|This was my Chinese New Year's greeting card in 2006, sent to my Japanese friends.|
On the left it says in Japanese Hei sei 18, "18th year of the peace era". Each new emperor of Japan names his reign poetically. This is the 18th year of the current emperor's reign, which he calls the "era of peace". It's 2006 in the Western way of counting years, so I used 12 (the number of months, and the number of animals in the Chinese zodiac) + 6 (for '06, our way of counting years) = 18. 2006 was the "year of the dog" in the Chinese zodiac. The pets are divided into 3 groups of 4 for the 3 months in each of the 4 seasons of a year, plus another 6 for the years 2000 - 2006. The small Chinese characters next to the dogs say "spring, summer, autumn, winter".