The Spring Festival is coming up soon and Chinese people are preparing to welcome the Year of the Sheep. It is around this time that you may hear some Chinese people claiming that this coming year is his or her year of fate. What do they mean by this? Read on to find out!
A “year of fate” is “本命年(běnmìngnián)” in Chinese. When this is the topic of conversation, you will inevitably hear mention of “生肖(shēngxiào) Chinese zodiac signs” or “属相(shǔxiàng),” which Chinese people customarily use to mark the year in which a person was born. There are a total of twelve signs in the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. For example, the year 1991 was “羊年(yángnián) the Year of the Sheep.” If you were born in 1991, then you can say “我属羊。(Wǒ shǔ yáng.) My Chinese zodiac is the sheep.”
“本命年(běnmìngnián)” refers to the other years which have the same zodiac as the year in which you were born. Since there are twelve zodiac signs in China, the “本命年(běnmìngnián)” is based on a twelve-year cycle. The Spring Festival for the year 2015 is coming and with it we will enter “羊年(yángnián).” If you were born in the Year of the Sheep, you can tell your friends “羊年是我的本命年。(Yángnián shì wǒ de běnmìngnián.) The Year of the Sheep is my year of fate.”
Example 1 :
Lǐhuá: Zhāngchén, nǐ shǔ shénme?
李华： 张晨， 你 属 什么？
Lihua: Zhang Chen, what is your Chinese zodiac sign?
Zhāngchén: Wǒ shǔ yáng.
张晨： 我 属 羊。
Zhangchen: I was born in the Year of the Sheep.
Lǐhuá: Míngnián shì yángnián, shì nǐ de běnmìngnián a!
李华： 明年 是 羊年， 是 你 的 本命年 啊！
Lihua: Next year is the Year of the Sheep. That is your year!
Wángwén: Lǐshān, nǐ hěn xǐhuan hóngsè ma? Zěnme zuìjìn mǎi de dōngxi dōushì hóngsè de?
王文： 李珊， 你 很 喜欢 红色 吗？怎么 最近 买 的 东西 都是 红色 的？
Wangwen: Li Shan, do you really like the color red so much? Why are all of the things you have bought recently red?
Lǐshān: Jīnnián shì wǒ de běnmìngnián, hóngsè kéyǐ dàilái hǎoyùn!
李珊： 今年 是 我 的 本命年， 红色 可以 带来 好运！
Lishan: This year is my birth year and the color red brings me good luck!
Jīnnián shì wǒ māma de běnmìngnián, wǒ zhǔnbèi sòng tā yíjiàn hóngdàyī zuò xīnnián lǐwù.
今年 是 我 妈妈 的 本命年， 我 准备 送 她 一件 红大衣 做 新年 礼物。
This year is my mother’s year of fate, and I plan to buy her a red coat for her New Year gift.
The history of “本命年(běnmìngnián)” dates back to the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.—A.D. 24). According to Chinese traditional custom, “本命年(běnmìngnián)” is actually not an auspicious year. As the saying goes “本命年犯太岁(běnmìngnián fàntàisuì).” This means that during one’s year of fate, things don’t go well and people may suffer a lot in their career, health, marriage, and so on. In China, “本命年(běnmìngnián)” is also known as “槛儿年(kǎn’érnián) year of barriers,” meaning that in one’s “本命年(běnmìngnián)” people are destined to face lots of obstacles.
Therefore, to resolve this, people would buy many traditional red things for the coming of their “本命年(běnmìngnián).” They still believe that the color red will ensure a smooth and lucky year. For example, adults and children will wear red belts, which are traditionally called “扎红(zhāhóng),” meaning “to tie with red things.” Children also wear red vests and underpants, which are believed to help them fend off disasters and misfortunes while bringing them good luck. Because of these superstitions, when the Spring Festival approaches you will also see many red ribbons or traditional Chinese knots for sale.
1. What does “我属羊。(Wǒ shǔ yáng.)” mean?
A. I look like a sheep.
B. I love sheep.
C. I was born in the Year of the Sheep.
2. If someone was born in 1991, which of the following years is his or her “本命年(běnmìngnián)”?
3. If 2015 is your “本命年(běnmìngnián),” what should you do according to the Chinese custom?
A. Send others some red things.
B. Wear some red clothes.
C. Discard all of the red things you own.