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On Year of The Rat - Origin of the Names of the 12 Animals in the Vietnamese Zodiac Revisited
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dchph

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Gianhập: Nov.15.2002
Nơicưtrú: Global Village
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On Year of The Rat - Origin of the Names of the 12 Animals in the Vietnamese Zodiac Revisited

By: dchph

As a matter of fact, the Yue elements left inerasable marks in Chinese. The names of those of animals in the Vietnamese zodiac table are good examples. The Sino-Vietnamese sound versions of them could have evolved from a complete round trip from the Yue to the Chinese and back to Vietnamese that was a survival descendant of the Yue, again. Back in time prior to the eras of the "Han" 漢朝, the "Qin" 秦朝, the "Chu" 楚國, the "Yue" 越國, the "Wu" 吳國, etc.., in both cultural and linguistic terms, the original Yue zodiac elements definitely had evolved into those of Chinese with the original names of the 12 animals now that being called in modern Vietnamese as


  • 'chuột' 子 zǐ (rat),
  • 'trâu' 丑 chǒu (ox),
  • 'cọp' 寅 yǐn (tiger),
  • 'mèo' 卯 măo (cat -- rabit? impossible),
  • 'rồng' 辰 shěn (dragon),
  • 'rắn' 巳 sì (snake),
  • 'ngựa' 午 wǔ (horse),
  • 'dê' 未 wèi (goat),
  • 'khỉ' 申 shēn (monkey),
  • 'gà' 酉 yǒu (rooster),
  • 'chó' 戌 xù (dog),
  • 'heo' 亥 hài (pig)

that each carries the coresponding Sino-Vietnamese sound in later period, 'tý', 'sửu', 'dần', 'mẹo', 'thìn', 'tỵ', 'ngọ', 'mùi', 'thân', 'dậu', 'tuất', 'hợi', along with the later Tang's (Middle Chinese) Sino-Vietnamese sounds, 'tử', 'xú', 'dần', 'mão', 'thần', 'tỵ', 'vị', 'thân', 'dậu', 'tuất', 'hợi', respectively.

Except for the odd variant of VS 'khỉ' and VS 'rắn' -- 'thân' = 'khọn', and '巳 sì' like the shape of a snake and the sound similar to 蛇 shé = SV xà for 'rắn') though -- VS 'cọp' carries the connotation of 'dữdằn' as in 'dữ như cọp' (as dreadful as a tiger), so ''dần' = 'dằn' (dreadful) with all name-callings for those zodiac animals matching perfectly with today's Vietnamese sounds, respectively.

Now that the Chinese say '鼠年' (nămchuột), '牛年' (nămtrâu), '羊年' (nămdê), etc, in place of '子年' (nămTý), '丑年' (nămSửu), '未年' (nămMùi), or 'Year of the Rat', 'Year of the Ox', 'Year of the Goat', whereas 鼠=子, 牛=丑, and 未=羊, respectively.

Note the discrepancy of the Chinese 兔年 'Year of the Hare' and the original one of the Yue as 'Year of the Cat' (卯年 nămMèo) because 卯 măo certainly must be "mèo" . It is no-brainer for an academician to learn of what implication permeates therefrom. In this specific example, the substitution took place probably due to the supposition that in ancient times for the "Chinese" cats were superstitiously considered as "sacred animal" (靈動物 língdòngwù) so 卯 măo (cat) as 貓 māo (SV 'miêu') was substituted with '兔 tù' or VS 'thỏ' (hare)' 卯 măo curiously remained unchanged , though, which left a solid evidence for all the world to see. Besides, the original southern '未 Wèi' of the equivalent concept of 'Goat' was replaced with those of 'Ram' or 'Sheep' (羭 yú) even though 羊 Yáng still means 'goat' (cf. Tchiewchow /yẽw/) because the northern Chinese -- admixture of ancient Altaic Turkish origin (see Peter A. Boodburst. Turk, Aryan and Chinese in Ancient China 1942. [ compiled by Alvin P. Cohen. Ibid. 1979> ) -- are associated themselves with '羊' in the sense of ''sheep' or 'lamb' 羔 gāo (VS cừu) -- It should be called the "Year of the Goat", NOT "Ram" nor "Sheep", because 未 wèi is "羊" yáng (dương), that is 'dê', pronounced /je1/, in Vietnamese, /jẽ1/ in Tchiewchow, /jũ1/ Amoy, or /jew1/ Haninanese, etc., which cannot be anything else but 'goat', or to be exact, 'mountainous goat' that is represented in modern dissyllabic form as 山羊 shānyáng.

If you ask any Chinese scholar why 羊 should be "ram" or "sheep" for the name of 8th animal in the duodenary cycle, they could not explain why logically -- where '羊' is the soul, being central to many core Chinese characters 美 měi (beautiful), 善 shàn (kindness), 膳 shàn (meal), 糕 gāo (cake), 羹 gēng (broth), 義 yì (righteousness), 議 yì (discussion), etc.) In other words, what the early 'pre-Chinese' -- in the era that no Chinese had ever existed then yet -- absorbed from the Yue and then in turn passed them down to the Han Chinese, who later re-introduced them back to the Southern Yue along with many other etyma such as 'chiếcđũa' 箸子 zhúzi (chopsticks) vs. 筷子 kuàizi, VS 'chanh' 橙 chéng (lemon = modern Chinese 檸檬 níngméng) vs. VS 'cam(+sành)' (橙+)柑 gān (orange), etc. That is, all 'mixed items' of as late as the Han Dynasty had transcended to become what the academics now call "Sinitic" could be descended from the Yue and gace back to the early 'Annamese' whose ancestors, in turn, had been of the fusion of both ancient Yue and Old Chinese, so to speak.

The etymological postulation of the zodiac items and other cultural concepts as discussed above may also help explain why Sinitic etymonic
items are customarily accepted by the Vietnamese naturally for their intrinsic Yue values and they both have been cited as of "Sinitic" to the effect that Vietnam was even referred to as "Little China" in the book by the same title by Brodrick (1942), all for a good reason. For instance, the annual festival called 端午節 or TếtĐoanngọ (the Dragon Boat Racing Festival) that occurs on the 5th day of the 5th month of Lunar calendar is to commemorate the death of the Chu's martyr named 屈原 Qǔ Yuán (Khuất Nguyên). The racing boat custom to save the drown patriot dated back prior to the Qin Dynasty, which was shared by all other people of the six ancient states that succumbed to the hands of the Qin State.

Read more at:
What Makes Chinese So Vietnamese? by dchph

- Ngườihiệuđính: dchph vào ngày Jan.30.2020, 08:40 am

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