Saturday, February 17, 2018

Why cat missing from Chinese zodiac calendar?

It's a very interesting question by a blogging-FB matey, Mandy Ping.

Mandy asked quite curiously, "Why isn't there a Cat year", when we have in the Chinese zodiac in succeeding order, the year of the rat (or mouse), bull (or cow), tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram (or goat), monkey, rooster, dog and piggy.

Of course it all started in the ancient land of China. Thus to answer Mandy's question we need to travel to China to investigate. Incidentally, China is today demonised bizarrely by the very Malaysians who once supported it and, supported by the very people who once demonised it, wakakaka.

Last year (2017) I wrote (extracts):

About, say, 30 years ago, when Malaysia was a neutral venue for international badminton matches between the two badminton giants, China and Indonesia, Chinese Malaysians frequently irritated Malay Malaysians by vociferous support for the Chinese team while Malay Malaysians did likewise by their ardent cheering of the Indonesian players.

Both accused each other of being disloyal to Malaysia, but with both failing abysmally to realise that without Malaysian players in the matches, what loyalty would we be talking about?

Why should we be loyal to either a foreign China or a foreign Indonesia? Mind, cheering for a foreign team is exactly like what some of us do when supporting Germany or Brazil or even England during the World FIFA Cup competitions.
But attitudes have changed since, with many Chinese Malaysians being vehemently against China investing in Malaysia, while UMNO Malays are doing exactly the opposite.
For example (wakakaka):

In 1983-4 Lim Kit Siang was demanding accountability from then-PM Mahathir during the Bank Bumiputra (BMF) loan disaster, then the biggest loss by any bank in the world (keeper of Malaysian Book of Records, note that superlative in BMF's 'loss', wakakaka).

But today Kit Siang is singing a different song, one totally 180 degrees from what he did 33 years ago. Yes, he's now defending Mahathir vis-a-vis the former PM's slothful revelation of what happened to BMF then in Hong Kong, which also saw the tragic (and associated?) murder of young Jalil Ibrahim.

Ooops, I've deviated from the missing cat story. I guess it must have been due to the loose cat hair floating around or more likely, gross bullshit (from Zodiac animal No 2) lying around, wakakaka.

OK, we're into Chinese history (or myths) now. I gathered same from several website so as to get more information than what my granddad told me. The info are quite good so I have done a fair bit of cut & paste though quite considerably edited and amended by me i.a.w my granddad's version, wakakaka.

Beyond satisfying the spiritual needs of an agrarian society that Chinese was and in many ways still are, the use of astronomy and astrology was also an imperative of the ancient emperor, who had the responsibility for ensuring harmony of everything under heaven.

To rule well and with prestige, one needed to be accurate in astronomical matters. Perhaps that is why the Chinese calendar, including the zodiac, became so entrenched in Chinese culture, to such an extent that reforming the calendar system was viewed as appropriate if political change then was eminent.

Mythology has it that aeons ago in China a la 'Long long ago' (wakakaka) the Jade Emperor* (Lord of Heavens) made an announcement to the animals.

* some story said it was Buddha, but Buddhism has nothing to do with Chinese culture, especially an aspect of Chinese culture which predated Buddha by several thousands of years 

"Come to my place on the morning of New Year's and extent me a cordial greeting. Whoever comes first will be considered the first guardian of the year and the number will end at twelve."

Twelve was the limit because even several thousand of years ago, the Chinese knew it took 12 (waxing & waning of the) moons to make a year - from Spring to Spring.

All the animals that heard the announcement were anxious to become the first to visit the Jade Emperor.

They were all looking forward to New Year's.

However, the Cat was always forgetful (apart from being lazy) so he asked Rat to remind him when to visit the Lord of Heavens.

Yes, you may not believe it but at that time, the cat and the rat were good friends and neighbours.

The rat then promised to awaken his friend and go together. However, on the morning when he got up, he was too excited to recall his promise, and went directly to the gathering place. On the way, he encountered the ox, who took the trouble to wake up very early on that special day.

The cunning rat thought up a good idea. He made the straightforward ox carry him with a promise he would sing for the ox.

At last, the ox and him arrived first. The ox was happy thinking that he would be the first sign of the years, but the rat had already slid in front, and became the first lucky animal of the Chinese zodiac.

By the time the cat awoke and rushed to the abode of the Jade Emperor, it was too late; the selection was over.

That's why other animals appeared behind the little rat and why the cat hated the rat so much (still does today). Every time they meet, the cat will attempt to kill the rodent, just like Mahathir wanting to kow-tim Najib every time he meets, reads, hears about or sees his former mentee, wakakaka.

There were other stories during the animals' journey.

For example, the snake, apparently also a little sneaky, coiled around the foreleg of a horse in order to cross a river. When they got to the other side, it scared the horse and beat it in the contest.

But the dragon proved to be honourable and altruistic. By all accounts, the dragon would have won the race as it could fly, but it had stopped to help villagers cross a flooding river safely, or depending on the teller, it stopped to help create rain for a drought-ridden farmland.

After Rat and Cow, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
Many famous scholars in history had their own interpretations about this interesting topic. Hong Xun, a scholar in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279), explained his thought based on Yin Yang Theory.

