The Sheng xiao -better known in English as the Chinese Zodiac- is a scheme that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a twelve-year cycle which repeats and completes a sexagenary cycle (sixty years). The zodiac begins with the sign of the Rat and finishes with the Pig. The 12-year secuence is always the following: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

The animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself.  There are also animals assigned by month, day and hours of the day. The combination of one´s birth year, month, day and hour are a part of the four pillars of Chinese astrology which determine one´s fate

In Chinese culture, the pig is associated with fertility and virility. To bear children in the Year of the Pig is considered to be very fortunate, for they will be happy,honest, hard working, peace-loving and trusting.   The day is also divided according to this sequence: from 10 pm to  midnight is the hour of the Pig. In the old days, China and Japan used a 12 hour system to tell the time of day and night (unlike the 24 hour system used today).

All these elements can be seen in the water clock fountain known as Haiyantang.

A priceless bronze pig head dating from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was recovered and returned to its home in Beijing in September 2003 for the first time after being removed by invading foreign troops 143 years before.  The head is one of the 12 bronze animal-head-human-body sculptures representing the 12 Chinese zodiac figures that once adorned a water clock fountain in the Old Imperial Summer Palace which was built from 1709 onwards. The heads were lost after British and French troops ransacked and burned the palace during the Qing dinasty Second Opium War in 1860.

Haiyantang (Hall of the calm sea) where the water clock fountain with the 12 zodiac animals was located and which housed the hyraulic fountain machinery, was situated in the Garden of Eternal Spring. The fountain pool was flanked by the 12 animals, six on a side, representing the two-hour period into which the Chinese then divided day and night.

Only four heads (Pig, Monkey, Ox and Tiger) were recovered and now exhibited in the Poly Art Museum in Beijing. It attracted thousands of visiors during the Lunar New Year holiday. The Rabbit and  Rat heads are part of designer Yves Saint Laurent´s collection housed in France and sold to an anonymous bidder by auction in Christie´s on 25 February 2009. It is believed the rest of  the missing pieces are stored at the British Museum and Louvre Museum.

European misioners at the court of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) designed the sculptures, which court artisans fashioned. The bronzes are a perfect combination of Western and Chinese arts, and hold a very important position in the history of Chinese sculpture.

According to Chinese Calendar, if the year of the Pig was from 18th February 2007 until 6th February 2008, which animal corresponds to 2010?. Make a guess and do not cheat please!

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