Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Year of the Pig

This is the 12th of the zodiac animals. The zodiac animals, in order, are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

Year of Pig Ushers in Hopeful Year
A pig ironically has a dual image _ both positive and negative.
Since it began living as a domestic animal in Korea some 2,000 years ago, pigs have brought a lot of myths and superstitions closely associated with wealth, good luck and sometimes a mythical supernatural power in sacrificial rituals.
However, pigs are also synonymous with greed, laziness, stupidity and dirtiness.
Pigs found in Korean history carry these mixed blessings long grafted onto folk culture and handed down to current times.
This year will find many people fussing a lot more than usual over all kinds of myths and rumors as the year of 2007 ushers in the year of a pig, hopefully an abundant year.
Year of the Golden Pig?
The belief about pigs is expected to be exaggerated more than ever this year.
The lunar calendar designates each year as one of the 12 zodiac animals; the pig is the 12th zodiac animal.
The lunar year follows the sequence of the 12 zodiac animals _ rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and lastly, pig.
But this pig year, called the year of "chonghae," which means a red pig, returns every 60 years. Among other pig years circling in a lunar cyclic numeral system, the red pig year is believed to be the most auspicious pig year, according to a research of the National Folk Museum of Korea. The red pig year is considered a year of booming businesses and family.
More interestingly, this year is strongly believed to be the "Year of the Golden Pig," which only comes around every 600 years, according to fortunetellers, a rumor that emerged in Korea and China.
People believe children born this year will be blessed with good luck and financial wealth. As wedding halls were crowded in 2006, maternity hospitals are expected to be in 2007.
Regardless of whether it's just superstition or not, the impact on society has been quite enormous. The nation predicts that birthrate is expected to rise 10 percent from the previous average because of the myths of the Year of the Golden Pig, helping maternity and baby related industries enjoy a boom much like the effects of the millennium baby boom in 2000.
However, many say that this will be debunked just as 2006, which was dubbed the year of ``two springs’’ (lunar calendar) and also a lucky year for couples to get married, was just feeding wedding-related businesses.
Folklorists say that the year of the golden pig is groundless as it is hardly mentioned in Korean history, except for the mythical story about Choi Chi-won, a literati during the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D. 935).
According to the museum’s research, the myth says that Choi was the son of a golden pig with magical powers that kidnapped a county magistrate’s wife. The magistrate rescued his wife from the pig by using leather from a deer, which the pig feared, based on the mythical belief. Later, the wife gave birth to Choi, who was believed to be the pig’s baby.
A Mythical Animal with Supernatural Power
Although Korean historical records do not buttress the myths about the year of the golden pig, some attribute mythical meanings to pigs such as in the "Samguksagi," a history of the Three Kingdoms _ Paekje (18 B.C.-A.D. 660), Koguryo (37 B.C.-A.D. 668) and Silla (57 B.C.-A.D. 935) _ written during the Koryo Kingdom by Kim Bu-sik and "Koryosa," a history of the Koryo Kingdom (918-1392).
According to the museum, the two history annals include a story where a pig helped the kingdoms designate the capitals of Koguryo and Koryo in Kungnaesong and Songak respectively.
In Samguksagi, one day, King Sansang, who had no son, was given a supernatural instruction from a god to have a baby. During a ritual, a pig that was to be sacrificed ran away and a woman helped to catch the pig. The king had sexual relations with her and she bore him a son.
Like this, pigs played prophetic roles for many rulers and sometimes as a messenger connecting them to god.
Sacrificial Animal in Rituals
From ancient times to the present day, it is easy to see heads of pigs on tables as sacrificial offerings during shamanistic rituals, and sold in traditional markets due to consistent demand.
The folk custom to use a pig’s head as an object of worship and symbol of abundance dates back to the Koguryo Kingdom. Pigs were sacrificed in Samguksagi, when people prayed to the gods of heaven and earth.
People pray for success to the heads of pigs when they start on a venture such as opening a business or even before filming of a movie.
Symbols of Wealth, Good Luck
Pigs are omnivorous animals that survive well under any climate and circumstances.
They also are fertile giving birth to 6 to 12 piglets on average, and grow faster than any other animal. For that reason, a shop owner hangs a picture on his wall of a pig feeding a lot of piglets, symbolizing fertility and abundance.
Also, dreams about pigs are thought of as auspicious, foretelling the gain of wealth. When people dream of a pig at night, they often buy lottery tickets or make an investment.
Also, the dream considered as a sign of conception as a pig symbolizes fertility.

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