By Mabel Hinton
The Chinese zodiac – known as Shu Xiang or Sheng Xiao – features 12 animal signs: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. These signs originated from ancient zoolatry and boast a history of more than 2,000 years. Zodiac signs play an essential role in Chinese culture. The animals in the cycle are not only used to represent years in China, but also believed to influence people’s personalities, career, compatibility, marriage, and fortune.
People’s birth year determines their zodiac sign. There is an animal representing each year, but the year is defined by Chinese lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar (January 1st to December 31st) we are familiar with.
The records from excavated ancient bamboo books have proven that the Chinese zodiac has been around before the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207BC), and the complete 12 animal cycle was set before or during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220AD). There is no conclusion on the origin of this mysterious theory, but the various legends have made it more intriguing.
Some people believe that the 12 Chinese zodiac animals are simplified from the 28 animals which represent 28 constellations in ancient Chinese astronomy. Others insist the zodiac’s relationship with Jupiter’s revolution period which is just about 12 years. The most popular is the totem saying of the origin related to animal worship.
One legend says that the Jade Emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his palace guards. He preferred the Ox to be the first for its honesty and diligence, but to everyone’s surprise, the smart Rat covertly hid on the Ox’s back and occupied the first place at the critical moment. The Tiger was crowned as the King of the Forest while the Dragon was titled the Lord of the Sea, ranked behind the Ox. The Rabbit won a race with the Dragon and gained the fourth spot. The Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster followed. The Dog was punished as last for biting the Rabbit. Luckily for the dog, the Pig was late for the interview and took last place instead.
Last year was the year of the Rat – and although the Rat is a cunning character – it seems that a rodent is indeed an appropriate representation of 2020. 2021 is the year of the Metal Ox which begins during the Chinese New Year on 12 February 2021 and goes until 30 January 2022. An Ox occurs every 12 years, the last of which were 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, and the next in 2033.
There are five elements of the Ox: Fire, Earth, Metal (Gold), Water, and Wood. Although the Ox comes every 12 years, the subcategories come even less. For example, Wood Ox comes once in a 60-year cycle. It is conjectured that someone’s personal characteristics are decided by their birth year’s zodiac animal sign and element. There are five types of oxen, each with different characteristics:
Water Ox (1913, 1973)
Hardworking, ambitious, tenacious, and able to endure hardship, with a strong sense of justice and keen observational abilities.
Wood Ox (1925, 1985)
Restless, decisive, straightforward, and always ready to defend the weak and helpless.
Fire Ox (1937, 1997)
Short-sighted, kind-hearted, honest, diligent, creative, and practical.
Earth Ox (1949, 2009)
Honest and prudent, with a strong sense of responsibility.
Metal Ox (1961, 2021)
Hardworking, active, always busy, and popular among friends. Having an honest nature, Oxen are known for diligence, dependability, strength, and determination. These reflect traditional conservative characteristics. Women oxen are traditional, faithful wives, who attach great importance to their children’s education. Male oxen are strongly patriotic, have ideals and ambitions for life, and attach importance to family and work.
Having great patience and a desire to make progress, oxen can achieve their goals by consistent effort. They are rarely influenced by others or the environment but persist in doing things according to their ideals and capabilities. Before taking any action, oxen will have a definite plan with detailed steps, to which they apply their strong faith and physical strength. As a result, people of the Ox zodiac sign often enjoy great success. On the contrary, oxen are often weakest in their communication skills. They are not good at communicating with others. They are stubborn and stick to their own ways.
I think we are all ready for a Metal (gold) Ox year. No matter your birth year and zodiac sign, your greatness and success depend on your actions and thoughts. As an ancient Chinese proverb says, “A good fortune may forbode a bad luck, which may in turn disguise a good fortune.”