2019: Year of the Pig (Boar)

chinese new year pig

Illustration by Vecteezy

As many have heard by now, 2019 is the year of the pig according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar. A topic generally filled with auspicious predictions and deep meanings, I’ve follow the Chinese Zodiac for as long as a I can remember, for there is a lot to learn for anyone who’s interested in Asian culture and traditional/ancient practices. This time around, will pretty be much the same. For this post, I will cover the particulars regarding the pig sign, from its meaning, how it is used generally and systematically, as well as the standard prediction for this year. On top of this, I will also talk about how this year’s Zodiac sign and outlook is viewed in Japan, as there are some slight differences that should be pointed out.

IMAGE AND PREDICTIONS

Although it’s the new year, the Chinese calendar officially starts from Feb. 5th. From that date will communities that observe this change in the Zodiac year celebrate.

In Chinese culture, the pig represents wealth. In the past, where living conditions were very vast between commoners and nobility, those wealthy and living in healthy conditions were bigger in size. Thus, the chubby cheeks and big ears of the pig is symbolic of wealth.

According to the pig sign, great fortune is the outlook for 2019. While some sources say that it’ll be a lucky year for everyone, those born under the pig sign will have a rough year. To avoid downfalls, they will need to not overexert themselves; stress and troublesome matters are unavoidable, but the key point in handling these are to accept them but not get too caught up on them in order to move on. Taking part in others’ happy occasions in order to benefit from their luck is also advised.

Financially, predictions state it will be a prosperous year, both in earnings and savings. Along with this, much benefits can be obtained through establishing good relations with others. Overall, should be joyful year, and easy to attract successful relationships and friendships.

THE WORKINGS OF THE CHINESE CALENDAR

Now, for the technical aspect of this post. As mentioned before in previous posts on the same topic, such as “2017, Zodiac Calendars, and Roosters“, there are 2 components significant for the Chinese Calendar, which are the 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Animal Zodiacs (also called the 12 Earthly Branches due to association). Here’s some important points to keep in mind:

  • This year marks the last stage of the 12-year zodiac cycle
  • Also the 60th year in 60-year cycle that incorporates the combination of both the 12 Animal Zodiac signs + 10 Heavenly Stems.
  • The important components for this Zodiac year are in the label “earth-pig”, which is written as 己亥 and pronounced as “Tsuchi no to-I²” in Japanese. Based on the number of days in a given year, as well as how the years total up, we get this combination of Tsuchi no to (from the 10 Heavenly Stems) and I (pig sign from the 12 Zodiac signs).

According to the 10 Heavenly Stems, Tsuchi no to is an earth element of the dark energy¹. The single syllable I (pronounced like the letter “e”) is another pronunciation for the Zodiac symbol for pig. In actuality, it did not mean pig in its original conception; from ancient times, this symbol was a hieroglyph for “creature”, and is used in the makeup of certain kanji with the nuance of skeletal structure or shell. Outside of that, this symbol is used with the rest of Zodiac sign in ancient measuring and dating systems. Here are a few examples of what the pig sign represents in these different systems below:

  • Time = from 9 to 11 pm
  • Direction = north-northwest (330°)
  • Month = October
  • Energy = dark (ying)
  • Element = water

Based on auspicious beliefs regarding the yearly element being earth and the pig sign being a natural water element, it is said that this year will be especially beneficial to plants and flowers. This is due to the symbolism of earth and water being essential for growth of plant life, thus why it is predicted they will easily grow plentiful. If this is the case, we can take advantage of this for the sake of our environment, as well as for our homes (for those with a green thumb), and for business.

DIFFERENCES IN JAPAN

While throughout Asian (as well as in the West due to China’s influences) this year’s animal sign is viewed as a pig, only in Japan is this particular sign labeled as a boar. The differences lies in lifestyle and cultural viewpoints during ancient times.

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Illustration from frame-illust.com

For example, the kanji used throughout Asia to state “year of the pig” is “猪年³”. Japan also uses the same kanji, but there it is read “year of the boar”. This difference in animal is found in the character “猪”. In Chinese, the character for pig is “猪”, but in Japan it is read as “boar”. Interesting, boar is written as “野猪” in China, which has a literal translation of “wild pig”. Whereas pig is written with the character “豚” in Japan. This could be a case of linguistic differences based on the development of the Japanese language and culture throughout the generations, for Japan steered away from following suit in using the characters for both boar and pig are distinguished set forth by China.

