The youngest pigs are those born between 18th February 2007 and 6th February 2008. The Pig is kind, caring, and good natured. They love to socialize and enjoy being around people. But just like the animal those born in the year of the pig are considered lazy, clumsy and greedy.
Whilst quick tempered and impulsive they hate to argue. Loyal to those they know, they may have only a few friends. They may also be too trusting and naïve.
Several well known pig leaders include the 16th century English king Henry VIII, the 40th President of the United States Ronald Reagan, and Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist Party leader of China until his government and army retreated to Taiwan in 1949.
Writer Stephen King, and film director Alfred Hitchcock were also born under the sign of the pig as were the actors Woody Allen, Arnold Schwartzenegger and Julie Andrews.
The pig or zhū (猪) features in only a few Chinese idioms. Once again they are not always looked upon favourably. For example zhū gǒu bù rú (猪狗不如) which translates as “worse than pigs and dogs” is used to describe individuals who behave badly.
Ní zhū wǎ gǒu (泥猪瓦狗) or “mud pig, earth dog” also makes reference to both the dog and pig and is used to describe completely useless people or things.
Yī lóng yì zhū (一龙一猪), one dragon one swine, once again looks disparagingly at the pig and suggests one individual might be very capable, whilst another is extremely incompetent.
Rén pà chū míng zhū pà zhuàng (人怕出名猪怕壮) which translates as “A man dreads fame as a pig dreads being fat” concerns itself with the risks faced by those that seek to be famous.
One idiom that has its roots set in stone is ban zhū chī lǎohǔ (扮猪吃老虎) which translates as “pretend to be a pig in order to eat the tiger” or more simply put “play dumb”.
It is one of "The Thirty-Six Strategies" a Chinese collection of 36 proverbs cited as militaristic tactics and often attributed to Sun Tzu, though many scholars believe they were written by Zhuge Liang of the Three Kingdoms period.
Whoever first penned the phrase, it means to hide behind the mask of a fool, a drunk, or a madman to create confusion about one’s intentions or motivations.
By “playing dumb” or “pretending to be a pig” one would thus lure an opponent into a false sense of security, encouraging them to drop their guard, thus enabling one to go in for the kill and “eat the tiger”.
The pig features in a few stories too. One of the best known and widely loved characters in Chinese literature is Zhu Bajie (猪八戒), often translated as "Pigsy", and who features in the novel Journey to the West (Xī Yóu Jì, 西游记), a story widely known in the West as “Monkey. Pigsy is portrayed as a symbol for man's appetites and lack of restraint. Perhaps even more disparagingly, in the original Chinese novel “Pigsy” is often called dāizi (呆子), meaning "idiot".
And there we leave the poor little pig and come to the end of our journey exploring the Chinese Zodiac, the twelve animal signs, associated stories, phrases and idioms.
We’ll be back though, to explore more words through China’s food and culture. Until then, wishing you all a happy new year of the horse. Xīn nián kuài lè (新年快乐) - Happy New Year.