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Monday, 25-Feb-02 14:41:28 EST Space Chinese New Year: the Year of the Horse
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The Year of the Horse



At midnight on 11 February 2002, the Chinese Year of the Snake will end and the Chinese community in Australia will welcome in the Year of the Black Horse. Happy Chinese New Year!

The Chinese tradition follows a different calendar to the calendar followed in Australia - Australia follows the Gregorian calendar.

Although the People's Republic of China follows the Gregorian calendar for its day-to-day business, the dates of the Chinese New Year and other important festivals are determined by the Chinese calendar.

The Chinese calendar is thought to have been invented by Emperor Huangdi, nearly 3000 years BC.

Many different varieties of calendar have been used by different cultures
The Chinese calendar is not the only one which differs from the Gregorian. There are many different varieties - the Islamic Calendar, the French Revolutionary Calendar, the Mayan Calendar, the Hebrew Calendar, and the Druid calendar all have different ways of calculating the passage of time.

The passing of time came to be measured according to the movement of objects in the heavens - like the moon revolving around the earth or the earth revolving around the sun - because these objects moved in regular, predictable ways and that movement could be measured.

Gregorian: earth around the sun
For example, the Gregorian year is based on the movement of the earth around the sun, and the idea of a month came about from the measurement of the moon's revolution around the earth - although our months no longer coincide with that revolution.

Islamic: moon around the earth
The Islamic calendar is still based on the movement of the moon around the earth, but doesn't have anything to do with the earth's movement around the sun.

Year of the HorseThe Chinese calendar
In the Chinese calendar an ordinary year has 12 months, a leap year has 13 months. An ordinary year has 353, 354 or 355 days and a leap year 383, 384 or 385 days. Leap years are determined by counting the number of new moons between the 11th month in one year and the 11th month in the next year. If there's 13 full moons then a leap month must be inserted. In the Chinese calendar, the year 2001 had a leap month!

The other interesting thing about the Chinese calendar is that it doesn't count years continuously as the Gregorian calendar does. It works in 60 year cycles and each year has a name made up of two parts. The first part is a Heavenly stem and the second part is a Earthly branch.

These different calendars mean that Australians, with a diverse multicultural community, always have something to celebrate!

The Chinese in Australia
Chinese people first came to Australia in large numbers during the Gold Rush in the 1850s and 60s and many Chinese-Australian families can trace their settlement in Australia to that time. Monuments and buildings developed by Chinese settlers serve as reminders of the long history of Chinese immigration to Australia. Examples remain in towns like Ballarat and Bendigo in Victoria and memorabilia is displayed in museums like the Chinese Museum in Cohen Place, Melbourne, and the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo - and of course in our vibrant Chinese-Australian communities.

Australians have not always been welcoming to Chinese immigrants. On the gold diggings there were a number of instances of violence against Chinese prospectors - the most well known is probably Lambing Flat (now called Young) where thousands of Chinese were run off the diggings by non-Chinese. The diggers argued the Chinese used too much precious water and were taking opportunities away from Europeans.

The White Australia Policy
The desire to remove Chinese immigrants and labourers from Australia, and to prevent more from arriving, had plenty of supporters. By the late 1800s all Australian colonies had passed legislation restricting the immigration of Chinese people. This anti-Chinese feeling grew to include all non-Europeans - including Japanese, Indians and Kanakas (Pacific Islanders).

In 1901, one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the newly federated Commonwealth of Australia was the Immigration Restriction Act which was designed to make it virtually impossible for non-Europeans to immigrate to Australia. The Act required that immigrants pass entrance tests in European languages.

Britannica Online says, "The essential clause of the Act, rather than naming particular races or groups for exclusion, provided for a dictation test in a European language to be administered to prospective immigrants; an East Indian with a knowledge of English could be given a test in French, German, or, if need be, Lithuanian".
(Source: "Immigration Restriction Act" Britannica Online

Arthur Calwell, Australia's Minister for Immigration in the 1940s and, later, leader of the Australian Labor Party, said in his autobiography "Be Just and Fear Not" (Hawthorn, Vic. Lloyd O'Neil in association with Rigby, 1972.), "Some people talk about a multiracial society without knowing what the term really means, while others talk about it because they are anxious to change our society. No matter where the pressures come from, Australian people will continue to resist all attempts to destroy our white society."

However, the attitudes of Australians towards non-European immigration did change. Beginning with the end of the White Australia Policy in 1966 an increase of non-European immigrant numbers under the Whitlam Government in the 1970s continued with the Fraser Government through to the 1980s to create a multicultural, multiracial, tolerant and diverse society.
(Source: Department of Immigration Migration Fact Sheet 5, http://www.immi.gov.au/facts/05policy.htm, accessed 1 February 2000).

The Chinese community in Australia is in itself diverse in its origins - many were originally from the People's Republic of China, but others have emigrated to Australia from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Some have been in Australia for generations, others are new arrivals.

As a result of unrest in the People's Republic of China which culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, 25,000 Chinese students were granted Australian residency.

Australia's biggest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, have famous Chinatowns - Dixon Street in Sydney, and the area around Little Bourke Street in Melbourne - which are a hub for restaurants, Chinese grocery stores and other small businesses, and centres for the celebration of festivals such as Chinese New Year.

Horse Year of the Horse
Chinese New Year, pronounced in Chinese as "xin nian", occurs on the first day of the first month of the lunar calendar. There are different version of the story behind the development of the Chinese zodiac, but all the versions are based around a race called by an Emperor to determine the animals to be represented. The cunning Rat hitched a ride on the back of the Ox and crossed the winning line first. The Rat was followed (in order) by Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

According to the Chinese zodiac, you take on the characteristics of the animal associated with year of your birth, but those characteristics are also influenced by what time of day you're born, what fixed element you belong to (water, metal, wood, fire, earth), as well as the influence of Yin and Yang.

The Year of the Horse in 2002 will not be a peaceful year. Horse years are notorious historical turning points - turbulent, untamed, and chaotic. However, this horse year is said to be marked by increased commercial activity and interest in outdoor pursuits and physical exercise. People born in the Year of the Horse are typically cheerful, skilful and perceptive. They are popular, talkative, confident and intelligent, manage their money well and love their freedom.

Horse years in the 20th century are 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990 and 2002. 

The Chinese-Australia community holds a variety of events to celebrate the arrival of the Year of the Horse. Ever since 1979 the 92 metre long Great Dragon (Dai Loong) has appeared in the streets of Melbourne in Chinatown and he, and the 80 people it takes to carry him, appeared at the Chinese New Year celebrations. While in Sydney festivities stretch to two weeks and include a grand parade, Dragon boat and sedan chair races and night markets from 26 January to 17 February 2002. The Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras will be presenting a Chinese New Year Party at Darling Harbour's Chinese Gardens of Friendship on Sunday February 10.

The Perth Mint has released a silver proof coin series to celebrate the Year of the Horse.

Links: Chinese zodiac and calendars

Links: The Chinese in Australia

Links: White Australia and multicultural Australia

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