NPR: Whatever Floats Your Goat: The 2015 Lunar New Year Animal Is Up For Debate

Happy Lunar New Year! I had heard this NPR piece recently, and thought it was very educational – because I have heard many Happy Chinese / Lunar New Year celebration and exclaiming Happy Year of the Goat, Sheep or Ram. And I’m like, WTF? What year is it? Well:

stock-vector-vector-goat-ink-painting-chinese-new-year-translation-of-calligraphy-main-goat-sub-212579359“You may have seen goat, sheep or ram as the English translation for this year’s animal according to the Chinese zodiac — yang, in Mandarin. All of them are correct, says Lala Zuo, a Chinese language and culture professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland.

“I don’t think there’s a wrong translation,” she says. “I think there are various ways of translation. It really depends on the context.””

Although most commonly known as Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year is celebrated by many different Asian cultures. Professor Zuo goes on to say:

“Some Chinese words are vague and not as specific as English words, so yang could refer to a goat, sheep or even a ram. But in ancient times, … that Chinese character meant goat. … Korea is small and the most prototypical image of yang for Korean people is sheep … In Vietnam, there is no sheep or ram at all because the weather is so hot …”

But that makes me wonder, how do we have Year of the Dragon, since a dragon is a fictitious animal … I guess I’ll have to wait and learn … If you interested in learning more about the Chinese Zodiac, click here to learn about the children’s book, Jade Stars – The Great Race: How the Chinese Zodiac Came to Be.


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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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