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Asian Culture

2008: The Year of the Earth Rat (February 6, 2008 – January 25, 2009)

 Happy Lunar New Year!

After two Fire years, life may seem calmer during this Earth year of the Rat.
But that could be deceptive…

The Rat is the first of the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac. As such, it represents the start of a new 12-year cycle and is a year that favors beginnings. It is an auspicious time for initiating new ventures and breaking new ground, for putting plans into action, pursuing new ideas, directions and ways of doing things. Plans and projects begun during this year are likely to have long term consequences, so one should choose their actions wisely in order to positively enrich life, both in this year and into the future.

The Rat belongs to the Water sign, and 2008 is an Earth year. The Year of the Rat, 2008, in the Chinese calendar, is symbolized by these two elements with earth sitting on top of water. According to the cycle of birth and destruction governing the inter-relationship of the five elements, Earth conquers Water. Therefore, Earth sitting on Water is a symbol of control.

But the Water of the Rat year is considered to be very strong and Earth floating on top of Water symbolizes a lack of solid foundation. So instead of conquering Water, there is more likely to be a confrontation between the Earth and Water elements. The Earth on top is Yang and symbolizes a mountain, and a mountain generally gives a sense of stability and firmness. But Earth floating on Water signifies a weak foundation with stability that is really quite fragile. This elemental relationship indicates a year that is seemingly stable but underneath has tension and confrontation.

The legend of the Chinese zodiac has it that the Jade Emperor invited all the animals to a party. The first 12 to arrive were the Rat, followed by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and lastly, the Pig. All the animals were named after the 12-year cycle that governs Chinese life thereafter.

Various versions of the story are particularly revealing about each animals character. In one version the animals had to cross a celestial river towards the end of their journey. The Rat asked the Ox to ferry him across and when they arrived on the other side, the Rat jumped down off the Ox’s head and that’s how gained first spot in the order of the Chinese zodiac. The Ox has been his friend ever since, and fares well during this year.

As symbolized by the story, the Rat is well known for being clever and quick-witted. He is respected for being an intuitive creature, courageous and enterprising, and able to take care of himself and others without problem. Rats are considered a symbol of good luck and wealth, and have the ability to accrue and hold on to items of value. Having excellent taste, good style and irresistible charm, they make appealing friends. Those born in the Year of the Rat are clever, ambitious, creative, hard-working, fastidious, charming and sociable, though can be somewhat stingy when it comes to sharing wealth or possessions. The Rat likes to know who is on its side and will treat its most loyal friends with an extra measure of protection and generosity.

Due to the Rat’s positive quality of mental agility, this is will be a good year for thinking and all manner of intellectual endeavors. Planning, scholarship and research, for example, are auspicious activities, and the arts are favored, although under Earth’s influence, applied arts such as design and graphics may do best. It is likely that the focus of activity this year will be more on career and self-improvement than family. The combination of Earth and Rat creates a very good environment for achieving results. The Rat is known for taking risks, while the earth element brings practicality and stability. Balanced well, it can be a productive and profitable year, if the positive qualities of the Rat are embodied.

But Rats can be calculating and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas. This sign is motivated by its own interests, which often includes money, though they can be very generous to those in their pack, particularly friends and family who have proven their loyalty. Greed can become a problem if the Rat isn’t careful to keep its priorities straight. This sign’s natural powers of charm and persuasion can be used for self-interest or greater good.

Verbal jousting is a great pleasure for the Rat, and they may be seen as quick-tempered and sharp-tongued, but never boring. A valuable lesson for Rats is to learn to consider others above themselves, at least sometimes. If they can develop their sense of self and realize it leaves room for others in their life as well, Rats can find true happiness.

Rats enjoy being on the outside looking in, as the outside affords a view into the inner workings of a system or situation. Their sharp minds are always seeking out new knowledge, to be stored away for future use. This ever-curious sign also welcomes challenges as a way to stay sharp. If boredom sets in the rat is no fun at all, but that isn’t likely as they rarely stop moving and know how to stay entertained.

Rats are most compatible with Dragons, Monkeys and Oxen, but should avoid Horses. Since this is an Earth year, those people born in a Metal year will generally fare better than others of their animal sign, while those born in a Water year are likely to do worse than those born in Wood, Fire, and Earth years.

Wishing You Blessings and Good Fortune
In the New Year