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十二属相 Twelve Symbolic Animals
 
2008年05月04日
 
  十二属相

  中国民间有一个传统习俗,人一出生,就有一种动物作他的属相。属相,也叫“生肖”(shengxiao),是中国民间传统的纪年和计算年龄的方法。

  按照世界通用的公历纪年,只要说出公历某某年就可以了,如:公元2002年。但中国农历的纪年法与此不同。中国古人发明了用“干支”纪年的方法。“干”是“天干”,由10个字组成,这10个字是:甲、乙、丙、丁、戊(wu)、己、庚(geng)、辛、壬、癸(gu1)。“支”是“地支”,由12个字组成,这12个字是:子、丑、寅、卯(mao)、辰、巳(s1)、午、未、申、酉(you)、戌(xu)、亥(hai)。把天干的10个字和地支的12个字按顺序配合起来,可以组成60对纪年的符号,如:甲子、乙丑、丙寅……这60对符号周而复始,循环使用,每一年就有了一个纪年符号。如公历的2001年,是农历的辛巳年。公历的2002年,就是农历的壬午年。后来,人们又用鼠、牛、虎、兔、龙、蛇、马、羊、猴、鸡、狗、猪12种动物来配十二地支,组成了十二生肖,也叫十二属相。这就是:子鼠、丑牛、寅虎、卯兔、辰龙、巳蛇、午马、未羊、申猴、酉鸡、戌狗、亥猪。这样,子年就是鼠年,丑年就是牛年,寅年就是虎年……于是,每个人一出生,就有一种动物作他的属相。子年出生的属鼠,丑年出生的属牛,寅年出生的属虎……2002年是农历壬午年,就是马年,这一年出生的孩子应该属马。

  现在,中国人在用公历纪年和计算年龄的同时,仍然习惯用属相纪年和推算年龄。人们只要知道一个人大概的年龄和他的属相,就能推算出他的准确年龄和出生年份了。

  Twelve Symbolic Animals

  It is traditional in China, when a person is born, that one animal (shuxiang) is used to symbolize this year. Shuxiang, also called shengxiao (any of the 12 animals representing the Earthly Branches), is a traditional way in China to number the years and to record a person's age.

  Under the Gregorian calendar commonly used in the world, the year can be expressed by the progression since the start of the Christian era (e.g. 2002 AD). But the Chinese lunar calendar numbers the years in a different way. Ancient Chinese people invented the method to designate the years by the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches. The Heavenly Stems consist of ten words: jia (Heavenly Stem One), yi (Heavenly Stem Two), bing (Heavenly Stem Three), ding (Heavenly Stem Four), wu (Heavenly Stem Five), ji (Heavenly Stem Six), geng (Heavenly Stem Seven), xin (Heavenly Stem Eight), ren (Heavenly Stem Nine), and gui (Heavenly Stem Ten). And the Earthly Branches are composed of 12 words: zi (Earthly Branch One), chou (Earthly Branch Two), yin (Earthly Branch Three), mao (Earthly Branch Four), chen (Earthly Branch Five), si (Earthly Branch Six), wu (Earthly Branch Seven), wei (Earthly Branch Eight), shen (Earthly Branch Nine), you (Earthly Branch Ten), xu (Earthly Branch Eleven), and hai (Earthly Branch Twelve). Combining each of the 10 Heavenly Stems with one of the 12 Earthly Branches in sequence creates 60 chronological symbols. For example, jiazi (Heavenly Stem One Earthly Branch One), yichou (Heavenly Stem Two Earthly Branch Two), bingyin (Heavenly Stem Three Earthly Branch Three), etc. These 60 symbols are used in circles and thus each year has a chronological symbol. For example, 2001 corresponds to xinsi, 2002 to renwu in the lunar calendar. Later, people used 12 animals (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig) to correspond to the 12 Earthly Branches, forming the 12 Symbolic Animals, namely, Earthly Branch One - Rat, Earthly Branch Two - Ox, Earthly Branch Three - Tiger, Earthly Branch Four - Rabbit, Earthly Branch Five - Dragon, Earthly Branch Six - Snake, Earthly Branch Seven - Horse, Earthly Branch Eight - Sheep, Earthly Branch Nine - Monkey, Earthly Branch Ten - Rooster, Earthly Branch Eleven - Dog, and Earthly Branch Twelve - Pig. Thus the zi Year is the Year of the Rat, and the chou Year is the Year of the Ox, and the yin Year is the Year of the Tiger, etc. Therefore, when a person is born, he has an animal as his symbolic animal. The year 2002 was a renwu year under lunar calendar, also the Year of Horse, and so children born in this year are all Horse babies.

  Even though Chinese people now number the years and their age under the Gregorian calendar, they still continue to use the symbolic animals. As long as people know a person's probable age and his symbolic animal, people can infer his exact age and year of birth.

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【来源:中国华文教育网】
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