As the Chinese say goodbye to the Year of the Horse, we look at some interesting facts to prepare us for this Year of the Sheep! To bring you luck this new year, we’ve listed eight (the luckiest number in China) things you possibly didn’t know about Chinese beliefs and the year ahead.
1. Welcoming the New Year
The colourful celebration of the Chinese New Year begins on 19th of February 2015 and lasts for 15 consecutive days. The day marks the end of the year of the ‘Wooden’ Horse and welcomes the start of the year of the ‘Wooden’ Sheep/Goat.
Year of The Goat/ Katie Edwards; Dragon Dance During Chinese New Year/ Godong
2. Astrological Calendar
The Chinese Zodiac – or ‘Shengxiao’ – is a calendar system originating from the Han dynasty (206-220 BC). It follows a twelve-year pattern with each year named after an animal. According to the system, the Universe is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood and metal – which interact with the twelve animals, resulting in the specific character for the year ahead.
Chinese Zodiac figures, late 18th century Tibetan manuscript/ Universal History Archive
3. Red Colour
Throughout the Chinese New Year festivities, the colour red, a symbol of good luck and prosperity, plays a very important part. It symbolises fire and it is believed to frighten evil spirits.
Red decorations and lanterns are prominent in the streets, homes and offices throughout the celebrations. People wear red clothes, hang red lanterns and give children presents of ‘lucky money’ in red envelopes. It is commonly paired with gold or yellow, a shade also associated with good fortune.
Chinese New Year lights/ Godong; Candle Lighting, Chinese New Year festivities/ Hoberman
4. The Sheep in Chinese Culture
The sheep (sometimes also referred to as ‘goat’) in Chinese culture comes eighth in the Chinese zodiac. Sheep are docile and benevolent, and many auspicious Chinese characters (such as kindness, beauty and luck) , include the component ‘yang’, which translates into ‘sheep’.
In ancient China, the sheep was a symbol of justice. Legend has it, that a type of divine sheep called ‘xiezhi’ was able to recognise villains, and would gore them in punishment. Consequently, judges in the ancient State of Chu wore an image of the sacred animal on their hats, representing impartiality.
Sanyangkaitai, the three auspicious yang spirits usher in spring/ Chinese School