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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Year of the Sheep/Goat!

Image souce.

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! It is now officially the year of the sheep. (Or goat. More on this later.) Last night (February 18) was the big night. China only has one timezone, even though it’s the size of like four timezones- so the whole country rang in the new year at the same moment.

This year, 2015, is the year of the 羊[yáng]. Now, what kind of animal is a 羊[yáng]? Sometimes you’ll see it translated as “year of the sheep”, sometimes it’s “year of the goat”, and sometimes, perhaps even less accurately, “year of the ram.”

Basically 羊[yáng] is a type of animal which includes sheep and goats. All of them are 羊[yáng]. 

See the little horns on top? Like a sheep or goat, right? (Though in this image, they're way curlier than the way we normally write it.) Image source.

Wait, so Chinese doesn’t have different words for “sheep” and “goat”?

No no no no, that’s not what I said. “Sheep” is 绵羊 [mián yáng], “goat” is 山羊 [shān yáng]. See, they are different types of 羊[yáng]. If you really want to specify if you’re talking about sheep or goats, you can use those words. But seriously, when you tell a story about something a sheep did, is it really that important that it was specifically a sheep, rather than a goat? Yeah, usually not very important. So just say 羊[yáng].

For more clarification on what a 羊[yáng] is, we can try an image search. Here are the results:

Baidu image search for 羊.
Yeah, some are sheep, some are goats.

However, in my opinion, most of the Chinese New Year decorations this year look more like goats than sheep. Like this stuffed animal hanging up in the mall:


(But I also saw some toy llamas in a display. Apparently they are also a kind of羊[yáng], or at least they have 羊[yáng] in their name. I don’t know what to tell you.)

Anyway, for more information about Chinese New Year, read my post from last year, the year of the horse. Right now, however, the most pressing question is: what kind of puns can we make about 羊[yáng]? Chinese culture loves puns.

This year the big pun is 三羊开泰 [sān yáng kāi tài]. It comes from an old saying 三阳开泰 [sān yáng kāi tài], whose pronunciation is the same, but look, we replaced the 阳[yáng] (sun) with 羊[yáng]. So clever. Seems that no one is able to give me a straight answer on what 三羊开泰 [sān yáng kāi tài] actually means, all we know is it’s about 羊[yáng] and it’s something about being prosperous. Think of it this way:

1. Get 3 sheep.

2. ????

3. Profit!

This painting helpfully illustrates the concept of 三羊开泰 [sān yáng kāi tài]. Image source.

And finally, I’ll leave you guys with some links to videos of the performances from last night’s 春晚[chūn wǎn] (the Chinese “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”). There were songs, dances, skits, lots of fun stuff. Here are a few that don’t require you to understand any Chinese. (I'm including links to both youtube and iqiyi, a Chinese site. The Chinese site has way better video quality, but I don't know how well it will load outside of China.)

Crazy-skilled acrobats. iqiyi link. Youtube link.

Belly dancing, Russian dancing, and other styles from around the world. iqiyi link. Youtube link.
Kung fu routine which involved a lot of dancing with chairs. iqiyi link. Youtube link.

Happy new year, everyone! 新年快乐 [xīn nián kuài lè]! Best wishes for success and health in the new year! Now go eat some dumplings.

1 comment:

  1. Happy year of the sheep/goat to you, PerfectNumber!

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