After over half a century of reading and collecting paper place mats from Chinese restaurants all over the world, I’ve decided to collate my collection and share the Wisdom of the East with anyone who believes that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of by western horoscopes.
As you probably know, according to legend, the twelve animals in the Chinese Zodiac are listed in the order in which they arrived for an important meeting called by the Buddha (or maybe the Jade Emperor). Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox approached the destination, the easy rider jumped off his back, and this is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, etc.
It might amuse you to know that, because of their birth years, Mozart and Shakespeare are rats, Richard Nixon and Barack Obama are oxen, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are rabbits, Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin are dragons, and Dick Cheney is a snake.
My mother tells me I was born on the day of a year when the “sympathetic” sheep was being ushered out by the “manipulative” monkey, that I am neither one nor the other but both, inheriting and exhibiting not just the best but also the worst characteristics of these two creatures. My mother doesn’t like people to know it, but she’s a pig. I console her by reminding her that Alfred Hitchcock is also a pig She loves his movies—Psycho, The Woman Who Knew Too Much, and, of course, Dial M for Mother.
What about you? If you have the stomach for it, you might want to check out your own beastly beatitudes below, courtesy of all the paper place mats from all the Chinese restaurants through the years which have contributed to my hardened arteries.
Rat: 1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008
Forthright, tenacious, systematic, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, hardworking, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, shrewd. Can be manipulative, vindictive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, scheming.
Famous Rats: Michelangelo Antonioni, James Baldwin, Charlotte Bronte, Truman Capote, Wilt Chamberlain, Prince Charles, Sasha Cohen, Eminem, Scarlett Johansson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Plato, Robert Redford, William Shakespeare, Leo Tolstoy, George Washington.
Ox: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009
Dependable, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, ambitious, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious. Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.
Famous Oxen: Pedro Almodovar, Johann Sebastian Bach, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charlie Chaplin, George Clooney, Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney, Anton Dvorak, Jane Fonda, Clark Gable, George Frederic Handel, William Inge, Rachel Maddow, Yukio Mishima, Paul Newman, Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, Vincent Van Gogh.
Tiger: 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010
Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable.
Famous Tigers: Emily Bronte, Fidel Castro, Sheryl Crow, Tom Cruise, Emily Dickinson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lady Gage, Langston Hughes, Jay Leno, Jerry Lewis, Karl Marx, Marilyn Monroe, Marco Polo, Beatrix Potter, Queen Elizabeth II, Jean Seberg, Jon Stewart.
Rabbit: 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011
Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.
Famous Rabbits: David Beckham, Johnny Depp, Zac Efron, Albert Einstein, Eartha Kitt, Whitney Houston, Angelina Jolie, Rush Limbaugh, Arthur Miller, Brad Pitt, Frank Sinatra, Leon Trotky, Orson Welles, Tiger Woods.
Dragon: 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012
Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, zealous, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, ambitious, artistic, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.
Famous Dragons: Edward Albee, Susan B. Anthony, Joan of Arc, Orlando Bloom, Sigmund Freud, Graham Greene, Bruce Lee, John Lennon, Florence Nightingale, Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin, Keanu Reeves, Ringo Starr, Mae West.
Snake: 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013
Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, ambitious, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.
Famous Snakes: Ann-Margret, Joan Baez, Dick Cheney, Bob Dylan, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, James Joyce, John F. Kennedy, Imelda Marcos, Pablo Picasso, Martha Stewart, Kanye West.
Horse: 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014
Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile (mentally and physically), magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.
Famous Horses: Muhammad Ali, Ingmar Bergman, Jackie Chan, Davy Crockett, James Dean, Clint Eastwood, Ella Fitzgerald, Harrison Ford, Aretha Franklin, Janet Jackson, Ashton Kutcher, Ang Lee, Silvana Mangano, Paul McCartney, Sandra Day O’Connor, Teddy Roosevelt, Sonia Sotomayor, Barbra Streisand, Mike Tyson, Luchino Visconti, Oprah Winfrey, Boris Yeltsin.
Sheep: 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015
Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.
Famous Sheep: Jane Austen, Catherine Deneuve, Anita Ekberg, Jamie Foxx, Mel Gibson, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, Franz Liszt, Michelangelo, Sam Shepard, Mark Twain, Rudolph Valentino, Barbara Walters, Bruce Willis, Orville Wright.
Monkey: 1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016
Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.
Famous Monkeys: Julius Caesar, Daniel Craig, Bette Davis, Federico Fellini, Jake Gyllenhaal, Louis Malle, Eleanor Roosevelt, Diana Ross, Will Smith, Elizabeth Taylor, Harry S. Truman, Leonardo da Vinci, Alice Walker, Naomi Watts.
Rooster: 1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017
Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated, given to empty bravado.
Famous Roosters: Catherine the Great, Amelia Earhart, Paris Hilton, Rudyard Kipling, Groucho Marx, Britney Spears, Peter Ustinov.
Dog: 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018
Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.
Famous Dogs: Brigitte Bardot, George W. Bush, Mariah Carey, Cher, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Doris Day, Benjamin Franklin, Jean Genet, George Gershwin, Jane Goodall, Herbert Hoover, Michael Jackson, Akira Kurosawa, Sophia Loren, Madonna, Shirley McLaine, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Donald Trump.
Pig: 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.
Famous Pigs: Lucille Ball, Humphrey Bogart, Hillary Clinton, Alain Delon, Thomas Jefferson, Ernest Hemingway, Alfred Hitchcock, Mahalia Jackson, Elton John, David Letterman, David Mamet, Keith Olbermann, Elvis Presley, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tennessee Williams.