How the Buddha Named the Years

As you are no doubt aware, Chinese years are associated with animals, but you may not know how this tradition started.  Many, many years ago on New Year’s Eve, the Buddha called together the animals and twelve of them attended. To reward them, the Buddha named a year after each one.  The Buddha decided to give human beings born in those years some of the attributes of the animals associated with the year. For example, people  born in horse years like 2014 are said to be cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and dextrous.

The Chinese calendar is quite different from the Western calendar we use.  The Chinese is based on two cycles—the zodiac with its twelve parts  (the animals) and the five elements—metal, wood, water, fire, and  earth.  The combination of these two cycles means a particular year such as this one, the year of wood and the horse, comes around every 60 years.

The animals who showed up on that New Year’s Eve so long ago represent the different years in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese horoscope was developed around these animals and elements to describe humans’ personalities.   Here is what the year you were born in the Chinese calendar says about you:

The rat is said to be quick-witted, smart, charming and persuasive.  The ox is described as patient, kind, stubborn and conservative. The tiger is authoritative emotional, courageous and intense, while the rabbit is popular, compassionate, and sincere.  The dragon is said to be energetic, fearless, warm and charismatic, the snake, charming, both outgoing and introverted, generous and smart. Then there is  the sheep, mild-mannered, shy, kind and peace-loving, and the monkey, fun, energetic and active. The rooster is independent, practical, hard-working and alert.  The dog is patient, diligent, generous, faithful and kind, and, finally, the pig is said to be loving, tolerant, honest and self-indulgent.

Yin and yang also affect the astrology of China by assigning these opposing forces—the yin to odd years and the yang to even ones.  Yin is said to be symbolize the earth, female, dark, and passive, and yang the heaven, light, active and male.

This year, as you celebrate the year of the wooden horse, you can appreciate how it came to be named that, and maybe look at your own personality and those of your friends and family in terms of the Chinese zodiac.  To help you celebrate, my next post will be a tried and true recipe for wontons  just like my grandma would have made had she been Chinese.



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