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Zodiac Heads: Boar

(zhu 猪) 9–11 p.m.

The boar, one of the earliest animals to be domesticated in China, played an important role in both Chinese culture and diet. It was a symbol of wealth in ancient China, and pigs’ heads are found as offerings in some rich Neolithic burials of north China where the pigs presumably had been used as sacrificial offerings. Images of pigs or boars are not uncommon in prehistoric art, and in tombs of the early dynastic period archaeologists often discover miniature pigsties filled with animals, a reference to the earthly wealth of the deceased. The pig also appears in stories and legends. Zhu Bajie or Monk Pig, a half-man, half-pig creature, plays an important role in the novel Journey to the West, which narrates the pilgrimage to India of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang. According to the tale of the twelve-animal race by which the Buddha determined the order of the zodiac animals, the boar arrived late at the finish line, but in its last few steps managed to trample the cat, who, having just awakened from a long sleep, was trying to rush ahead. The boar thus earned the twelfth place, beating the cat who arrived in thirteenth place and was left out of the twelve-animal cycle. —Paola Demattè in Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals, ed. Susan Delson

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