For thousands of years, the Chinese lunar calendar has been based on a 12-year repeating cycle that incorporates 11 real animals and one mythical one (a dragon). On February 16, 2018, we’ll be entering the Year of the Dog, the 11th animal in the Chinese zodiac.
Each sign is associated with one of five elements: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth (the specific association changes from cycle to cycle). In 2018, the Dog is paired with Earth— making it, more precisely, the year of the Brown Earth Dog.
The Dog is associated with exuberance, kindness, good fortune, harmony and humanitarianism, and idealism overshadowing materialism. It is also said that Earth Dogs make great leaders because they are trustworthy, dependable, confident and supportive of others.
All things considered, this is a propitious time for the Dog to rise to the top of the wheel. Kindness, harmony and idealism are certainly qualities worth striving for in the new year.
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Dogs in Chinese Mythology
Legend has it that the order of the zodiac animals was determined by the order in which each finished a swimming contest, called the Great Race, across a wide river. While the Dog was a strong and natural swimmer (certainly more so than the Rooster or Rabbit), he also liked to play and frolic with the other animals; thus, he came in next-to-last, followed only by the Pig. (The Rat came in first.)
Another myth associates the Dog with bringing the first grains to his human friends, thus giving us agriculture. For the ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan, the story is that while humans had grasses that produced grains, they didn’t know what to do with them. Rather than eat them, people used them as “wipes” after defecating. This angered the mighty God of Heaven, who took the plants away from the humans. But in stepped the Dog, barking, howling and begging the God to give him a few seeds from each grain. He then fetched the grains back to the humans.