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The Snake

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On February 10th the Chinese Year of the Snake has begun, extending into end of January 2014.

The Chinese New Year, or Spring Festival as it is called since the 20th century, is the most important traditional Chinese holiday, and it still is the time for feasting with the family and exchanging gifts. Since it is based upon the lunar cycle its exact date varies from year to year, always beginning between January 21st and February 19th depending upon the full moon (the Western calendar has been adopted in China in 1912).

New Year decoration posters for inviting good luck & fortune.

The Snake -蛇Shé – is one of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. In Chinese symbology, snakes are regarded as intelligent, but with a tendency to be somewhat unscrupulous – and it is associated with Yin and the element Fire.

Check your personal Chinese zodiac sign here!  Born on January 25th, 1965 I am a Dragon, more specifically a Wood Dragon – and there exists a connection between the Dragon and the Snake with the later also viewed as “the Dragon’s less accomplished brother.”

Nüwa and Fuxi, Tang Dynastie, 618-907 AD; source: Bildlexikon China – Reich der Mitte, Parthas Verlag (publisher)

But as you can see from the picture above, the Snake also stands for something else, for a beginning: Nüwa (the women, on the left) and her husband Fuxi, who is also her brother, with their lower parts of their bodies consisting of two intermingling snake tails. They represent the most important ancestors in Chinese culture and together they are the first in the row of The Legendary Rulers of China.

As with any mythological tale there are many different narrations: despite of being viewed as the creator of human beings, Nüwa is displayed as a wife, sister, man, tribal leader (or even emperor), repairer of the Wall of Heaven, etc.

Interested in another Chinese creation myth? See my previous post on Pángǔ.

Further bits:
More on the Chinese New Year (wiki) and its history.
The World of Chinese.
On Snakes in Chinese mythology (wiki).
China Daily, on snakes in food, celebrity snakes, snake tales, the Mercedes Benz Snake Year Edition….

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