The Year Of The Dog 2006-07
In a mythical time very long ago, in a land far away, even before the Algonquin Indians in North America named the "full" moons, the ancient Chinese people were watching the sun, the moon and the stars in the sky with great interest too.
At first they had no way to mark the seasons of the year, to know when to plant their crops, or to do other tasks important to their livelihood, because they had no calendar. But, before Lord Buddha left the earth, a calendar was created based on the phases of the "new" moons.
A month was 29 1/2 days in length, beginning with each new moon, giving 12 months to each year. Five cycles of the 12 years along with the designated elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, combined to complete a cycle of 60 years.
One day Lord Buddha summoned all of the animals to come before him, he had decided to select twelve of the most faithful animals, and to reward them with their own year. Lord Buddha did not tell the animals why he had called them.
In a little while the animals who had obeyed the summons, gathered quietly on the banks of the misty river across from the modest house where Buddha lived. They waited patiently to hear why they had been called. But, once they learned of the privilege that was to be given to 12 of them, they began to argue among themselves, as to who should be given the honor of naming the first year, and the second year, and so on.
Lord Buddha looked across the rushing waters of the river to see the squabbling animals, and he sought to calm the animals by giving them a contest. The animals were told that they must swim to the other side of the river, and the first one to arrive would be given the first year, the second animal to reach the bank would be given the second year, and so on.
The night before the morning of the contest, while everyone was asleep, Rat went to his good friend Cat, to discuss the race. They both agreed that they were at a terrible disadvantage, because they could not swim very well. They knew that they would be the slowest in the race, if they could finish at all.
So, Cat and Rat went to see Ox who was very large, but very gentle and good natured. Cat and Rat told Ox of their concerns, and asked if they could ride on his back in the river. Ox very kindly told them that he would be pleased to carry them across the raging river.
In the morning, when the first rays of pink and yellow sunshine washed over the river and its grassy banks, the animals were already awake and noisily hurrying to prepare for the race.
Ox was quite ready to go. He looked around for Cat and Rat, but did not see them, so he turned toward the river, and slowly walked to the river bank. Just as he was stepping into the water, Cat and Rat jumped out from behind some reeds and hopped up on his back.
Ox loved how he was able to float when he was in the water, and he was a powerful swimmer, so he was able to navigate the river quite well.
Then when Ox was almost half way to the other side of the river, and well ahead of the others; Rat became concerned that Cat would be the first to reach the shore, so he pushed Cat into the river. Cat never forgave Rat, and that is why to this day Cats hate Rats.
As Ox was swimming closer and closer to the shore, Rat jumped off and won the race. Rat was named the first zodiac animal.
Ox lumbered out of the water in second place, and became the second zodiac animal.
Tiger was not at all fond of water, but he was strong and determined, and still he managed to finish the race in third place.
Rabbit told a harrowing tale of his adventure in crossing the river, but he had received a helping hand from Dragon, and finished fourth.
Dragon, having slowed down to help Rabbit, came in fifth.
Then just as Horse was coming ashore, he reared back so as not to step on Snake, who had quickly slithered ahead of Horse. So, Snake was sixth and Horse placed seventh.
Next came Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster, placing eighth, ninth, and tenth. They had all come together on a hastily built raft.
A little time passed before Dog, who was an excellent swimmer, finally came ashore. As he shook and shook, spraying everyone with a shower of water drops from his fur, he barked to say that he had stopped to play. Dog would be the eleventh zodiac animal.
The sun was now overhead, and just when it looked as though there would be no more animals to finish the race, they heard a great splash, and a gurgling that gave way to a loud squeal. Oink, oink, oink, Pig was late, because he had overslept, but he was just in time to be the twelfth zodiac animal.
Now it is said, that each person will have the characteristics of the animal for whom his or her year of birth is named.
According to the ancient Chinese calendar, 2006 will be the year 4703-4, and January 29th, will be New Year's Day in the new "Year of the Dog."
This year's dog is ruled by the element fire. There is a Chinese tale about the celestial red fire dog who chased away evil spirits.
There are many breeds of dogs that originated in China: the Lhasa Apso, the Mastiff, the Pekinese, the Shar-pei, the Shih Tzu, and the Tibetan Terrier and Spaniel.
Most notably the Chow Chow was bred by Royalty, and by the Taoist monks, to serve as temple and palace guards.
Note: This is only one version of how the Chinese Zodiac began, there are several other myths or legends.
Most scholars believe the Chinese Zodiac originated sometime before 1100 BC, before Buddha's birth in India around 500 BC. The system grew more elaborate and complex over the centuries, but its importance in China ensured its acceptance elsewhere.
See The Animal That Hides In Your Heart below.