|Zhu Bajie wishes you a Happy Pig Year!|
This Tuesday, February 5th, 2019 is the beginning of the Chinese New Year for the Year of the Pig. The pig is the last animal in the cycle of the Chinese zodiac; next year the series will start again with the Year of the Rat.
Interestingly, those who object to identifying with the pig (as do Chinese Muslims) call this Hai (亥) year, Hai being a special character used in Chinese timekeeping and ordering systems. This of course is an unusual case; those who object to being rats, snakes, dogs, etc. simply have to live with their situation. (Note however that we say someone is “of the year of the rat” and not just “a rat,” unless the conversation is already about zodiac animal years.)
It was difficult to look over my collection for older examples of pigs, but I did manage to find this pair of carved panels, taken from some larger piece of furniture, showing wild boars chasing through the woods. The scene is typical of many forest scenes, with animals wandering through a forest of trees, with birds and flowers also present. Boars do exist in the wilder parts of Taiwan; the aboriginal craftsmen use boar tusks in many types of artifacts and jewelry.
The white specks in the border of the panels are crushed pearl shell, and like the gilding would have given the panel some glitter in an age of lower lighting levels.
This close-up of the second panel shows the tusk more clearly.
One of my earlier posts was about the pig-god, Zhu Bajie. Zhu Bajie was a character with a human body and a pig’s head, whose escapades were recorded in the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West. He then somehow became deified and entered a new career in Chinese folklore.
I usually don’t repeat images from earlier posts, but Zhu Bajie was so long ago that I don’t think that most of my readers saw that article, and I didn’t have the prescience then to know that I would be needing antique Chinese pigs for a future post!
If you want to learn why the pig-god Zhu Bajie is revered by prostitutes, take a look at the earlier story.
On Chinese New Year, the tradition is to give red envelopes filled with money to young people. To make it more fun, I try to add various small gifts associated with the specific year. This year I was lucky to find these colorful glass pig paperweights.
I had the extra fun of calling people up and asking them to choose a color, without specifying why, so I would know what color pig to give them as a surprise. The colors in the photo look a little different—the originals look somewhat more intense.
The pig is considered a lucky animal, and the Year of the Pig is considered especially favorable for wealth, prosperity, and even romance. Pigs are considered good at working, but also somewhat lazy, so perhaps Pig Year will favor idleness, a good sign for me personally.
With all this good fortune available, do you have any special plans for the Year of the Pig? In any case, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous Pig (or Hai) Year!
P.S. This post is dedicated to blogger The Vintage Contessa and her pet pig, Banksy, who will have to be our mascot for this special year.
All photos and original objects property of the author.