Based on a twelve year cycle, the Chinese zodiac, or Shengxiao, is represented by twelve different animals.
According to ancient folk stories, the Buddha (or, in some stories, the Jade Emperor) called a Great Race across a river to decide who would be included in the zodiac. The clever Rat came first, hiding on the back of the strongest animal, the Ox, who came second. The ferocious Tiger came third while the lucky Rabbit fourth, blown across by a giant puff of air by the Dragon. Snake took sixth place and Horse took seventh. Together, Sheep, Monkey and Rooster took the eighth, ninth and tenth places. Dog, although the strongest swimmer, he could resist playful temptation and so came eleventh, closely followed by Pig, who had gotten hungry and stopped for a snack, but still made it in time for the final twelfth place.
This year, Chinese New Year falls on Tuesday, 5th February. The Year of the Pig marks the final position in the Chinese zodiac before it begins again with the Year of the Rat.
This final serene year in the cycle allows for rest and restoration before the zodiac begins again. The previous two years – the Year of the territorial Dog and the fiery Rooster – have been intense, but 2019 will encourage conversation, social interaction and communication.