Why cats are not in the Chinese Zodiac and other unexplained tales about Chinese New Year
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
Legends and myths in Chinese culture are so interesting yet so convoluted at times. Everyone knows about the customary stories about monster Nian and the Chinese Zodiac. But there are still confusions as to, why is there no cats in the Chinese Zodiac and what is the Sui monster?
What is the Nian monster?
The Nian monster is this beast that resembles a lion dragon hybrid. It is afraid of the colour red, loud explosions, noises and fire. According to Chinese folklore, it resides in the deep valleys in ancient China until the eve of Chinese New Year before it starts its annual pillaging in the villages. It was captured by a monk called Hongjun Laozu, who tamed the Nian monster and used it as a mount in his various sojourn.
The Nian has been a symbolic animal to Chinese families — given the amount of lion dances we see during Chinese New Year.
Why there are no cats in the Chinese Zodiac
Fun fact — cats do exists in the Vietnamese Zodiac, replacing the rabbit. However, in the original mythology, the cat did indeed exists in the Chinese Zodiac, however it lost the Great Lunar Race (A race to determine the years on the calendar that would be named for each animal in the order they finished the race) . The cat and mouse were initially friends, before the cunning and devious mouse betrayed the cat. According to the legend, both were riding on the back of the buffalo during the Great Lunar Race and as they were reaching the finish line, the mouse pushed the cat into the river and was placed first.
Because of this treacherous move, it is said to be the reason why cats still chase mice till this day.
The monster 'Sui'
Many know about the monster Nian, there is another monster called 'Sui' which means age in Chinese. When this monster touches a child, the child will be cursed. To protect these vulnerable children, parents would light candles and stay up all night.
One night, the Sui monster went into a boy's room and just as it was approaching the boy, the coins from a red pouch fell from the boy's bed and the glimmering light from the shiny coins drove the startled monster away. This is the reason why the money in Red Packets are called 'the money that suppresses the Sui Demon' (压岁钱).
In the meantime, we are having a special CNY sale over at our Me Book's store. Use the code 'MEBOOKSCNY2019' to get your books in time for the festive season. Available for all books and items.