The Year of the Sheep

On February 19, 2015 the Year of the Horse will give way to the Year of the Sheep.

And, as a result, Chinese hospitals are overwhelmed with women wishing to give birth before the Year of the Sheep begins.

Why? Because of an ancient Chinese saying, “Shi yang jiu bu quan,” which, literally translated, means 9 out of 10 people born in the Year of the Sheep will suffer great misfortune. (Or something like that.) Who wants that for their child?

While sheep have also enjoyed positive associations throughout Chinese history it is strongly associated with weakness and obedience, greatly reducing the chance that people born in those years will be the strong leader type. They are more likely to be meek followers.

No one seems to know for sure where the superstition began but China Daily quotes the Guangzhou Daily as reporting that it might have been a rumor started to overthrow the Dowager Empress Cixi (1835-1908) of the corrupt and disdained Qing Dynasty who was born in the Year of the Sheep.

The Year of the Horse, an auspicious year in which to be born (Ahem!) has already seen a 30% increase in the birth rate compared to the same period last year. And that number could rise as mothers choose cesarean section to beat the February 19 deadline.

So, are people born in the Year of the Sheep doomed to misery? I certainly hope not. My youngest daughter was born in the last Year of the Sheep and she is certainly one of the kindest and most adorable people I know.

Emperor Taizong, born in 559 during the Tang Dynasty, was also a Sheep and is commonly considered one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history. And Mo Yan, China’s first Nobel laureate in literature was also born in the Year of the Sheep.

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Yo-Yo Ma were all born in the Year of the Sheep. As were Mick Jagger, Robert De Niro, and Christopher Walken.

But, sadly, so were Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and John Denver, all great artists who suffered tragic fates.

A recent article in China Daily further noted several world leaders who were born in the Year of the Sheep and face a difficult coming year.

Former Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces an impeachment trial later this month.

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is gravely ill and fighting for his life.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, as a result of Spain’s severe economic crisis, now governs the country with the largest income gap in the developed world.

Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is barred from leaving the country while he awaits trial for high treason.

To the deductively minded Westerner such superstitions often seem to be all a bit silly and certainly not scientific. You’ll have to decide for yourself what you believe.

There is virtual consensus across China, however, that the birth rate will drop in China in this Year of the Sheep. According to an article in China Daily a May survey by people.com.cn found that 52% of the 2,000 people surveyed knew couples who would avoid having a child in the Year of the Sheep. And a random sampling of expectant mothers in East China’s Shangdong province found that 18 out of 25 will choose cesarean section if their children don’t arrive naturally before the new year begins.

Actually, it might be smart to take a tip from my older daughter, a clever and equally adorable young lady who chose to learn the oboe because she reasoned that there would be less competition to get into the school orchestra.  In China everyone wants to play the violin.

Fewer births will mean less crowding at the hospital, less competition to get into the best schools, and fewer applicants competing for the best jobs.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Year of the Monkey begins February 8, 2016. (To be precise, it will be the Year of the Fire Monkey. (See my post http://www.glassmakerinchina.com/englasia-a-k-a-hong-kong/ for further explanation.) Monkeys are considered smart, quick-witted, optimistic, and ambitious, best suited for careers in accounting, banking, science, and film-directing.

Sir Isaac Newton was born in the Year of the Monkey.

As was Ian Fleming.

Go figure.

It will be with some sadness that I leave the Year of the Horse behind.  It was this year that I completed one complete life cycle by the Chinese calendar.  Overall, it was a pretty good year.
It will be with some sadness that I leave the Year of the Horse behind. It was this year that I completed one complete life cycle by the Chinese calendar. Overall, it was a pretty good year.

Note: The author also writes novels under the pen name of Avam Hale. You can find them in the Amazon Kindle store and they can be read on any mobile device loaded with the free Kindle App, available for all operating systems

Copyright © 2015 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.