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The Monkey and the Chinese Zodiac

Welcome to 2004, the Year of the Monkey!

Monkeys are flexible, practical, intelligent, have good memories, and are enthusiastic achievers.

The symbolic animal of this year (from January 22, 2004 to February 8, 2005) is the monkey. This year is under the influence of the element, wood. If a baby is born during this time, the baby's Natal Year will be called the "Monkey Year." Twelve years from now his Natal Year will come around once again. Among other things, the Chinese believe that a person's Natal Year controls his matrimonial affairs because some animals are compatible and others are not.

Each of the animals in the Chinese zodiac has their own distinct characteristics and importance in history. The monkey, the ninth animal of the twelve, is known for its intelligence and cunning. It is also attributed with the power to bestow health, protection, and success on mankind through directly or indirectly warding off evil spirits. Long ago, monkey talismans made of cloth were often given to children as a protection against illness. Monkeys were also once kept in the stables of the military as protectors of horses.

One story says that the monkey was first worshipped by the special command of an Emperor of the T'ang dynasty for supposedly obtaining the Sacred Books of the Buddhist religion. The emperor was said to have deified the monkey and given it the auspicious title of "The Great Sage Equal to Heaven."

This tale later became known as the Monkey King Sun Wu-Kung and His Journey to the West. Filled with twitching, scratching, and mischievous simian antics, it is probably one of the most famous and popular stories in Chinese opera today. (And there are even cartoons of the Monkey King on these days!)

This Chinese legend was so enjoyable that it was later transposed by the Japanese into the story of Songoku, the magical monkey king. Songoku, with the Buddhist priest, Gyoken Tai and two others, set out to bring the sacred scriptures to his country. After seventeen years of adventures, they triumphantly returned with the 657 values of holy text.

See our other articles on the Chinese New Year:

2004 - Year of the Monkey:   A Time for Progress through Quick-Thinking and Communication
Monkey and the Chinese Zodiac
Chinese New Year
Animal That Hides in Your Heart:   Your Animal Sign.

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