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The Year of the Pig

Kiu-wai Chu, PhD – Australia-China Institute for Arts Western Sydney University

Do you realise people as different as Hilary Clinton, Pony Ma, Chris Hemsworth and Kendall Jenner can have something in common? Among other things, they were all born in the year of the pig in the recurring 12-year Chinese Zodiac cycle. Legend has it that when the Jade Emperor decided to make the Zodiac, he made a call to all animals on earth, and the first twelve that entered the Heavenly Gate were given positions. The gentle and humble pig secured the last place in the race. Since then, the Pig has been there to help mark and celebrate the passing of time. In China, the Pig also stands as a symbol of wealth, fortune, good health and an easy life.

Legends aside, the pig’s significance in Chinese culture can be ascertained in its pictographic characters. For instance, if we break down the Chinese character for “home (家)”, we would find a pig (豕) under the roof (宀), suggesting that a home is homely only when there are pigs in the household — representing wealth and a comfortable lifestyle.

Of the twelve animals, the pig is seen by the Chinese as sometimes a little lazy or even foolish, but they are also honest and sincere, cautiously brave and more importantly, loyal, easy-going, kind and affable. Most of these attributes are represented in the well-known character Pigsy (豬八戒) in the 16th century fantasy novel, Journey to the West (screening at Flicks for Piglets and Opera showing at The Concourse), who was one of three disciples of the Buddhist monk Tang Xuanzang. In recent years, the pig’s popularity has crossed over to other cultures – the phenomenal Peppa Pig from the UK. The cartoon character is greatly loved by billions of pre-school children all over the world, and has even created a cult following among adult viewers. In Shanghai, while preparations are made for the celebration of the year of the pig in 2019, they are building the first Peppa Pig theme park in Asia. 

We wish you a very happy year of the pig!

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