The Chinese have for centuries viewed the coming of the New Year as a time for new beginnings. They sweep the yard (few had lawns in those days) clean out their homes and closets, and got rid of chipped or cracked pottery. New items are purchased to replace the old.
They really give themselves to this annual event. It is their Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays all rolled into one.
A very old Chinese gentleman told me once: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” I don’t know what that has to do with the occasion but thought it was a good bit of wisdom for any time in the year.
Each year of the Chinese calendar (based on the lunar calendar) has a particular animal associated with it. In the Chinese horoscope, some of the 12 Zodiac animals are considered lucky, including the pig.
This Feb. 18 the Year of the Pig arrived. According to folklore this is not just an ordinary Year of the Pig, but the Year of the Golden Pig. The golden year occurs every 600 years. I lived out there for over 30 years in Chinese towns and cities and I never heard of such a thing. Evidently it has been there all the time and I missed it. A baby born on this year will experience a prosperous and wealthy life.
I read about it in the English-language Korean magazine, Koreana, and apparently the Koreans really believe the part about getting a prosperous and wealthy baby this year. This legend is so popular, that Korea is expected to have a 10 percent increase in birthrate this year.
Some believe the myth was created to boost the ever-decreasing South Korean birthrate in recent years. Those in the know tell us that South Korea’s birthrate is expected to increase this year. Starting last fall many obstetrics and gynecology clinics began providing more pregnancy counseling. Shanghai is also predicted to have a baby boom this year.
Attending weddings anywhere can be a very expensive affair, but in China, Korea and Southeast Asia it really costs. One can get invited to six or eight weddings during this rush-season. Guests are expected to give the bride and groom cash. It is collected in the doorway of the restaurant where most wedding take place. We are not talking about a few ten-dollar bills either.
The marketing is already in full swing. Golden Pig items are on sale everywhere. A lot of companies are using them as promotional items.
Most fortunetellers and folklorists are doubtful about this “superstition,” as they call it. One fortuneteller who was head of the United Fortunetellers of Asia admitted he did not know where the myth came from–a story somebody made up a few centuries ago and it evolved as did so many other things in the Chinese zodiac. They made conclusions through calculations using the Yin and Yang theories.
Professor Joo Yoiung-ha of the Academy of Korean Studies can find no records in the archives of early rulers of such a Golden Pig year. He thinks the myth was created not too long ago. It seems to be another capitalist plot to make money with wedding gowns and wedding feasts.
There are always the nay-sayers wanting to rain on our parade.
Britt Towery is former China liaison with China Christian Council in Nanjing, China. He is now retired and living in San Angelo, Texas.