02 November 2020
Lunar New Year — Year of the Rat 2020
Issued on: 2020-11-02
Printing: Offset lithography
Face value: 5 x $55 (booklet pane), #320 (souvenir sheet)
The Zodiacal Rat or Zodiacal Mouse is the first of the repeating 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac, constituting part of the Chinese calendar system (with similar systems in use elsewhere). The Year of the Rat in standard Chinese is 鼠年 (pinyin: shǔnián); the rat is associated with the first branch of the Earthly Branch symbol 子 (zǐ), which starts a repeating cycle of twelve years. The Chinese word shǔ (鼠) refers to various types of Muroidea, such as rats and mice. The term “zodiac” ultimately derives from an Ancient Greek term referring to a “circle of little animals”. There are also a yearly month of the rat and a daily hour of the rat (Chinese double hour, midnight, 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.). Years of the rat are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the rat (over a sixty-year period), each rat year also being associated with one of the Chinese wu xing, also known as the “five elements”, or “phases”: the “Five Phases” being Fire (火 huǒ), Water (水 shuǐ), Wood (木 mù), Metal (金 jīn), and Earth (土 tǔ).
The year 2020 is the Year of the Metal Rat. Metal (金; pinyin: jīn), the fourth phase of the Chinese philosophy of Wu Xing, is the decline of the matter, or the matter’s decline stage. Metal is yin in character, its motion is inwards and its energy is contracting. It is associated with the autumn, the west, old age, the planet Venus, the color white, dry weather, and the White Tiger (Bai Hu) in Four Symbols. The archetypal metals are silver and gold.
In Chinese Taoist thought, Metal attributes are considered to be firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength, and determination. The metal person is controlling, ambitious, forceful, and set in their ways as metal is very strong. They are self-reliant and prefer to handle their problems alone. The metal person is also wise, business-oriented, and good at organization and stability. However, the metal person can also appreciate luxury and enjoy the good things in life. Just as metal can conduct electricity, the metal person has strong impulses and generative powers and can bring about changes and transformations for those who come into contact with them. The metal person is patient, as well as a good person with a strong will.
In traditional Chinese medicine, metal governs the lung and the large intestine, nose and skin. The negative emotion associated with metal is grief, while the positive emotion is courage. Many sources aimed at a Western audience equate Metal with the attributes of the element Air.