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It Won't Be a Rat Race to Beijing

With big things happening in China in 2008, the Year of the Rat actually favors the slow and steady.

Posted: February 5, 2008 1:16 p.m.
Updated: April 7, 2008 2:01 a.m.
 
China will be the center of all the grace and glory in the sporting world in August as Beijing plays host to the 29th Summer Olympiad. Six months before that, the Chinese will welcome in the Rat.

On Feb. 7, people around the world will celebrate Chinese New Year. According to the culture's zodiac calendar, 2008 is the Year of the Rat. Just for fun, let's take a look at the myths and traditions surrounding this.
"This is the most important festival in the year," said Valencia resident and China native Wei Yan. "It's like a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas. For many people this is the only festival when they go back home."
The Rat is the first of the 12-year cycle of animals that appear in the Chinese zodiac. The zodiac serves as the basis of the Chinese calendar.
"Everyone knows that the Rat is first in the 12-year cycle," Yan said. "This year will get some attention because of the Olympic Games."
In ancient Chinese culture, the Rat was welcomed as a protector and bringer of material prosperity.
Among the traits associated with the Rat are aggression, wealth, charm and order. Yet it is also associated with death, war, the occult, pestilence and atrocities.
This year, China will be celebrating the Earth Rat.
According to the Chinese zodiac, the Year of the Rat is a time of hard work, activity and renewal. Experts say that since 2008 is the year of the Earth Rat, it is a good year to begin a new job, get married, launch a product or make a fresh start. Opportunities should pay off for people who are well prepared and resourceful.
This philosophy and outlook is based upon the characteristics of an Earth Rat, which prefers a sense of stability. Earth Rats are known for digging in and putting down roots early to help ensure a successful future. It is believed that Earth Rats prefer a slow and steady approach instead of spontaneity.
Key traits to find happiness this year include: patience, letting things develop slowly and making the most of every situation.
Origins
There are many stories told about how the sequence of animals was assigned to the calendar cycle.
According to Chinese legend, the sequence was determined by a competition. Legend has it that the 12 animals fought over their place on the cycle of years in the calendar without resolution, so the Chinese gods held a contest to determine the order. The rules of the contest were simple. All 12 animals lined up on the bank of a river. They were given the task of getting to the opposite shore. Their order in the calendar would be set by the order in which they managed to reach the other side.
Yan offers a different perspective from a childhood fairy tale.
"When I was young I read some fairy tales how the 12 animals were selected," he said. "When the gods selected the 12 animals, all animals were on there way to way heaven. The Rat rode up on back of the Ox. When they got to heaven, the Rat jumped off the Ox's back and landed first, narrowly beating the Ox." (The Ox is the second animal in the cycle).

Positive Traits
As with every year attached to the Chinese Zodiac, people born in the Year of the Rat have certain personality traits associated to them.
Since it is the first sign of the Chinese zodiacs, Rats are considered to be leaders, pioneers and conquerors. Among their best traits include charm, passion, charisma, practicality and strong work ethic. They have great leadership skills and are among the most organized individuals. Rats are the most meticulous and systematic individuals of the 12 signs.
Consistent with these traits, Rats are simultaneously intelligent and cunning, highly ambitious and strong-willed. They are unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which often include money and power. Other traits include an abundance of energy and the ability to be versatile and tackle most obstacles. Rats are also chameleon-like, being able to adapt to different environments with ease. Due to their charm, Rats are easy to befriend - though Rats themselves are very selective in choosing who they are friends with and have a select group of close friends whom they trust.
Negative Traits
With the good comes the bad. Rats are known for being obstinate and controlling. As they are generally stubborn individuals, Rats insist upon having things their way regardless of cost.
Since Rats also tend to effectively control their emotions, they are able to use such control to manipulate and exploit others.
Rats are also known for being calculating and mastering mind games. They can be quick-tempered, aggressive, downright cruel and vengeful. Other negative traits include: obsession with detail, intolerance and demanding (particularly of order, obedience and perfection).
Personality traits aside, there are plenty of other observations to make of individuals born in the Year of the Rat.
They are often considerate people, putting others ahead of themselves and oftentimes avoid forcing their ideas onto others.
Rats are fair and expect the same in return. They are often hurt if they perceive deception from people close to them.
As they are ambitious, Rats sometimes expect too much from friends and colleagues alike. However, as time passes, Rats become more idealistic and tolerant. If Rats develop a sense of self and leave room for others in their life, they can find true happiness.
Karma is strongly associated with Rats, as they face an identity crisis or guilty feeling at some point in their life. They work very hard and long for everything they earn and have in life, though Chinese folklore says that Rats born in the day have a slightly easier life than those born at night.
Traditionally, night-born Rats may face extreme hardships and suffering throughout life. Among the temptations common among Rats include gambling, alcohol and drugs. Rats in general should guard themselves against hedonism, as it may lead to self-destruction.
Traditionally, Rats should avoid Horses, but they can usually find their best friends and love interests in Monkeys, Dragons and Oxen.
Professions include espionage, psychiatry, psychology, writing, politics, law, engineering, accounting, detective work, acting and pathology.
Other animals in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle are: Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Dog, Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Sheep (Ram/Goat), Rooster and Pig.

Chinese New Year Here
While Chinese New Year is obviously a big deal on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, Chinese-Americans do not celebrate festivities here with the same amount of passion.
While there are parties and festivals held at restaurants, churches and private residences throughout the country, the celebrations are not as strong as they are in the mainland.
"The atmosphere here is not very strong," said Yan. "Compared to China, people have one week to two weeks vacation. Here we really do not have the same traditions, just some one-night parties."
The Year of the Rat ends on Jan. 29, 2009.
Additional Source: Chinese Fortune Calendar, Chinese Astrology Online, www.ChineseZodiac.com


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