Chinese New Year and the Symbolism Explaimed by Premier Chou En Lai. By Sun Lai Yung


Chinese New Year and the Symbolism Explained by Premier Chou En Lai

Friday, 16 February 2018 00:00 -      - 2546

Westerners see the dragon as a fire-breathing evil being. Greek mythology had a 100-headed dragon that was slain by Heracles. Similarly, Heracles slays another dragon called Lerneaen Hydra. In ancient China, the ‘Chinese Dragons’ are legendary creatures that are benevolent. Dragon for the Chinese is “strength and good fortune”.

The Chinese people believe that they are the descendants of the dragon. While ‘Western Dragons’ lived in castles and caves the Chinese dragon lived in the sea, rivers, and lakes. The Western Dragon breathed fire, the Chinese Dragon brings rain.

Over the centuries, the Chinese Dragon was associated with the Emperor of China. Only Emperors and high Mandarins were allowed to wear robes depicting Dragon motifs. For the Chinese, dragon festivals with dragon boat races, and dragon dances are part of their culture. Children are named dragon, actors such as Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee were given Chinese names as dragon. Incidentally, Chinese movies named Enter the Dragon, Way of the Dragon, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon were popular.

The West took awhile to understand the difference. The West and East saw the same dragon differently.

This Chinese New Year is “The Year of the Dog”. The Chinese greet each other by saying “Gong Xi Fa Cai” (pronounced goon si fa sai), which means “may you be blessed with prosperity”. In the Chinese zodiac calendar there are 12 animals for each year, in a cycle of 12 years. In the Western zodiac calendar each animal is for a month with 12 zodiac signs for a year.

The story of the Chinese zodiac animals

There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac calendar, starting with the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Each animal has its own unique characteristics.

The fable goes that the Jade Emperor wanted to invite the animals for dinner and another story says that he wanted to select 12 animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being into man’s world to spread the message that the first 12 animals that went passed the heavenly gate, would be selected.

Once the news spread across the animal kingdom, the rat got up very early. On his way to the gate, he encountered a river. He had to stop there, owing to the swift current. After waiting a long time, the rat noticed the ox about to cross the river and swiftly jumped onto the ox’s back. The amiable ox did not mind.

The cat too lazily walked up to the ox and jumped. Once upon a time the cat and rat were good friends; so all three of them were on the way to the heavenly gate. In the middle of the river, the cunning rat kicked the sleeping cat off the ox’s back. The cat fell into the river and since cats are poor swimmers never made it to the heavenly gate.

Ever since, the cat has never forgiven the rat. After crossing the river, the rat swiftly jumped off the ox’s back and dashed to the feet of the emperor. The rat won first place and the ox was second.

The tiger and rabbit came third and fourth because both are fast and competitive, but the Tiger was faster. (The rabbit got across the river by hopping on stepping stones and a floating log also with the help of the dragon.)

After the ox, came the tiger, panting away while explaining to the emperor just how difficult it was to cross the river with the heavy currents pushing it downstream all the time. But with powerful strength, it made it to shore and was named the third animal in the cycle.

From a distance came a thumping sound and out hopped the rabbit. It explained how it crossed the river: by jumping from one stone to another in nimble fashion. Halfway through, it almost lost the race but the rabbit was lucky enough to grab hold of a floating log that later washed him to shore. For that, it became the fourth animal in the zodiac cycle.

Coming in fifth place was the gallant dragon. Of course the Emperor was deeply curious as to why a strong flying creature such as the dragon should fail to reach first. The mighty dragon explained that he had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth; therefore he was held back a little. Then on his way to the finish line, he saw a little helpless rabbit clinging on to a log so he did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore.

The emperor was very pleased with the actions of the dragon and he was added into the zodiac cycle. As soon as he had done so, a galloping sound was heard and the horse appeared. Hidden on the horse’s hoof was the slimy sneaky snake whose sudden appearance gave the horse a fright thus making it fall back and gave the snake sixth spot whilst the horse took seventh.

