The Year of the Monkey has come to us. Why do so many Chinese want to have babies in this year? Can monkeys do kung fu? Here are six facts about the monkey in the Chinese culture
CHINESE ZODIAC 中国的生肖
The Chinese zodiac comprises 12 animals – mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig – all fixed in that order on a 12-year cycle, and each related to one of 12 Terrestrial Branches. Ranked the ninth, the monkey is related to Shen Terrestrial Branch, and seen as a symbol of vitality and wit.
The Year of the Monkey follows the current Year of the Sheep, an animal many consider passive and docile. The monkey is more favored by prospective parents, because many believe babies born in the Year of the Monkey will be energetic, self-assured, sociable, smart and innovative.
MONKEY KING 美猴王
The most famous monkey in the Chinese culture, the Monkey King features in the classic Chinese legend Journey to the West. He had many supernatural powers and was responsible for protecting a well-known pilgrim in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) on a journey to retrieve the Buddhist sutras from India.
The Monkey King stands for bravery, sincerity and the power to fight evil. In Fujian Province, he is worshipped as a guardian of families.
The Monkey King is also the hero of many traditional operas, movies and TV series. One series on Journey to the West has been broadcast more than 3,000 times by various TV stations since 1986.
EXPENSIVE STAMP 珍贵的邮票
A stamp issued in 1980, the Year of the Monkey, is now priced at 12,000 yuan (about $1,800) each, but the face value printed is only 8 cents (about 1 US cent). It is one of the most prized stamps among collectors.
Many other countries also have issued stamps to celebrate the new year. This year, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Japan, France and Canada are among those issuing their own monkey stamps.
KUNG FU 功夫
Made familiar in the monkey master in Kung Fu Panda, the monkey is an important symbol in the world of Chinese martial arts. The school of Monkey Boxing derives from the gestures of monkeys. The moves are agile and swift, with some of them even imitating the monkey in real life.
SYMBOL OF HIGH POSITION 位高权重的象征
The Chinese character for monkey is very similar to that for powerful men or high positions, and they are both pronounced "hou." So in the Chinese culture they are closely connected, as the monkey was considered an auspicious symbol for high social status, such as government officials or royalty.
In Chinese pinyin, "a monkey on a horse" is similar to "be promoted to a higher position immediately". Such combinations can often be found in folk arts, such as sculptures, paper-cuts and paintings.
MASCOT FOR GOOD HEALTH 身体健康的吉祥物
The monkey is considered a symbol of health and longevity, as many kinds of monkeys have white beards like old men.
In ancient China, people also believed that monkeys were sensitive to the plague. Traders and merchants often traveled with a monkey to protect their horses from diseases.