Skip

Year of the Wood Horse and other trojan's tales
January 30, 2014 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Chinese New Year's eve and its the Year of the Wood Horse according to the annual rotation of 12 animals and 5 elements followed by Chinese geomancers. Horse babies are always welcome, especially boys. Less known however is the stigma attached to the girl child born in the year of the Fire Horse.
And for some reason, women are said to be especially dangerous Fire Horses. They supposedly sap their family’s finances, neglect their children, and drive their father and husband to an early grave.

This myth is so powerful that it seriously affects how people behave. Men might avoid marrying a Fire Horse, and families avoid giving birth to Fire Horse children.

In 1966, the year of the Fire Horse, people in Japan (and elsewhere in Asia) really, really tried not to have kids, either because they thought that the Fire Horse myth was true, or because they were worried that others would treat their kids differently because of the Fire Horse myth. Japanese people practiced birth control, and used abortion all in an effort to not have children during the year of the Fire Horse.
Josephine Baker was born in 1906, a Fire Horse woman, as was Chandrashekhar Azad.
posted by infini (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Superstition is a hell of a drug.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:26 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


Woman born in 1966, a fire horse year, right here.
posted by matildaben at 3:32 PM on January 30 [7 favorites]


Year of the Wood Horse
Great!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:38 PM on January 30


Eh, astrology is all a bunch of cock and bull to me.

or rooster and taurus, if you prefer
posted by ckape at 3:54 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Fire Horses
posted by unliteral at 3:55 PM on January 30


Wow. The silly things that people earnestly believe affect childhood development.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go purchase a zillion Baby Einstein DVDs and some greatest hits compilations of Mozart.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:07 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Better known is the stigma attached to girl children in China in general. The male:female birth ratio is 117:100 right now, compared to roughly 105:100 naturally.
posted by Nelson at 4:14 PM on January 30


How does the fact that this affects everyone born in an entire year come into play, culturally?

Does trying hard not to have a fire horse baby (Japan in 1966) imply that classes are smaller in school? Is it easier to get a job after graduation?

What does it do to demographics when "nobody" wants to marry a woman born in 1966?

I guess what I'm curious about is, are things like this actually borne out in census records and the like, and if so, how does that actually play out?

One thing that has always fascinated me about the Chinese zodiac is that the traits are supposed to apply to every single person born in a certain year. Maybe it seems so weird because in the US, people tend to be so strongly segregated by age group?
posted by Sara C. at 4:15 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


(I should note the exact gender imbalance numbers are somewhat controversial. Various sources put it at 120:100, 112:100, or 118:100.)
posted by Nelson at 4:17 PM on January 30


So these kids born in the Year of the Wood Horse...do they come out of the darkness, holding one thing? Do they know they have a power, perhaps? And when they're dead, is there anything they'd like us to tell anyone?
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:21 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


So these kids born in the Year of the Wood Horse...do they come out of the darkness, holding one thing? Do they know they have a power, perhaps? And when they're dead, is there anything they'd like us to tell anyone?
They just want to be a rider like their father.
posted by a power-tie-wearing she-capitalist at 4:25 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Fire Horse Woman here. I did bury a former husband who passed at age 46, does that count?
posted by annieb at 4:34 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Love being a female fire horse. I hope I've been scaring all the right people all these years. And thinking about other awesome female fire horses in my life, I'm pretty sure we have been.
posted by rtha at 4:58 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


boo! in a ghostly scary voice sort of way
posted by infini at 5:04 PM on January 30


My Chinese born barber provided me with a detailed horoscope each year, that has proven to be scarily accurate the last three years. It was always given to me when I go went for the January appointment. The forecast is always concluded with the important reminder that "Jesus loves you."

The barber has moved away so I've got no idea what will happen this year or of Jesus loves me.
posted by humanfont at 6:31 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]


annieb: "Fire Horse Woman here. I did bury a former husband who passed at age 46, does that count?"

Only if he was alive when you buried him. (j/k, sorry for your loss!)
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 6:49 PM on January 30


Superstitions are hilarious.

