The Year of the Pig concludes the current Chinese zodiac cycle
By Wang Wei & Yang Ran
This Spring Festival ushers in the Year of the Pig, the last in the cycle of 12 animals presiding over China’s time-honored zodiac. The Chinese zodiac - "Sheng Xiao" in Chinese - may be an ancient calendar but it retains an enduring popularity and cultural significance in modern times.
The Sheng Xiao is based on the planet Jupiter's journey around the sun and a different animal is assigned to each year.
In this new lunar year, the pig is taking its the well-deserved place of honor. As one of China's most ubiquitous domestic animals, it has long been an essential part of the country's culture.
In the classic novel Journey to the West, even the Monkey King was occasionally outshined by his porcine sidekick Zhu Bajie, a pleasure-seeking Falstaffian figure. And recent years have seen Chinese kids co-opting British cartoon character Peppa Pig as their new idol.
Over the centuries, the Sheng Xiao also has been adopted in many Asian countries, from Japan, S. Korea, and Mongolia, to Vietnam and Thailand.
In the past few decades, the influence of the Sheng Xiao has spread even further, with governments in North America to Europe using it as a theme for postage stamps and commemorative coins.