你属什么呢? (What zodiac sign are you?)

你属什么呢?
Nǐ shǔ shénme ne?
What Zodiac sign are you?
What star sign are you?

René was often asked his star sign according to the twelve astrological animals in the Chinese lunar calendar. René had learned the pecking order of the animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

He wondered why the rat ranked number one in the astrological pecking order. His Chinese professor gave him the following explanation:

The Jade Emperor wanted to choose twelve animals to determine the order and sequence of the lunar calendar. The story goes that the order would be determined by a race. A date was announced. An absent-minded cat forgot the date and asked the rat when the race would take place. The rat led the cat astray by giving telling him a wrong date. The cat missed the race and vowed later to kill the rat.

René wondered if that was why cats chased rats or mice.

René had no idea of what was being said when he first heard the expression你属什么呢?, the English equivalent of ‘What Zodiac sign are you?’

属in this context means ‘of the twelve animals representing the year in which you were born, which one are you?’

René was born in 1980 which according to the Chinese Zodiac meant that he was born in the year of the monkey.

When talking about someone’s age, it’s very common to hear it expressed as ‘so-and-so is younger or older than me, they were born in the year of the…..’

Example:

她比我小一岁, 是属牛的.
Tā bǐ wo xiǎo yísuì, shi shǔ niú de.
She is one year younger than me. She was born in the year of the ox.

René went online and googled in English ‘Chinese Zodiac.’ He made it a habit for a couple of months to ask all his Chinese friends what their Zodiac sign was to allow him to mentally work out how old they were.

If he had a friend that was one year older to him, then he knew they were born in the year of the rooster (鸡), and if one year younger, the year of the Ram (羊).

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