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Culture The Chinese and Japanese Zodiac

The twelve characters of the Chinese zodiac (十二支 aJūnishi), sometimes translated as earthly stems, appeared about 3,500 years ago. Initially, they were probably the twelve months of the year and later used for days and years. According to some historians, they were associated with the twelve animals about 2,000 years ago. The first year of the Chinese zodiac, later called the Year of the Rat, is always written as 子, not 鼠, because the former character did not carry the meaning of rat first.

The earthly stems:​


子年【ねずみどし】Year of the rat
丑年【うしどし】Year of the ox
寅年【とらどし】Year of the tiger
卯年【うさぎどし】Year of the hare
辰年 【たつどし】Year of the dragon
巳年 【へびどし】Year of the snake
午年 【うまどし】Year of the horse
未年【ひつじどし】Year of the sheep
申年【さるどし】Year of the monkey
酉年【とりどし】Year of the cock
戌年【いぬどし】Year of the dog
亥年【いのししどし】Year of the boar

十干 (じっかん), the ten characters of the Chinese astrology, sometimes translated as heavenly stems, are as old as the 十二支. The ancient Chinese believed that there were ten suns, each of which appeared once every ten days. 十干 were probably the names of the ten days and also used for months and years later. We still commonly use the word 旬 (じゅん), which means ten days, as in 上旬 (じょうじゅん), 中旬 (ちゅうじゅん), and 下旬 (げじゅん). They are now associated with 陰陽 (いんよう), the yin-yang dualism, and 五行 (ごぎょう), the Chinese five elements theory, as follows:

jukkan.jpg

The kun-readings are better than the on-readings to avoid homonyms. Some of the associations of yin-yang are shown below:

yin-yang.jpg

It is clear that yin is zero, and yang is one in the binary system. Some of the associations of 五行 are shown below:


elements.jpg

The animals of the Eastern zodiac:​


animals-of-the-japanese-zodiac.jpg

* The ancient Chinese calendar is about one month behind the Western calendar.
# The seasons are defined by the position of the sun, not temperature.​
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Takasugi
My name is TAKASUGI Shinji. TAKASUGI is my family name, and Shinji is my given name; a family name is placed before a given name in Japan, as in other Asian nations. My family name is capitalized to avoid misunderstanding.

I have been living in Yokohama since I was born. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, which is just 30 kilometers away from the biggest city Tôkyô. It takes 30 minutes to go by train from home to Shibuya, which is the hottest town now in Tôkyô.

I work as a display engineer.

One of my hobbies is creating things with computers; creating programs, computer graphics and web pages is the thing I spent a lot of time doing. I am also interested in a wide range of sciences, and linguistics is my favorite. I like English and I like using it, but my focus is mainly on Japanese, which is my native language. I'm proud of knowing the language, and the difference between English and Japanese has been fascinating me. I have been thinking whether I can introduce it to people outside of Japan. My attempt of introducing Japanese with some Java applets has had more than 1 million visitors.

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