Not long after that, a little distance away, the sheep, monkey, and rooster came to the shore. These three creatures helped each other to get to where they are. The rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it. Together, the sheep and the monkey cleared the weeds, tugged and pulled and finally got the raft to the shore. Because of their combined efforts, the Emperor was very pleased and promptly named the sheep as the eighth creature, the monkey as the ninth, and the rooster the tenth.

The 11th animal is the dog. His explanation for being late although he was supposed to be the best swimmer amongst the rest was that he needed a good bath after a long spell, and the fresh water from the river was too big a temptation. For that, he almost didn’t make it to the finish line.

Just as the emperor was about to call it a day, an oink and squeal was heard from a little pig. The term “lazy pig” is due here as the pig got hungry during the race, promptly stopped for a feast, then fell asleep. After the nap, the pig continued the race and was named the twelfth and last animal of the zodiac cycle.

These 12 animals became guards of the heavenly gate and entered the Chinese zodiac signs.

The Chinese zodiac sign based on the year one is born signifies your character. This is the Chinese belief. 

Chinese zodiac signs – meaning and significance

For the western mind, it is unthinkable that a person is associated with an animal. In Chinese culture, by birth one could be a dog, a pig, a monkey, or a snake. These are derogatory terms to be associated with a human being. In the Chinese way of life and thinking, these very animals symbolise salient characteristics. These animal characteristics are part of human nature too. In Chinese martial arts, there are many forms of fighting; fighting like a tiger, a dog on river barges, a snake. The Chinese, in their ancient wisdom, understood the importance of the behaviour and characteristics of animals and used it to benefit them in their daily lives.

It was said that Premier Chou En-lai was once having a meal with his European friends. A person in this group passed an impolite comment when he was drunk. “You Chinese carry the signs of pigs, dogs, and mice at birth. I can’t understand what’s going on in the mind of your ancestors?”

At that point, the distinguished group of friends started to laugh. They started to toast each other boisterously.

The cultured and serene atmosphere was broken.

Some people believe that when someone insults your ancestors, even if you don’t have a response to it, the least you could do is to retort calmly. For a while, not a single word was uttered. It was probably because they have not come across this situation before, especially in the presence of such a distinguished host. Then, Premier Chou En-lai stood up and spoke to everybody in a calm and peaceful way.

“The Chinese ancestors were very wise. They arranged the twelve zodiac signs in pairs; six pairs in a cycle. In this way, they expressed their hopes and wishes for the generation that came after them.” The room became silent. There were some sceptical looks among the audience.

Premier Chou En-lai continued: “The first pair of animals is the rat and ox.

“The rat represents wisdom and the ox represents diligence. Wisdom and diligence must operate in harmony. If there is wisdom but no diligence in applying it, it’s foolishness. On the other hand, if there is diligence but no wisdom, it’s an act of folly.

“That’s why wisdom and diligence must go hand in hand. This is our ancestor’s first wish for us. The first pair of animal also represents the most important hope.

“The second pair is the tiger and rabbit.

“The tiger represents courage and the rabbit represents carefulness. These two qualities must work closely together. In that way, it can have a better chance to achieve success. Without carefulness, courage becomes recklessness. Similarly, without courage, carefulness becomes cowardice. This pair of qualities is very important. That’s why it is the second pair.”

Premier Zhou En-lai looked at the audience and then he added: “Therefore, when we demonstrate our carefulness, please do not think that we do not have the courage to fight for social justice.

“In truth, what our ancestors are pursuing is wisdom through integrity, harmony, and balance. It’s never about a single hope or task.”

When he saw that the audience was deep in thought, Premier Chou En-lai continued: “The third pair is the dragon and snake.

“They represent strength and flexibility. Strength without flexibility becomes brittle. Without strength, flexibility becomes meaningless. That’s why strength with flexibility is an important lesson from our ancestors that has lasted through time.

“The next pair is the horse and goat.

