The year of the snake

February 8, 2013

Beijing, China

By Barry Huang

With the year of the dragon coming to an end, Chinese people will embrace the year of the snake. The snake, the sixth sign of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals, is also called “junior dragon” due to its Chinese dragon-like appearance. According to ancient Chinese belief, the snake is the form of the dragon before it obtained divinity and learn to fly.

Studies show that people born in the year of the snake share certain characteristics. Like the snake, they are keen and determined and know how to maneuver themselves to their own destinations. They are also sophisticated and calm and not outwardly emotional; however, many of them also have an ounce of paranoia that runs in their blood. One of the most well-known people born in the year of the snake is China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong.

Although the universal perception of the snake is mainly that of a poisonous and evil guise, it has long been worshiped in China as a divine creature. According to Chinese mythology, the well-known creators of mankind, the “Chinese Adam and Eve” — Fu Xi (also known as the first of the Three Sovereigns of ancient China) and his sister and/or wife Nüwa, were described as “half human, half snake”. In many parts of northern China, in the past having a snake living in the house meant good fortune. People regarded the house snake as a guardian god, and if a mischievous child ever beat it or scared it away, terrible things would happen to the family.

The snake is also very useful in traditional Chinese medicine. It is often advertised that it can cure everything from farsightedness to hair loss. Many people, especially in southern China, maintain the culture of eating snakes, drinking snake wine (produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol), consuming snake blood and even its gall bladder.

For example, snake soup, one of the most famous and probably most terrifying cuisines in Hong Kong, has been regarded as a delicacy for hundreds of years and many locals believe that it is blessed with spiritual powers. Correctly prepared, it’s said that a bowl of the soup strengthens the ankles, cures malaria and prevents all sorts of diseases that come from exposure to cold winds. It also tastes good.

Above all, the Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday of the year for Chinese people. We have family reunions, we exchange gifts, we let off fireworks and enjoy temple fairs. It certainly brings new challenges every year, like the toxic air and the chaotic spring travel rush. But this is the time of year we celebrate before setting new goals and new resolutions. I wish all of you, in the coming year, blessings from the divinity of the snake and hope that you maneuver yourself to success.

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

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