Among the twelve animals, those in odd positions (1, 3, 5, etc), namely the rat, tiger, dragon, monkey and dog have five toes. Five is an odd number which is thought to be in yang side (or positive). Horse has one toe, which was considered also as an odd number, hence it was placed as No 7

Even-positioned animals (cow, rabbit, ram, rooster, pig) have toes of even numbers which are thought to be yin, negative. Snake has no toe but its tongue has two tips thus was considered as an even number. Ying and yang animal signs were thus interlaced nicely.

Beside the tricks that rat played in the first story, there are other legends about its priority in those animals. In Chinese mythology about the origin of world, the universe was in dark without form like an egg before the earth and heaven was separated.

It was the rat that bit a crack in the 'egg' and let the air in. Thus the rat became the hero which started the beginning of the world and thus an important creature.

Another story averred the rat's fore paws have four toes while the hind paws have five toes, with both odd and even numbers. For such a special creature among the twelve animals, the rat naturally was considered first.

After reading the above stories, we still should be aware of some fundamental Chinese beliefs, one being that the zodiac animals were the twelve most important animals in ancient Chinese's life, and were thus selected to represent the Chinese zodiac calendar.

Alas, the cat was absent in the list of 12 animals because, would you believe, there was then no cat in very ancient China.

Wikipedia informs us that A genetic study in 2007 concluded that all domestic cats are descended from Near Eastern wildcats [Northern Africa, the Near East (Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey)] and around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula, having diverged around 8,000 BC in the Middle East.

A 2016 study found that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China around 5,500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domesticated populations of today.

leopard cat 

A 2017 study confirmed that domestic cats are descendants of those first domesticated by farmers in the Near East around 9,000 years ago.

Thus the cat has been principally a creature of the Near East (Cyprus, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories, Syria, and Turkey and around the periphery of the Arabian Peninsula), which was quiet a way from China.


  1. Since we are on ancient tales..

    The Persian King of Kings Xerxes once became so vexed at the Greeks' refusal to bow to Persian overlords, he ordered his slave to remind him three times at every meal, "Sure, remember the Athenians".

    Ultimately, Xerxes obsession with the Athenians was his undoing , as it led him to poor strategic war decisions.

    Ktemoc has to bring his hatred for Mahathir into every post, even a non-relevant post about the Chinese Zodiac.

    1. I don't hate anyone - hate is too strong a word for just politics. I just dislike Mahathir for his mutilation of so many of our hallowed institutions but most of all for his anti Chinese words, actions and feelings

    2. the one sole person I have ever hated was a Chinese who has left this world, thus my hatred for anyone has disappeared, wakakaka - want me to hate you ;-) but it'll cost more than a penny, wakakaka again

  2. It's not correct to say that cat is not been represented in the Chinese zodiac.

    Wakakakaka...It ranks #3 in the Chinese zodiacal signs - tiger, its more fearsome cousin!

    The Chinese zodiac consists of twelve animals that first appeared in the Zhan Guo period [5th century B.C.]. No one knows the exact date as of when the zodiac was essentially created, but they were officially identified during the Han Dynasty [206 B.C.–9 A.D.], which was over 2000 years ago.

    There is a theory about why cat is not nominated in place of tiger.

    1) domesticated cat is not native to China is a myth as in the 2016 study found that leopard cats were undergoing domestication independently in China around 5,500 BC, though this line of partially domesticated cats leaves no trace in the domesticated populations of today.

    2) the ancient trade roads between China & countries in the Western territory, especially Arabs & Persians, should have introduced cat into China as early or earlier than 战国 period.

    3) unlike dog, cat was never prefered by the ancient Cinapek bcoz of

    A) cats are solitary hunters with strong territorial sense. They r non social & each individual is a pack leader to him/herself. There is very little filial piety behaviour in cat family.

    B) perhaps due to the Middle Eastern influence, cat has mystic link with the underworld. Same like the Egyptians considered cat as the keeper of the underworld. Hence cat is not allowed to roam freely during Chinese funeral site.

    On closer study of the Chinese zodiac signs, one would realise that all the chosen animals have their unique social pack order.

    Within a group/family, they see their pet parent as the pack leader, looking for direction and following it closely. They show respect to the group/family elders.

    This filial piety behaviour is highly valued by the Cinapek.

    Cat, as a loner & a army of one seldom shows such filial piety amongst the young as most cat lovers will notice.

    Hence, cat was never been considered as a honourable sign for the zodiac due to A&B.

    1. When the Vietnamese adopted the Lunar Calendar in the 14th century, they couldn't accept the much-loved cat being excluded. Rabbits, on the other hand, were of no consequence to Vietnamese, so the Cat replaced the Rabbit in the 12-year zodiac cycle.

  3. "But today Kit Siang is singing a different song, one totally 180 degrees from what he did 33 years ago."

    Pray show when where and how did LKS babbled such nonsense to absorb Mamak from his mis-deeds. All I come across is LKS wanted to ganged up with mamak to defeat Ah Jibgor, doing a KTemoc maintaining silence on mamak's mis-deed of the past and concentrating on the clear and present danger (prioritised man!). Therefore are you putting words in LKS's mouth? This is then amounting to false news and also bordering slander ler ....... wakakakaka

    Please don't say you meant the conduct implied so because similarly the British co-operate with the Malayan Communists during WW2, are you going to say British had accepted the Malayan Communists? Wakakaka ......