“The horse represents the ability to gallop to success. The goat represents the ability to be considerate and have compassion. If a person only looks after himself as he pursues his goal and with no consideration for others, he will face obstacles from the people around him. Finally, he may not even be successful. However, if a person only looks after others and seek only to be amiable, he will not have a sense of direction. His goal will eventually be lost.

“That’s why the spirit of the horse and virtues of the goat must be applied in harmony with each other. This is our ancestors’ fourth wish for us.

“The next pair is the monkey and the chicken.

“The monkey represents agility. As for chicken, as there were no clocks in the days of old, it is needed to wake humans to start a new day. The chicken represents stability. The qualities of agility and stability must be tightly coupled together.

“If you have agility but no stability, your best plan will not come to pass. However, if you focused on having stability and refuse to change, you will not have a better future. When the two qualities are in harmony, on one side, there will be stability in terms of having, for example, effective system and collaboration.

“On the other side, there will be a release of unrelenting creativity and innovation to achieve progress. When these two qualities operate in synergy, it is one of the basic imperatives to achieve success.

“Lastly, we have the dog and pig.

“The dog represents loyalty while the pig represents good nature. If a person is loyal but does not have a good nature, he will be blindly following others. On the other hand, if he has a good nature but does not have loyalty, he will have no people and principles to guide him.

“That’s why whether its loyalty to a country, loyalty to a team, or loyalty to an ideal, you need to ensure that good nature is tightly coupled with and working alongside with it. In that way, you can have a deep-seated sense of loyalty that comes from the heart.

“This is why the Chinese believe that the outer core must be in alignment with the inner core. At the inner core, we must have a pure heart that subscribes to high moral values. We must seek to live with ethos and positive principles. We must live up to our words and not do anything that will harm others.

“At the external core, we must be knowledgeable about the ways of the world. We must be wise in managing affairs around us. We need to focus on what matters in life and not be influenced by evil.

“We need to live with integrity and in harmony with others and the environment. We must not have any form of prejudice or seek to discriminate against anyone.”

At the end of his speech, there was complete silence.

This is ancient wisdom passed down from Laotze and Confucius and dozens of great thinkers from China. To understand the Chinese, even something as simple as a zodiac sign, one must understand the Chinese way of thinking.

(Sun Lai Yung has worked in the USA, Singapore, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Bahrain. He is currently employed as a consultant at a global consultancy company. He has a Masters Degree in Economics from Northeastern University Boston. He can be contacted at laisun.consultancy@gmail.com)




Unknown said...

1.58pm bro, knn do true on what u posted. Could not agree with you more

Anonymous said...

For the sake of the survival of this earthly planet China and the Chinese will in the meantime just play Tai-Chi with the white Americans.But if they and their western allies insist on taking the world under their wicked total hegemony then China will play Chinese Kong-Fu with them and bring them to their knees. The consequence will be too diabolical to think about in face of eventual nuclear war and complete world destruction.

The evil white Americans and their allies should pause to think. No one can ever dominate the whole world.

Eagles Eyes.

Anonymous said...

The USA and Whites will never learn or care to understand China. They only understand the use of force and violence. In their short history of a few hundred years, how much destruction have the USA unleash against humanity? It is left to God to calculate and exact the appropriate punishment.

The first and only country ever to use the Atomic Bomb in history is the USA. The country that used biological and chemical weapons against other countries with clear and irrefutable evidence, and yet accusing others of doing so. The country that used their assassination squad aka CIA, that have their dirty hands awashed with blood tied to assassinations of leaders of other countries, but always talking only about assassinations carried out by the KGB.

Yes God must punish them in a way like God punishing the people of Sodom and Gomorrah for their extreme wickedness. It is time for that.

Anonymous said...

Americans are so wicked but think they have the right to kill and kill and God would not punish them. And everyday they are picking a fight with anyone in their way, stirring troubles so that they can use them to start wars and to kill more people.

Their crimes are so cruel and unpardonable, causing pain, hardship and death to so many people. Time to bring them down and make them pay, dearly and painfully.

Anonymous said...

Thank You for the interesting post.. Southernglory1

Happy Chinese New Year

Kindest Regards JC