Is the Chinese New Year 2015 associated with sheep, goat or ram? There is no straight answer.
Is the Chinese New Year 2015 associated with sheep, goat or ram? There is no straight answer.Wikimedia Commons

As Chinese New Year approaches, many questions have been asked about which animal the year symbolises. Many have claimed that the New Year starting on 19 February 2015 will be that of a 'Sheep' while many other literature have called it a 'Goat's Year'. Some still refer to it as the year of the 'Ram'.

As a matter of fact, there seems to be confusion on what exactly to call the 'horned' animal associated with the year. Each of the 12 years in the Chinese zodiac cycle is represented by an animal further associated with five elemental signs.

The word used in Chinese for 'Sheep' is 'Yang' but there is contention that the very same word can often be used to describe other horned animals such as a goat or a ram. This could perhaps be the reason some scholars have chosen the expression 'The Year of the Horned Animal' while describing the upcoming year.

However, there seems to be general consensus that the animal associated with the upcoming year, most likely, is 'Sheep'. More often than not, we have been hearing the 'Year of the Wood Sheep' in descriptions of the year starting 19 February, while also many have also used 'ram' in reference to the same.

"The Chinese character yang can be translated as all of these animals – even the gazelle is called yang in Chinese," CNN quoted Isaac Yue, who teaches Chinese mythology at the University of Hong Kong as saying.

Many of the items seen in markets selling Chinese New Year gifts, look either like sheep or goats and sometimes like curly-horned rams – an instance that signifies there is uncertainty over which animal to use precisely.

So that means, as long as it is 'Yang', whether you call it sheep, goat or ram would be irrelevant. However, since much of the western media have been calling it a sheep's year, it won't be wrong to follow the bandwagon for convenience's sake.