01/21/2004, 00.00
china - hong kong
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The Year of the Monkey : facts and news about serious and semi-serious things (profile)

Dedicated to John Paul II, born during the Year of the Monkey, with the hope of improving relations with China

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SE) – The Year of the Monkey falls in 2004 according to the Gregorian Calendar, but in the year 4701 according to the traditional Chinese calendar, in which each year is represented by an animal during a 12 year cycle. According to legend, it was Buddha who assigned the symbol of an animal to each year, choosing the first 12 animals of those who went out to meet him upon his departure from earth.

In terms of their order of arrival, from the first to the twelfth,  Buddha assigned an animal to each year. The monkey was the ninth animal to arrive.

Based on this system, every 12 years the cycle ends and then starts up again, always in the same sequence. According to popular belief, the animal's traits have an influence on the personalities of people who are born during the specific year. The year's events are likewise influenced. According to legend, the calendar system dates back to the Xia dynasty (XXI – XVI. cent. B.C). It was born in rural setting, according to observations of natural and seasonal phenomena by Chinese farmers who, in an essentially agricultural society, tried to optimize their harvest.    

Emperor Wu Di of the Han dynasty (206 BC. – 220 AD) changed this traditional calendar, in which the New Year falls on the first day of the new moon during the phase in which the sun's position is found in the sign of Aquarius according to the Gregorian Calendar (Jan. 21-Feb. 20). Even if upon the foundation of the Chinese Republic in 1911 the Gregorian Calendar was officially adopted, the traditional calendar is still well rooted in Chinese everyday life and the Lunar New Year has been renamed the "Spring Festival" (Chunjie).  (MR)

Those born under the sign of the Monkey

According to Chinese tradition, people born in the Year of the Monkey are spontaneous, cordial, versatile and social. They have a great memory, a quick learning capacity and are very practical. They have the gift of never boring anyone, of bring a smile to every occasion, of laughing at themselves, of not losing friendship even when their distinguished cleverness enables them to have the better of the situation. Yet, they have many dark sides: they are noisy, messy, impolite, opportunistic, disloyal, competitive, jealous, interested in power and money.  

Among the famous persons born during the year of the monkey are: John Paul II, Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Giorgio Bocca, Bruno Vespa, Rudolph Giuliani, Jacquelin Bisset, and Tom Hanks. Among the others are: Julius Cesar, Charles Dickens, John Milton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Paul Gauguin, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Eleanor Roosvelt, Harry Truman, Giovanni Guareschi, Cesare Pavese, Elio Vittorini and Walter Matthau.

The monkey is also an animal often filling the stories and legends of Chinese literature. One of the most famous examples is the fantasy novel is Xiyou Ji, "Voyage to the West" by Wu Cheng'en's (1506-1582), the story of a trip to India made by the Buddhist pilgrim, Xuanzang.


The Year of the Monkey in History

The following events have characterized the history of China and the Chinese Church during the nineteenth century, when the year was that of the Monkey:



-         Belgian priest Vincent Lebbe (1877 – 1940) persists in proposing to the Church a new evangelization "strategy" –China for the Chinese and the Chinese for Christ". He founds an apostolic lay movement in Tianjin.


-         Fr. Lebbe is sent to France for having protested against the system of "unequal treatment" which the Church imposed on China in the city of Tianjin.

-         For the first time Chinese woman students were admitted of the University of Beijing.


-         Japan bombs Shanghai


-         The world is at war and the West is largely under the control of Germany

-         Hong Kong and part of China are under Japanese control

-         Allied forces land in Normandy on June 6



-         In May Mao Zedong launches the  "Hundred Flowers Campaign"

-         Some representatives of the Catholic Church meet with government officials to create at a Patriotic Catholic Association (June 19-25).

-         Many bishops and lay people are imprisioned


-         Richard Nixon is elected president of the United States. Later he is able to open China to the rest of the world.



-         Cardinals Etchegaray and Koenig visit China.

-         Bishop Zong Huaide is elected president of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association at the association's third national conference.

-         Dominic Tang Yimeng, bishop of Guangzhou, is released after 22 years in jail. The bishop of Shanghai, Gong Pigmei, remains in prison.

-         The "Gang of Four" are brought to trial

-         Shanghai's Cathedral in Xujiahui is reopened


-         Deng Xiaoping urges radical economic market reforms

-         The bishop of Baoding (Hebei province), Joseph Fan Xueyan, of the  "Underground Church", dies under mysterious circumstances. 10,000 faithful attend his funeral.

-         The Sheshan Seminary celebrates its tenth anniversary. Since it opened on Oct. 11 1982,  70 priests have been ordained.

-         The national catholic seminary officially opens its new site in Beijing and 60 seminarians enter their first year of theological studies

-         Eight bishops die in one year
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