Dirty, fat-headed, unavoidably traif—the poor pig has been much maligned in Western culture. But tonight, Porky will get his comeuppance. To ring in the Lunar New Year, millions of people around the world will set off fireworks, exchange red envelopes filled with cash gifts, and feast with their families. 2019 is the Year of the Pig, bringing with it extra reason to celebrate: Among the 12 animals represented in the Chinese zodiac, the pig—the last in the cycle—promises wealth and good fortune.
How did the pig come to be associated with such prosperity in China? As a favorite food among all social classes, it symbolically represents feasting. Its vaunted status is further solidified by its inclusion in the character for home, jiā, which shows a stylized depiction of pig under a roof. In fact, the animal has long been domesticated in China, and it was common for pigs to live with rural families. The pig, that pivotal symbol of sustenance and wealth, has thus been widely represented in Chinese art over the last 2,000 years.