Japan uses the Chinese zodiac too, but since the US occupation they recognize the start of the new year for the purposes of the zodiac as Jan 1st, rather than the lunar new year. Because my birthday falls in January, this means I have a different Chinese zodiac sign in Japan than I do where I live now (Hong Kong).

When I lived in Japan, everyone would tell me "Oh you are year of the horse!" and then list off all the ways in which I was clearly influenced by that. Here, people say "oh, you are year of the snake!" and then list off all the ways in which I am clearly influenced by that.
posted by modernnomad at 7:09 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


My Chinese born barber provided me with a detailed horoscope each year, that has proven to be scarily accurate the last three years.
humanfont
I wish I'd met someone like humanfont's barber before I paid for readings. Now, I no longer waste money on / don't believe in / astrology readings at all, and think they are a joke. (Duh.)
posted by simulacra at 8:52 PM on January 30




I'm curious how the adjectives are thought up/determined/cycled through. I knew about the "list" of animals that simply repeated, but this is the first time I've heard of qualifiers in front of them such as "fire" or "wood." Any insight, anyone?
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:07 PM on January 30


The Chinese calendar is a lot more complex than I thought, although I suspect part of this is down to a badly-written Wikipedia article. Apparently the five elements cycle independently of the twelve zodiacal signs, so a complete cycle takes sixty (5 * 12) years. But the real work of the calendar is carried by the Metonic Cycle, which the ancient Chinese must have very presciently copied from the Talmud, just like the ancient Greeks and Babylonians did.

The word for today is embolismic, an adjective which describes a period added to a lunisolar calendar to make lunar months (averaging 29.53 days) fit inside a tropical year (about 365.24 days). Usage: The Jewish calender uses an embolismic month to provide work for printers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:51 PM on January 30


Kung Hei Fat Choy!
posted by Coaticass at 1:44 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


heh snorts
posted by infini at 3:35 AM on January 31


The Japanese adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873, so that Lunar New Year was no longer observed. The implication for Korea was that during the Japanese occupation, celebration of the Lunar New Year was suppressed. Celebrating Lunar New Year was thus a form of resistance against the Japanese colonial occupiers. Subsequent Korean governments continued discouraging the celebration of Lunar New Year. It wasn't until 1989 that Lunar New Year again became a public holiday, and gradually the importance of the Western New Year's day was reduced, so that by 1999 only Jan. 1st was a holiday, while Jan. 1 - Jan.3 according to the Lunar New Year were public holidays. Until 1989, Jan. 1- Jan. 3 by the Western calendar had been holidays.

In practice this means that most Koreans keep track of both their lunar and Gregorian calendar birthdays, and important days for Confucian rites such as death days of relatives, by the lunar calendar. Fortune telling and Chinese zodiac signs use one's lunar calendar birthdate.

As for me, this means I get to have New Year's day soup twice, on each of the Jan. 1 of the respective calendars :)
posted by needled at 5:15 AM on January 31


I'm an "Iron Pig", apparently. My horoscope tells me to avoid "Fire Snakes," to which I say "Duh!"

Does China do the horoscope via blood type as well, or is that just a Japanese thing?
posted by Karmakaze at 6:28 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


As a fire horse male, I can confirm that fire horse women are spectacularly awesome. Here's to a stellar 2014!
posted by malocchio at 6:30 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]


Happy Lunar New Year to all the people in the world, including East, Southeast, and diasporic Asian people, who celebrate.

Lunar New Year. Not "Chinese" New Year. More than just people of Chinese descent celebrate.

Yay, horses!
posted by simulacra at 3:34 PM on January 31 [1 favorite]


O Tempora, O Hores:

BBC welcomes Year of the Whores.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:16 PM on February 1


The Beeb/UK really needs to get over the very old spiel of "teeming hungry masses of Asia"
posted by infini at 10:38 PM on February 1


« Older And this is my column this week.   |   Suffer A Witch To Live! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post