As I noted back in February ’08, the Chinese have long named their years after the things they eat. Last year, for instance, was the Year of the Rat. When the Party announced it, I asked the question: why not have a Year of the Sirloin Steak?
Well, readers, it appears that they have heeded my advice, and named this year, the Year of the Sirloin Steak Cow!
Which is nice.
Since I started this humble magnificent award-winning blog, I have been literally inundated by an email from a reader in the United States of Americaland, asking how this whole Chinese Year thing works. And it’s a fair question, too. Let’s face it, the entire civilised world (and even parts of Australia) considers a year to be the amount of time it takes for the Earth to orbit the Sun, rounded off to the nearest day for accountancy purposes, 365 days (366 once every four years). It’s all rather simple and effective. Yet the Celestial Kingdom of China considers a year to be something to do with how many times the Moon has flown around Beijing, and thus the length of the year varies wildly from, er, year to year. If you see what I mean. And what’s with naming them after local delicacies?
Wot the Planets are Made Of. The Chinese year is complicated (naturally) by the fact that it is also influenced by how many times the entire Solar System revolves around Beijing. The effect this has on the year, is explained by both the materials from which the various planets are comprised (according to scientists and researchers at the Chinese Space Academy), and the dominant life forms that live on them (according to the Chinese Xenobiological Institute). Thus we have:
* Venus – Metal (White Tiger)
* Jupiter – Wood (Azure Dragon)
* Mercury – Water (Black Tortoise)
* Mars – Fire (Vermilion Bird)
* Saturn – Earth (Yellow Dragon)
Note also that this is in fact the correct order in which the planets appear.
According to Chinese mysterious astronomy, a person’s destiny can be determined by the position of the major planets at the person’s birth along with the positions of the Sun, Moon and comets and the person’s time of birth and Zodiac Sign. The system of the twelve-year cycle of animal signs was built from observations of the orbit of Jupiter, divided by twelve for reasons that must have seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, then rounded off to the nearest year. There’s also some blather about dividing the whole lot by two and calling it Yin or Yang, but as that’s something to do with your kidneys, no one really cares.
The point is, since we have five planets, and twelve year cycles, the Chinese calendar is therefore 60 years long. Which coincidentally is how old the country is this year. Happy Birthday, China!
The Zoo. In Chinese science, the twelve years are animals. These animals also represent the personalities of the Chinese people who are born in that particular year. This system has been rigorously perfected and scientifically refined over five hundred thousand years of Chinese civilisation, and is known to be absolutely and completely accurate.
* Rat – Manipulative, vindictive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, scheming. But nevertheless delicious.
* Cow (now Sirloin Steak) – Stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding. The horns, intestines, anus and hooves all make for great eating, but the meat just never seems to taste right – only a laowai could eat something like that.
* Tiger – Restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish. Just about every part of a Tiger’s body can be used to make medicine that is scientifically proven to increase the length of your Wang.
* Rabbit – Moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, lazy. Good fun to torture to death then eat.
* Dragon – Arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, eccentric, grandiloquent and extremely bombastic, prejudiced, dogmatic, over-bearing, violent, impetuous, brash. This is the only animal that Chinese won’t eat to extinction over the next decade, mainly because they already have.
* Snake – Loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious. But sublime when mixed with fermented rice water. The bile and blood are particularly good for your vitalkidneyfunction.
* Horse – Fickle, arrogant, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn. It’s rumoured that people in barbarian lands use these food sources for jobs of work, but doesn’t that seem wasteful?
* Sheep – Moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer. Those no-good separatists in East Turkestan Xinjiang eat this all the time, so naturally it’s pumped full of Depo-Provera for their own good.
* Monkey – Egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious. But wonderful when served correctly, i.e. tied down with the skull cut away and the still-living monkey able to enjoy the experience of you scooping its’ brains out with a porcelain spoon.
* Chicken – Critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated. The feet and spine are considered the best parts, but the gizzard is a firm favourite at funeral celebrations.
* Dog – Cynical, lazy, cold, judgemental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome. The meat is best when it is filled with adrenaline. This is produced by the animal just before death, by the careful application of electric shocks and/or burning of the skin and paws.
* Pig – Naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic. An animal that is nearly the perfect food source, and as such is therefore forced upon the Muslim populations of the occupied country of East Turkestan and throughout China.
Of course, this is the simplified version for stupid laowai who couldn’t possibly understand True Culture. The actual, accurate, true version works something like this:
While a person might appear to be a dragon because they were born in the Year of the Dragon, they might also be a snake internally and an ox secretively. In total, this makes for 8,640 possible combinations (five elements x 12 animals in the 60 year cycle (12 x 5 = 60) , 12 months, 12 times of day) that a person might be. These are all considered critical (as critical as the system of keeping track of what hour of the day it is – there are twelve in total, beginning at 11 p.m. of the previous day and ending at 1 a.m.).
So, just to get it all in perspective, most of 2009 and a part of 2010 is to be known as the Year of the Sirloin Steak, or Ji Chou (which means Stinky Chicken – I don’t know why). It will be a Sirloin Steak tasting of Earth (meaning it will have been cut up in the dirt). Expect visits by Yellow Dragons from Saturn, and if you are a Wood Person, bad luck (Earth is afraid of Wood. Wood needs to fight very hard to win over Strong Earth).
Year of the Sirloin Steak, is it? More like Year of the Falling Cow.