The Rat ( 鼠 ) is the first of the repeating 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac, constituting part of the Chinese calendar system (with similar systems in use elsewhere). The Year of the Rat in standard Chinese is (Chinese :鼠年; pinyin :shǔnián); the rat is associated with the first branch of the Earthly Branch symbol 子 (zǐ), which starts a repeating cycle of twelve years. The Chinese word shǔ (鼠) refers to various types of Muroidea, such as rats and mice. The term "zodiac" ultimately derives from an Ancient Greek term referring to a "circle of little animals". There are also a yearly month of the rat and a daily hour of the rat (Chinese double hour, midnight, 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.). Years of the rat are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the rat (over a sixty-year period), each rat year also being associated with one of the Chinese wu xing, also known as the "five elements", or "phases": the "Five Phases" being Fire ( 火 huǒ), Water ( 水 shuǐ), Wood ( 木 mù), Metal ( 金 jīn), and Earth ( 土 tǔ).
In Chinese tradition, the first year was the equivalent of 2637 BCE (although others give other dates). The Prime Minister of the first emperor, Huangdi (also known as the Yellow Emperor) is said in this year to have worked out the sixty year zodiacal cycle. Part of this achievement was the discovery and incorporation of the nineteen year so-called Metonic cycle which correlates lunar and solar dates, as part of the system (using leap months).
People born within these date ranges can be said to have been born in the "Year of the Rat", while bearing the following elemental sign:The following is a chart of the dates of the Gregorian calendar.
|Start date||End date||Heavenly branch|
|11 February 1804||30 January 1805||Wood Rat|
|23 January 1816||16 January 1817||Fire Rat|
|14 February 1828||3 January 1829||Earth Rat|
|2 February 1840||22 January 1841||Metal Rat|
|20 February 1852||3 February 1853||Water Rat|
|8 February 1864||26 January 1865||Wood Rat|
|26 January 1876||12 February 1877||Fire Rat|
|12 February 1888||30 January 1889||Earth Rat|
|31 January 1900||18 February 1901||Metal Rat|
|18 February 1912||5 February 1913||Water Rat|
|5 February 1924||23 January 1925||Wood Rat|
|24 January 1936||10 February 1937||Fire Rat|
|10 February 1948||28 January 1949||Earth Rat|
|28 January 1960||14 February 1961||Metal Rat|
|15 February 1972||2 February 1973||Water Rat|
|2 February 1984||19 February 1985||Wood Rat|
|19 February 1996||6 February 1997||Fire Rat|
|7 February 2008||25 January 2009||Earth Rat|
|25 January 2020||11 February 2021||Metal Rat|
|11 February 2032||30 January 2033||Water Rat|
|30 January 2044||16 February 2045||Wood Rat|
|15 February 2056||3 February 2057||Fire Rat|
|3 February 2068||22 January 2069||Earth Rat|
|22 January 2080||8 February 2081||Metal Rat|
|7 February 2092||26 January 2093||Water Rat|
In traditional Chinese astrology as well as traditional Chinese astronomy the sky was mapped into various asterisms or what are sometimes referred to as Chinese constellations. This is actually more similar to the zodiac of Western astrology than is the 12-animal cycle. The stars along the plane of the ecliptic were divided into groups known as the Twenty-Eight Mansions. Because the moon during its monthly cycle could be observed to appear to move from one mansion (or "camp") into the next each night in turn, they are also known as Lunar Mansions. Traditionally, these mansions were divided into four groups of seven each, and associated with one of four spiritual entities. The rat is generally associated with the celestial region of the Mystical Warrior, or Xuánwǔ ((玄武)), and specifically with the mansion Xū (虛), which in turn is associated with the direction North and the darkest part of the winter season, in the northern hemisphere.(Xū (虛) is more-or-less equivalent to Beta Aquarii, also known as Sadalsuud).
In old Chinese tradition, the hours of a day-night period were divided into 12 double-hours, each of which corresponding with one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, with similar symbolic motif and astrological significance. The first of the twelve double hours encompasses midnight, at the middle of the double hour, corresponding with 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., with midnight being the midpoint of the first double-hour, which is the Hour of the Rat, or the hour zǐ ( 子 ).