Another simple explanation could be the role boars played hundreds of years ago during the period when the hunting culture was at its peak in Japan. Boars roamed freely in the fields, and were seen as formidable animals as they were very alert and would attack anything (including people) when felt threatened. One could say that the strength of a boar’s head-on charge was respectable even by hunters, and this influenced the use of imagery to describe characteristics in humans liken to the boar, such as “chototsu mōshin⁴” (head straight towards one’s goal), “choyū⁵” (unwavering bravery), and “ikubi⁶” (a person with a short neck like a boar).

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Pic of “inochi mochi”, which is red bean filled mochi treats the shape of little boars.

This value of the boar goes even further through a few traditional practices and beliefs. For starters, there’s an ancient belief that the meat of a boar was medicinal and could help cure all types of illnesses. There is also a celebration in the western part of Japan called “Inochi no Hi⁷”. Taking place on October 1st (according an older calendar system once prevalent in Japan), townfolks would consume a mochi treat called “inochi mochi⁸”, which was shaped like a boar. This is usually eaten around 10 pm on the day, as a means to pray for such things like good health and prosperity for future descendants. Both practices are synonymous to the phrase “mubyōsokusai⁹”, which means to be free of illnesses and bad fortune.

BEGINNING OF THE END?!?

Here ends my little coverage on the Chinese Zodiac calendar and the sign of the pig for 2019. While trying to understand all the specifics, terminologies, and workings of this can seem daunting, in the long run it can be fun and informative. Let’s all look ahead and strive for a rich, healthy, and prosperous year!

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Free illustration by dak


1) The 10 Heavenly Stems, which is written as 十干 in Chinese characters (pronounced jikkan in Japanese), is made up of 10 hieroglyphs. Over the generations, they served various purposes, but in recent times are primarily used, in conjunction with the 12 Earthly Branches, as a system for keeping track of the 60-year cycle of the Zodiac calendar. These 10 hieroglyphs work with the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, wood, and earth) and ying-yang theory. This unique system categorizes 2 of the hieroglyphs sharing one of the 5 elements, with one being attached to light energy and the other dark energy.

2) Can also be pronounced as “ki-gai”.

3) Pronounced “inoshishi-doshi” in Japanese.

4) 猪突猛進

5) 猪勇

6) 猪首

7) 亥の子の日. Meaning “day of the boar”, it is also a play on words, for “inochi” sounds like another word that means “life”.

8) 亥の子餅. Means “day of the boar mochi”.

9) 無病息災

2018: Year of the Earth Dog

新年明けましておめでとう! (Happy New Year everyone!)

As the new year of 2018 begins for all of us, it’s time to get on with some new posts. Just about everyone wishes to progress though the year with as much success as possible. Those that do so following the Chinese Zodiac calendar generally look to this first to see what is in store for the new year, such as to find out what sign is being represented. In case you didn’t know, the sign for 2018 is the Dog.

As was discussed in a similar post regarding the Rooster Sign and the Chinese Zodiac calendar last year, every year follows an ancient astrological system that predicts how things will unfold. A zodiac sign is used to explain this, which is represented by an animal for easier understand. Well, this happens to be the dog sign, an animal that is, in many modern societies around the world, beloved and a symbol of comroderie. How does this relate to the traits that the dog sign of the Zodiac calendar represents? Let’s find out.

INFO ABOUT THE YEAR OF THE EARTH DOG

  • Chinese New Years takes place on February 16, which is when the year of the Earth Dog begins according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar.
  • In relations to fortune telling, the dog sign of old is associated to the 10th month of the year¹, falls in the middle of 8 pm (and continues on for another 2 hours) on the old clock system, it’s direction is north-west-north², and is the 35th year in the current 60-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac calendar.
  • In Japanese, the year of the dog is “Inudoshi”, which is written as “戌年”.
  • According to the Eto³ (Japanese for both the 12 Animal Zodiac signs and 5 Elements), the element that accompanies the dog sign this year is earth. Thus, the astrological naming convention for this year is “Earth Dog”.
  • Earth Dog is written as “Tsuchi no E Inu”, or “戊戌⁴”. This does not use the standardize kanji for both “earth” and “dog”.
  • The dog sign represents dedication, effort, and leadership. The earth element supports those qualities, giving the intentions behind them a sense of justice.
  • While it would seem that much positive is in store to grace those born in the year of the dog, there is also a chance falling under the influence of sensitivity. This can lead to periods of loneliness, especially if things are not going your way.
  • Sensitivity to injustice could also lead to rash actions. There is the potential for opposing those that are viewed wrong. Protesting and rioting are such means.

