It’s not a sheep or a ram – it’s the year of the goat, says leading Chinese linguist

It’s not a sheep or a ram – it’s the year of the goat, says leading Chinese linguist

Twelve animals have been used to mark the year by Chinese commoners since the Han dynasty (206BC-220AD). It was an attempt to simplify the complicated sexagenary cycle, also known as the stems-and-branches, a calendar system which has been used in China for more than 2,000 years.

The correct translation of the animal zodiac this year has caused confusion among English speakers. The Chinese word yang in oracle bone script – the ancient characters found on bones used for divination in the Bronze Age – looks like an animal with two horns and a pointy face, yet it can be interpreted as goat, sheep or ram in English.

Although sheep have a long history in Chinese society, Professor Ho Che-wah, head of the Department of Chinese language and literature at Chinese University, said food culture pointed to the goat as the most likely animal to have been included in the zodiac from its inception.

“In ancient China, people ate six types of animals – horse, cow, goat, pig, dog and chicken. Goat is therefore included in the zodiac too,” Ho said.

Goat-related merchandise is on sale at Victoria Park’s Lunar New Year fair …

Goat also has a higher status among the six animals in Chinese society. In the past, only rich people and the aristocracy could eat them.

Sheep bones were found in the relics of Yangshao culture, which flourished along the Yellow River between 5000BC and 3000BC. Yet, sheep at that time were used to provide wool and weren’t eaten, Ho said.

“For food, people mostly ate goats [instead of sheep],” he said.

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A Chinese historian meanwhile, told Xinhua that goat was more likely to be in the zodiac than sheep as it was popularly bred among Han Chinese.

Ho, who is also a scholar of Chinese ancient texts, said that positive words were historically associated with goats.

“The word ‘beautiful’ in oracle bone script looks like a person with head ornaments made with goat horns,” he said.

The Chinese word for “envy” originally referred to a person salivating over a goat, he added.

.. where cuddly sheep vie for shoppers’ attention. Photos: Felix Wong

The goat is also well respected in Chinese culture.

Han dynasty scholar Dong Zhongshu described three virtues that people should learn from goats: the goat doesn’t hurt people with its horn; it never cries or howls; and its kids always bow down on front legs when drinking milk, symbolising filial piety.

The Chinese depiction of the goat echoes the Christian depiction of sheep. The Bible for example, describes Jesus as a lamb before he was crucified.

The confusion over translation, however, has not done much harm to festive celebrations. Decorations of sheep and symbols of goats have been seen around the city. After all, they are all referred to as yang in Chinese.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 February, 2015, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 February, 2015, 9:22am

#HanDynasty #StemsandBranches #ChineseNewYear

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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