In popular culture, the zodiacal idea of year of the rat is associated with various beliefs about prognostications for the upcoming year, lucky numbers, lucky colors, auspicious romantic connections, similarities between persons born in those years, correlations between Chinese astrology and Western astrology and the like. Traditional Chinese astrology and horoscope has paid much more attention to the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches than to the zoology or symbolism of the 12 animals; rather the reference to the animals was more of a way of horology, keeping track of time. Nevertheless, modern times have shown an increased interest in the zodiacal animals, with a great deal of popular interest, in various places of the world. In any case, the rat has long been associated with keen and quick intelligence.
|Earthly Branches of Birth Year:||子 Zi|
|The Five Elements:||Water|
|Cardinal Point:||North (N)|
|Closest Western Zodiac:||Sagittarius|
|Earthly Branch Ruling Hours:||23:00 to 00:59|
|Twelve Heavenly Generals:||Sanskrit : Vikala (Hanzi: 毘羯羅)|
|Lucky Flowers:||Lily of each and every species|
|Lucky Numbers:||2, 3, 6, 8; Avoid: 4, 5, 9|
|Lucky Colors:||gold, blue, green; Avoid: yellow, brown|
A popular modern story has it that the order of the animals in the twelve-year cycle was due to a competition between animal candidates, held by the ruler of Heaven, Earth, and Hell — the Jade Emperor. According to one version of this tale, the emperor's advisors selected twelve candidates from among the animal types, including the rat and the cat. The winner was to be selected based upon merit, as to personal appearance, lifestyle, and contributions to the world. Before the competition, the cat asked the rat for a wake up call in order to get to the show on time; however, the rat apprehensive of the competition, especially as to the cat's apparent beauty, did not wake the cat, who then overslept (and, ever afterwards, the embittered cat became a ratter and a mouser). The Jade Emperor mystified as to why there were only eleven candidate animals to show up inquired of his servants. These servants hastily acquired the first possible replacement animal which they encountered, (a pig). After the start of the competition, the rat achieved first place by performing on the flute while upon the back of the ox. Impressed, the Jade Emperor placed the rat at the beginning of the twelve-year cycle (and the ox second, for being so generous as to allow the rat to play the flute upon the ox's back). Then the other animals were placed in order according to the Jade Emperor's judgment.
In popular culture, much attention is directed towards supposed similarities of personalities of persons born in the year of the rat. For example, Al Gore, Richard Simmons, William Shakespeare, T. S. Elliot, and George Washington, and more, are all presented as examples of some sort of theme based upon being born in the year of the rat.
The zodiacal rat is known in other cultures besides China, in Asia and beyond. Generally, the rat/mouse is the first of a twelve year animal cycle, although some of the other animals tend to vary. In Japan, the rat is known as nezumi, and is the first in a twelve year zodiacal cycle of animals.The Year of the Rat and the years of the subsequent other zodiacal animals is celebrated during Chinese New Year, in many parts of the world, with the animal appropriate to each new year serving as an artistic motif for decorations. The Rat and other zodiacal animals are also a popular motif on Chinese lunar coins and other coin series minted by various countries and also on various internationally-issued postage stamps.
Chinese mythology is mythology that has been passed down in oral form or recorded in literature in the geographic area now known as "China". Chinese mythology includes many varied myths from regional and cultural traditions. Much of the mythology involves exciting stories full of fantastic people and beings, the use of magical powers, often taking place in an exotic mythological place or time. Like many mythologies, Chinese mythology has in the past been believed to be, at least in part, a factual recording of history. Along with Chinese folklore, Chinese mythology forms an important part of Chinese folk religion. Many stories regarding characters and events of the distant past have a double tradition: ones which present a more historicized or euhemerized version and ones which presents a more mythological version.
Chinese astrology is based on the traditional astronomy and calendars. Chinese astrology came to flourish during the Han Dynasty.
The Pig (豬) or sometimes translated as the Boar is the twelfth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in Chinese zodiac, in relation to the Chinese calendar and system of horology, and paralleling the system of ten Heavenly Stems and twelve Earthly Branches. Although the term "zodiac" is used in the phrase "Chinese zodiac", there is a major difference between the Chinese usage and Western astrology: the zodiacal animals do not relate to the zodiac as the area of the sky that extends approximately 8° north or south of the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun, the Moon, and visible planets across the celestial sphere's constellations, over the course of the year.
The Rabbit (兔) is the fourth in the 12-year cycle of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The Year of the Rabbit is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 卯.
The Tiger (虎) is the third of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The Year of the Tiger is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 寅.
The Snake (蛇) is the sixth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The Year of the Snake is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 巳.