DOG ANIMAL SIGN FUN FACTS

  • The kanji (Chinese character) used in the Chinese Zodiac calendar is “戌”. It’s pronunciation is “inu”, which is the same for dog in Japanese. However, the kanji used doesn’t stand for dog. The proper kanji would be “犬”.
  • The kanji “戌” instead originally meant to wither or decay. For a clearer image, think plants or grass that have not been watered.
  • This kanji’s ties to the dog is only due to the fact they both have the same pronounciation, which makes it easier to remember it when the image of a dog is used to represent it.
  • The dog sign is #11 in the Zodiac cycle. While the reason why this sign is placed as that number is based on old Chinese philosophy when it was created, in the old fable where 12 animals are chosen through a race⁵ , the dog finishes in 11th place. He is beaten by the rooster, but manages to cross the finish line before the pig (boar in Japan).
  • In Japan, some souces give extra emphasis to the dog sign representing friendship and loyalty. This is further supported with the imagery of a dog with a happy face, which is a good incentive to greet all with a friendly heart.
2 pics related to the true story of “Chūken Hachikō⁶”. Click on each of the pictures above for descriptions.
  • There is a famous true story in Japan that could easily be related to the personality of the dog sign called “Chūken Hachikō⁶”, or “The Faithful Dog called Hachikō”. Hachikō, or Hachi if we go by his original name⁷, lived with his owner in Tokyo. Hachi would accompany his owner to the train station in the morning to see his owner off to work, and return back later in the day to wait for his return. One day, in 1925 his owner passed away while at work. Unaware of this, Hachi returned to the station and waited…but did not see his owner. He continued to go to the station everyday waiting for his owner for several years, being fed and watched over by the townsfolks, most who were familiar with him from the start. In 1935 Hachi died from illness to his heart and injesting harmful items. Moved by his dedication and loyalty, locals had his body preserved (stuffed) and kept in a museum for awhile, before the remains were taken to be buried in the same gravesite with his former owner. A bronze statue can be seen before that same train station, made in Hachi’s honor in remembrance of his unwavering loyalty.

2018 PREDICTIONS

  • The traits of the dog sign is that of friendliness, honesty, dedication, and leadership. Being social and frequently communicating with others will ensure peace and happiness to all.
  • 2018 is a good chance for change in one’s lifestyle. This includes for those to starting new business ventures, enrolling in school, moving to a new place to live, and becoming more health conscious with a new diet or routine.
  • When doing business, honesty and fairness will go a long way. Dishonesty and bad business practices will be met with a huge backlash.
  • Family and friends will be held at high regard, which will help to keep relationships strong.
  • Being a protector of those vulnerable is also a trait for those of the dog sign.

CONCLUSION

In ending, 2018 should be a positive year promoting unity and a drive for happiness. As this year is the dog sign, we can be inspired to look forward, take care of those around you, and work hard to be successful in an unpretentious manner. The earth element should help solidify this. Wishing everyone good fortune this year, and hope we all can unify through good relations!


1) On the old calendar, this was originally the 9th month

2) According to N-E-W-S directions if you use a standard world map, the point is slightly veering downwards, sitting on the 300° mark.

3) 干支

4) Also pronounced as “bojutsu”.

5) The folklore of the 12 animals being chosen by the Jade Emperor was designed to help people remember the Zodiac, as well as give meaning behind animals being associated to each specific sign & traits.

6) 忠犬ハチ公

7) In the name Hachikō (ハチ公), kō (公) is an honorific suffix used for those of presigious ranks who have pssed away. Note that the origin of its use in this manner was not truly positive. On top of that, the reason behind using it in honor of an animal is also questionable.

2017, Zodiac Calendars, and Roosters

Illustration for 2017 being the “Year of the Rooster”.

