Happy Chinese New Year of the Monkey

Year of the Monkey (epicfireworks/Flickr)

Under the lunar calendar, year of the Monkey comes around every 12 years, and February 8 marks the start of the year of the Monkey in 2016. It is a great opportunity for all of us to learn about Chinese customs and beliefs through fun and interactive activities.

Do you (and your students) know what the following individuals have in common: Leonardo da Vinci, Yao Ming, Miley Cyrus, Will Smith, President Harry Truman? They are all “Monkeys"—born in a year of the Monkey. Do you know any other “Monkeys" in your life?

We suggest introducing common characteristics associated with monkey in Chinese tradition, such as witty (机灵; jīling), curious (好奇; hàoqí), energetic (有活力; yǒu huólì), and many more. See the list below for more examples:

Are Usually … But Can Be … Typically …
Witty Mischievous Have many interests
Intelligent Restless Need stimulating friends
Curious Deceptive Prefer urban life to rural
Cheerful Egotistical Don't hide their emotions
Energetic Arrogant Are always snacking
Flexible Quick-tempered  
Confident Unreasonable  
Charismatic Snobbish  
Charming The center of attention  
Good leaders Opportunistic  
Fast learners    

Students may enjoy calculating which years in the past and the future are years of the Monkey:

  • 1908: 02 Feb 1908–21 Jan 1909
  • 1920: 20 Feb 1920–07 Feb 1921
  • 1932: 06 Feb 1932–25 Jan 1933
  • 1944: 25 Jan 1944–12 Feb 1945
  • 1956: 12 Feb 1956–30 Jan 1957
  • 1968: 30 Jan 1968–16 Feb 1969
  • 1980: 16 Feb 1980–04 Feb 1981
  • 1992: 04 Feb 1992–22 Jan 1993
  • 2004: 22 Jan 2004–08 Feb 2005
  • 2016: 08 Feb 2016–27 Jan 2017

This can be a good opportunity to practice numbers and months!

It may also generate a lot of excitement for students to discover other “Monkeys” who are their celebrities and idols—do they share any simian characteristics? If possible, have them take a picture with that “Monkey" and post on social media with the phrase "I found a “Monkey" plus a list of traits of the said “Monkey.” Make sure to post in both Chinese and English and use both hashtags #yearofthemonkey and #猴年!

We hope to see lots of "Monkeys" surface online!

Happy Chinese New Year of the Monkey!

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