very rewarding. While in English, pig also means dirty, greedy, inconsiderate or ill-mannered person.

All in all, the rotating cycle of twelve animal signs was a folk method for naming the years in traditional China. And also this custom is influenced by the Chinese culture.

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