We are here in the New Year and it’s time for a fresh start.  For those who follow the Chinese Zodiac calendar are aware that 2017 is the “Year of the Rooster”. The Chinese Zodiac calendar is part of a pretty ancient astrological system, where its role in this case is keeping track of the years and predicting how each would unfold. Japan and other Asian countries adopted this system hundreds of years ago, while other countries in the West have familiarized with it as well. What does this mean for this year, and why is it significant? Let’s take a look at some points regarding this Chinese Zodiac Calendar, the rooster, and the projection for 2017.

CHINESE ZODIAC CALENDAR FUN FACTS

A stone carving of the 12 Animals used in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. Photo taken by Felix Andrews. From Wikipedia.
  • Dates back to the Shang (Yin) Dynasty¹ in ancient China around 1700 b.c., based on written records from that time.
  • The Chinese Zodiac Calendar incorporates a 12-year cycle, which then resets after the cycle finishes in accordance to the complete solar orbit of Jupiter.
  •  Each year in this 12-year cycle is made up of 1 of 12 Zodiac signs, written as “十二支” in Chinese (pronounced “Juunishi” in Japanese). These 12 signs are labeled as “Earthly Branches”, due to their connection to human traits.
  • These 12 Zodiac signs are each represented by an animal. Collectively, these 12 Animals are written as “十二生肖” in Chinese (pronounced “Juuniseisho” in Japanese). These 12 Animals are the following in order according to the zodiac calendar used in China²: rat, ox, rabbit, tiger, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig.
  •  Each of these animals bear their own personalities, traits, and qualities, which not only identify people who are born in one of these animal years, but determine fortune and daily perspectives people should follow.
  • Along with the 12 Animals, there are 5 Elements used in this calendar. Written as “五行” (pronounced “Gogyo” in Japanese), these 5 elements are the following: fire, water, wood, metal, and earth.
  • Each of the 12 Animals are naturally associated with one of these 5 elements, which further affect each animal’s given traits.
  • Each single 12-year cycle also has the 5 Elements tied to each animal year in a particular pattern, creating a single elemental type of each animal. What this means is that there are 5 elemental types of each animal sign.
  • All 5 Elements will play out completely when each animal sign has had all 5 elemental types appear in 5 12-year cycles. The elements + animals combined makes the Chinese Zodiac calendar a full 60-years cycle before it resets completely, just to repeat the cycle again.
  • The Chinese Zodiac system, including the use of the calendar, made its way to Japan and believed to have been in use as early as Yayoi period³ (300 bce – 300 ce).
  • In Japan the term for observing each year is called “Eto” (干支), which is a combination of the 12 Earthly Branches (十二支), the 5 Elements (五行), and 10 Calendar Signs also referred to as “10 Heavenly Stems” (十干, which is pronounced “Jikkan”).
  • The use of the Chinese Zodiac calendar in Japan is very old and intricate as its use in China, for it is also used to tell the time of the day (時刻 jikoku), the Lunar month (陰暦 inreki), direction (方角 houkaku), and season (季節 kisetsu)⁴.

ROOSTER ANIMAL SIGN FUN FACTS

Artistic work featuring a rooster and a hen. Art piece is entitled “紫陽花双鶏図 (Rooster and Hen with Hydrangeas)”. Produced by Ito Jakuchu in the 18th century. From Wikipedia.
  • In accordance to the Lunar New Year (based on the rotation of the Moon), the rooster year begins from January 28 of 2017 and ends in February 15th of 2018.
  • The rooster is the 10th sign in the Chinese Zodiac calendar. In according to this sign (as how the calendar is used in Japan) are the following: The Lunar month is August, time of day is between 5 pm to 7 pm, direction is West, and season is Fall.
  • This year in Japanese is read as “Hinoto Tori” (丁酉), for both the rooster sign (酉) and the “Fire” element (丁) are next in the zodiac calendar. Together they indicate that 2017 is the “Fire Rooster” year, as well as being the 34th year in the 60-year cycle of the Chinese Zodiac calendar before it starts over completely.
  • The animal zodiac sign for the rooster is written as “酉” in Chinese. This same written style is used in Japan.
  • This zodiac character “酉” in Japanese is pronounced “tori”, which is the same phonetic sound for another Chinese character that stands for bird (鳥). While it does refer to birds, this zodiac character for the calendar actually represents the rooster (鶏), which is pronounced “niwatori”.
  • Originally the zodiac character “酉” didn’t stand for rooster. In fact, the 12 zodiac signs never had any relations to animals in its conception!
  • The zodiac signs were originally standard labels representing people’s predetermined personalities and traits. For example, “酉” is the radical used with the water (水) radical to make up the word for alcohol (酒).
  • The inclusion of 12 animals representing a zodiac sign came much later in China’s history, as a means to help people remember the signs much easier5. To determine which sign got which animal was based on the pronunciation of the sign and which animal was closest to the sound.
  • The rooster is a symbol for hard work, trustworthy, and dedication, due to the rooster’s nature of waking early and crowing at day’s break almost everyday. Also, the pronunciation of rooster (鶏) in standard Chinese6 is the same as fortune (吉), which is “ji”, making it a favorable sign to the masses.