The Monkey (猴) is the ninth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The Year of the Monkey is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 申.
The Ox (牛) is the second of the 12-year periodic sequence (cycle) of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar, and also appears in related calendar systems. The Chinese term translated here as ox is in Chinese niú (牛), a word generally referring to cows, bulls, or neutered types of the bovine family, such as common cattle or water buffalo. The zodiacal ox may be construed as male, female, neutered, hermaphroditic, and either singular or plural. The Year of the Ox is also denoted by the Earthly Branch symbol chǒu (丑). The term "zodiac" ultimately derives from an Ancient Greek term referring to a "circle of little animals". There are also a yearly month of the ox and a daily hour of the ox. Years of the oxen (cows) are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the ox/cow, each ox/cow year also being associated with one of the Chinese wǔxíng, also known as the "five elements", or "phases": the "Five Phases" being Fire, Water, Wood, Metal, and Earth. The Year of the Ox follows after the Year of the Rat which happened in 2020 and it then is followed by the Year of the Tiger, which will happen in 2022.
The Jade Emperor in Chinese culture, traditional religions and myth is one of the representations of the first god. In Daoist theology he is the assistant of Yuanshi Tianzun, who is one of the Three Pure Ones, the three primordial emanations of the Tao. He is also the Cao Đài of Caodaism known as Ngọc Hoàng Thượng đế. He is often identified with Śakra in Chinese Buddhist cosmology. In Korean mythology he is known as Haneullim.
The twelve Earthly Branches or Terrestrial Branches are a Chinese ordering system used throughout East Asia in various contexts, including its ancient dating system, astrological traditions, zodiac and ordinals.
In Western astrology, astrological signs are the twelve 30 degree sectors that make up Earth's 360 degree orbit around the Sun. The signs enumerate from the first day of spring known as the First Point of Aries which is the vernal equinox. The Western astrological signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. The Western zodiac originated in Babylonian astrology, and was later influenced by Hellenistic culture. Each sign was named after a constellation the sun annually moved through while crossing the sky. This observation is emphasized in the simplified and popular sun sign astrology. Over the centuries, Western astrology's zodiacal divisions have shifted out of alignment with the constellations they were named after by axial precession while Hindu astrology measurements correct for shifting.Astrology has developed in Chinese and Tibetan cultures as well.
In Chinese philosophy, wood, sometimes translated as Tree, is the growing of the matter, or the matter's growing stage. Wood is the first phase of Wu Xing. Wood is the lesser yang character of the Five elements, giving birth to Fire. It stands for springtime, the east, the planet Jupiter and Mercury, the color green, windy weather, and the Azure Dragon in Four Symbols. Blue and cyan-type colors also represent wood.
In Chinese philosophy, metal or gold, the fourth phase of Wu Xing, is the decline of the matter, or the matter's decline stage. In Traditional Chinese Medicine Metal is yin in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting. It is associated with the west, autumn, it governs the Yin, Zang organ the Lung and the Yang, Fu organ colon, nose and skin, old age, the planet Saturn, the colour white, dry weather, and the White Tiger in Four Symbols. The archetypal metals are silver or gold.
Tai Sui is a Chinese term for the stars directly opposite the planet Jupiter during its roughly 12-year orbital cycle. Personified as deities, they are important features of Chinese astrology, Feng Shui, Taoism, and Chinese Buddhism to a lesser extent.
The Cat is the fourth animal symbol in the 12-year cycle of the Vietnamese zodiac and Gurung zodiac, taking place of the Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac. As such, the traits associated with the Rabbit are attributed to the Cat. Cats are in conflict with the Rat.
Da Liu Ren is a form of Chinese calendrical astrology dating from the later Warring States period. It is also a member of the Three Styles of divination, along with Qi Men Dun Jia (奇門遁甲) and Taiyi (太乙).
In Chinese philosophy, fire is the prosper of the matter, or the matter's prosperity stage. Fire is the second phase of Wu Xing.
In Chinese philosophy, earth or soil, is the changing point of the matter. Earth is the third element in the Wu Xing cycle.
In Chinese philosophy, water, is the low point of the matter, or the matter's dying or hiding stage. Water is the fifth stage of Wu Xing, the five elements.
The Chinese zodiac is a classification scheme based on the lunar calendar that assigns an animal and its reputed attributes to each year in a repeating 12-year cycle. Originating from China, the zodiac and its variations remain popular in many East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
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