The calendar was set over 6 thousand years ago and is split into sexagemary cycles of 60 year each.
The animals that you see in Chinese restaurants are called the "Zodiac" and they are the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Boar.
Aside from the animals being assigned to a person by the year (outer animals), they are also assigned by month (called inner animals) and by the hours of the day (called secret animals). This creates a total of 8,640 possible combinations that a person might be and all aspects are critical for the proper use of Chinese astrology.
But the purpose of this post is not to explain how to do Chinese Astrology, which would take forever.
Dave from the Cat's Eye blog linked to a post called Satan in the Litter Box in the Rake Magazine.
It is a commentary piece by someone who does not have a good relationship with their cat, and it is not a well researched or thought out piece either. She writes - among other things - that there are no "Man's best friend" genre movies staring cats, or bomb sniffing cat or seeing-eye cats. There are actually "seeing-eye cats" that see for other cats. We are a little short to serve as guides for humans, but there are cats that work as hearing-ear cats for humans.
As for movies try 1965's That Darn Cat! or 1978's The Cat from Outer Space, both of which have heroic cats in them. There are more, I just cannot think of them all right now.
Then the writer goes on to say:
"The next time you go out for dim sum, check out the animals on your placemat. You’ll find a pig, a goat, a rat, even a snake! There is no year of the cat in Chinese astrology. They have a dragon. A pretend animal was better than a cat."
Cat was domesticated in Egypt about 5 thousand years ago, a full thousand years after the Chinese made their calendar. So they could not include a domestic cat because there were not invented at the time. Dragons on the other hand, were known from fossils of Dinosaurs and were more "real" at the time then a Domestic Cat.
Felines are however represented in the Chinese Zodiac by the Tiger, which is associated with good fortune, power and royalty and which is viewed with both fear in respect. Generally all Eastern cultures believe the Tiger, not the Lion is the king of beast. (I tend to agree, Lions are lazy and selfish.)
The Tiger is similar to Aquarius in the Western cultures, but its fixed element is wood, not water.
Tiger people are difficult to resist, for they are magnetic characters and their natural air of authority confers a certain prestige on them. They are tempestuous yet calm, warm-hearted yet fearsome, courageous in the face of danger yet yielding, soft and mysterious in unexpected places. (This sounds very much like a Cat, does it not?)
They enjoy a life full of challenges and unexpected events, like visiting unusual places and meeting interesting or outstanding people. Other people in their area are easily attracted by the tiger's enthusiasm and way of life. Tigers find pleasure in the unpredictable, and while other people would rather make a backward step, they are not afraid to explore the new and unusual. But it is not that simple to interest the Tiger. What they really need is first-hand experience.
Usually open and frank, these people are likely to withdraw and can be aggressive when trapped. As soon as Tigers have regained their sense of security their confidence also returns, enabling them to set out once more. These people usually tend to trust their instincts, though there is another side of their personality, which assesses situations thoughtfully before they launch any actions.
Their friends usually secretly admire their determination and optimism, though sometimes may find it complicated to share the Tiger's enthusiasm and can be pushed away and left behind. Although Tigers can be courageous and generous friends, if they are not able to achieve what they want, they can be inflexible and self-centered. So if your friend was born in the year of the Tiger, there will be highs and lows in your friendship, but the friendship itself will remain firm.
Tiger people are most compatible with Horse, Dog and Pig people, but they do not like Rat, Ox, Snake, Rooster or Monkey people.
Tiger is a winter sign, associated with the month of February, their color is Green, and their gemstone is the Sapphire.
The last Year of the Tiger was from 28 January of 1998 to 15 February of 1999 and it was an Earth Tiger year. The next "Year of the Cat" will be from 15 February of 2010 to 3 February of 2011 and it will be a Metal Tiger year.
Years are assigned one of the five elements (energies, or forces) - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water - just like they are assigned cycles of animals. These are considered modifiers to the characteristics of each of the 12 animal signs. Each of the animal signs is governed by a Yin or Yang direction as well.
Again, I do not wish to get into the whole system of Chinese Astrology here, although it is really a fascinating subject. Much information is available on line and there are a number of good books available on the subject if you should wish to learn more.
I just find it unfortunate that there are so many ignorant individuals in this world, and that some magazines or newspapers actually allow them write and publish things.
I had meaned to write this on Saturday, but I got distracted and before I knew it, Saturday was all over. Then Sunday came and went as well.
In any case, Catnip Corner has given me this Bloggers of the World award. This award was created by Colin and the only rule for this award seems to be that you link back to Colin as the point of origin of the award.
In turn, I would like to pass this award on to Dragonheart and Merlin in Germany, Adan in Taiwan, Mickey in Nova Scotia, Yao-Lin on Isle of Wright in the UK, and Pablo Down Under.