Chinese Zodiacs with the Cities They Represent

The animals of the Chinese Zodiac make themselves felt in many aspects of Chinese life, history and culture beyond their mere assignment to individuals in accordance with the year of their birth. Were you aware that each animal has its 'hometown'? Let's take a look at these animals in their assigned residencies and find out why they live there.

Dragon, Beijing (龙, 北京)

If any animal may be said to dominate the Chinese zodiac, that animal is the dragon. A symbol of royalty, its appropriate home is Beijing, the Chinese capital.

With a history of over 3,000 years, Beijing reins supreme in the public imagination, both nationally and internationally, in their considerations of China. Through the centuries it has transformed itself from an imperial capital to that of a modern and thriving economy, and its nature has changed along with it while retaining much that is ancient as testament to its greatness in the past.

In considering its modernity and vibrancy in the present day, the visitor would do well to see Sanlitun Bar Street, (三里屯酒吧街), China's National Grand Theatre, (国家大剧院), the magnificent 'Bird's Nest' Olympic stadium, ('鸟巢'), and the 'Water Cube', ('水立方').

These sit alongside Beijing's historical and more scenic spots. The world's biggest Imperial Palace is to be found within the walls of the Forbidden City and the Palace museum. The magnificent Temple of Heaven pays testament to ancient worship practices and, with Beihai, we see landscape architecture at its best with the ancient royal gardens. The Summer Palace mingles both stately Imperial architecture with pleasant, carefully-crafted scenery. More grandeur may be seen with a visit to the Prince Gong Mansion, (恭王府). No trip to Beijing — nor even China — would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall, and Beijing boasts some of its finest architecture with the sites of Badaling and Mutianyu, (慕田峪长城). With all this on show, the Ming Dynasty Tombs in the city seem almost ironic; it is as if those late, great Emperors had never died as they live on through the architecture they inspired. China's more recent history is reflected here as well through the vast expanse of Tiananmen Square, the government building of the Great Hall of the People, and the Monument to the People's Heroes.

Surely any trip to China would be incomplete without a visit to Beijing.

Ram, Guangzhou (羊, 广州)

Unlikely as it is you will meet many rams walking down the streets of Guangzhou it is, nonetheless, their city and, indeed, has it as its nickname —Ram City. The connection arises from an old legend in which five rams blessed Guangzhou, to commemorate which there is a statue of the event in Guangzhou's Yuexiu Park. Moreover, the five rams feature on Guangzhou's coat-of-arms, in the praise of the locals for the 'Eight Sights of Ram City', and in numerous local brands, committees, building and business names and titles.

The rams blessed the city well. Thanks to its location, it has proved an important place way back into Chinese history. The starting point of the Maritime Silk Road, it became known as 'China's Southern Gate'. Its port has proved invaluable through centuries for the trade it has brought to the nation as a whole. This is not to say that all eyes of the inhabitants are on the practical things of life. They found time here to develop a cuisine admired throughout the world and take great pride in it with the phrase 'East and West, Cantonese Food is the Best'. As boasts go, this has some foundation; they have enough admirers around the world that many would not argue.

If it is food you're after, you would do well to visit Old Xiguan, (老西关), with its diverse range of flavors. For shopping more generally there are the two commercial pedestrian streets of Shang Xiajiu, (上下九路商业步行街), and Beijing Road, (北京路商业步行街). The modern Guangzhou is a shopper's paradise indeed, pulling in goods from all over the world as well as providing better opportunities than most to shop for indigenous Chinese goods. Don't get carried away and forget the culture here, though. With a history of 2,200 years there's much on show of historical importance. Check out Zhenhai Tower, (镇海楼); the Tomb of the Nangue King, (南越王墓); the Chen Clan Academy, (陈家祠); Six Banyan Temple, (六榕寺); Guangxiao Temple, (光孝寺); and, of historical significance itself, White Cloud Mountain, (白云山).

Tiger, Shanghai (虎, 上海)

The commercial heart of China against which even the capital, Beijing, pales by comparison, Shanghai is the Tiger of the East in its coastal position on the banks of the Huangpu River. This immensely favorable location has seen Shanghai able to exploit not only trade routes overseas, but also the reception of goods along the Yangtze River from deep within the heart of China. Indeed, so favored is the location that it has been sought after by foreign powers as a base of operations and so has a rich and varied history unique to China, as well as being a name well-recognized abroad for its historic significance in the cultures of other nations. Such is its commercial importance that it is one of four cities in China that have been granted provincial-level status.