Now, for some projections made for 2017:

  • The rooster represents hardwork, honesty, and doing one’s best. So, we should incorporate these traits along with the traits of our own personal animal sign.
  •  It is advised that we put our best foot forward and focus on our dreams and goals with no hesitation. It is important to seize the opportunity to “take” good fortune and success7.
  • 1st impression matters in having a successful year, so give it your 100%
  • This year is especially profitable for business owners of all kind. How one markets and advertises their products and services can win over customers very easily.
  • People under the rooster sign beware! Things will not look good for you if you don’t tread carefully!8
Another illustration for 2017.

Here’s looking forward to a prosperous 2017 for all!


1) 殷代

2) Depending on the habitat, culture, and story used, the animals vary in different cultures. For example, in Japan the pig is replaced by a boar, while in Vietnam the cat replaces the rabbit.

3) 弥生時代

4) The Chinese Zodiac is a very intricate, and rather complex system that, in ancient times, played a huge role in determining one’s day, activities, luck, and so on. Based on astrological factors and imagery, it has a multitude of uses. Along with the 12 Animals (Earthly Branches), 5 Elements, and 10 Calendar Signs (Heavenly Stems), the Chinese Zodiac is also made up of, or works in conjunction with, many more subsystems that can be daunting. All in all, it has a pretty straight forward pattern in whatever field of interest is used, it just takes some familiarity and practice.

For this post, its use in a calendar system (along with small hints in its usage regarding time, direction, etc.) is presented. To cover the other uses along with the other subsystems would have to be done in a separate post.

5) One of popular folktales state that the Jade Emperor (ruler of heaven in Chinese lore) wished to appoint 12 animals to one of the 12 zodiac signs. He set up a foot race between all(?) of the earthly animals, stating that the 1st 12 will be chosen, and appointed according to which place they came in. The race had different outcomes for each of the animals, where it either brought out their best qualities (i.e. the ox waking very early in attempt to beat the faster animals and come in first, which sorta worked…), defined their personality in accordance to the sign it represents (i.e. the rat being cunning & resourceful by hanging onto the ox’s horn during the race to *officially* be 1st), to defining animals’ relationship with one another (i.e. cats hating rats due to the rat breaking a promise prior to the race, dogs hating roosters due to the rooster cheating by flying at the last moment to beat the dog).

Note that this is not *the* official version of the story. Actually, there may be no official version due to how old it was when incorporated into the Chinese Zodiac and how certain details may have been changed due to the times. There are other versions of the tale that paints the story with variations in regards to how the animals were chosen, from where the race involved crossing a stream, being a swimming race, a selection of animals to be guardians of heaven, down to a festival where only 12 animals were invited.

6) Pinyin

7)  In Japanese the pronunciation of the zodiac sign “酉” also has the same sound as the word “take” (取り). As a play on words, it is advised to “take in” (取り込み) as much good you can out of the year.

8) Actually, this is said for every zodiac sign, when one’s animal sign matches the the animal for the New Year. On a fantastical level, it is the way for the Jade Emperor to punish each animal when their year comes up due to doing such a poor job. On a more theoretical level, it is sometimes explained that the year that matches one’s animal sign brings out the best in us, which in turn can backfire tremendously. Thus it is advised that we be careful when our animal year comes around, and take certain steps to avoid misfortune, such as avoiding certain colors.