Shanghai is worth wandering, not only for the shopping and the modern wonders that seem to spring from the ground as Shanghai thrusts itself into the twenty-first century, but also for the sites of historical significance in its old quarters, including old colonial buildings and ancient Chinese villages that have been swallowed up as it expands. Amongst the unmissable of its many attractions are the Oriental Pearl Tower, (东方明珠); Chongming Island, (崇明岛); and, not forgetting the shopping opportunities, Nanjing Walking Street (南京路步行街).

Pig, Chengdu (猪, 成都)

The relaxed and self-indulgent image of the pig is well-suited to Chengdu. This is a city whose history has seen it the recipient of the good things in life more than most. Relatively free of conflict, situated at the heart of the productive farmland of Sichuan province known as the 'Heavenly land of plenty', Chengdu is a city of calm plenty, the perfect place to sit back and enjoy what's on offer.

That is not to say that modern Chengdu is passive. In the modern day, it plays a significant role in the rise of China as a center of science and technology, a hub for commerce, trade, finance, transportation and communication. In China's vast mid-west, Chengdu plays a highly significant role.

Chengdu is the home of the panda, with two major breeding bases located here — Bifengxia Panda Base, (碧峰峡大熊猫基地), and Chengdu Panda Base (成都大熊猫基地). Indeed, the city is far more famous for this spectacular and unique black-and-white resident than for its association with pigs, but the pigs don't mind. They don't want all the attention. They're content dining on what's on offer here in the varied Chengdu cuisine —Mapo Tofu, (stewed bean curd with minced pork in pepper sauce); Kung Pao Chicken, (spicy diced chicken with peanuts); and eggplant with garlic sauce. Let the tourists coo over the pandas. While they're distracted, all the more food for the pigs.

Rooster, Xi’an (鸡, 西安)

As the crowing of the rooster is associated with the dawn of the day, so Xi'an is associated with the dawn of Chinese civilization. There is a saying in China. '20-year-old China; Shenzhen. 100-year-old China; Shanghai. 1,000-year-old China; Beijing. 5,000-year-old China; Xi'an'. Such is its importance in world civilization that Xi'an deservedly finds its place alongside Athens, Rome and Cairo in the top-four ancient capitals. From the 11th century BCE to the 10th century CE, Xi'an hosted no less than 13 dynasties and regimes in the flux of Chinese history.

Xi'an is a crucial stopping-point for any visitor to China for one of the most spectacular archaeological finds ever made — that of the Terracotta Army beneath nearby fields, (秦始皇兵马俑), preserved today in situ. To come to China and not to see the Terracotta Army would be as strange as to buy a lock without a key. If anything says 'China', this is it.

Rabbit, Hangzhou (兔, 杭州)

In its lively, sweet delicacy, the rabbit is perfectly matched with the city of Hangzhou. Though one of the Eight Great Ancient Capitals of China, now the capital of Zhejiang province, its pragmatism has never overshadowed the beauty of its location which has had it deemed 'Heaven on Earth' in the Chinese mind, and which led Marco Polo to describe it as '... the finest and most splendid city in the world'.

The main reason for all this praise is West Lake. It is, perhaps, the most famous lake in all China, not only for its own intrinsic beauty, but also for the history that surrounds and complements it in ancient buildings and revered locations. It is in Man's harmony with nature that West Lake is unique and reigns supreme. Of particular note are the Temple of the Soul's Retreat, (灵隐寺); the Tomb of General Yue Fei, (岳飞墓); the Pagoda of Six Harmonies, (六和塔); Flying Peak, (飞来峰); Three Pools Mirroring the Moon, (三潭印月); and Dreaming of the Tiger Spring (虎跑泉).

Horse, Shenzhen (马, 深圳)

If any city in China has moved forward at a gallop, that city is Shenzhen. In the few decades since China's opening-up policy was put into action, Shenzhen has exploded out from very humble beginnings into a huge metropolis, testament to its advantageous location for trade situated next to Hong Kong and with favorable access to the sea and thus international commerce. When it comes to sheer commercial power, those few decades have seen Shenzhen rise to fourth position behind Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. There can be no other place in China as symbolic of the rapid changes that have taken place in the nation as a whole.

However, Shenzhen is not all about economics. This is a vibrant, lively city packed with life and activity given that it has a largely youthful population drawn in from all quarters in China. Nor has it lost all its scenic attractions in the thrust to modernization, while it has added a few scenic spots of its own in its modernity. Check out 'Splendid China', ('锦绣中华') Sea World, (海洋世界); the Wildlife Park, (野生动物园); the Rare Botanical Garden, (珍稀植物园); and don't forget the beaches, with some of the prettiest and most clement bathing opportunities around China.

Further Reading:

For a general overview of the Chinese zodiac and animal years, check out our Chinese Zodiac pages, with links to the different animals,compatabilityin love, a folk tale derived from the zodiac and information on how the animals not only divide the years up between them, but also the hours of the day.

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