Chinese zodiac

Chinese zodiac
The 12 Chinese zodiac jade figurines.
Shengxiao or Chinese Zodiac
20100720 Fukuoka Kushida 3614 M.jpg
The Chinese zodiac
Chinese 生肖

The Shēngxiào (Chinese: 生肖), better known in English as the Chinese Zodiac, is a scheme that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year mathematical cycle. It has wide currency in several East Asian countries such as Korea and Japan.

Identifying this scheme using the term "zodiac" reflects several similarities to the Western zodiac: both have time cycles divided into 12 parts, each labels at least the majority of those parts with names of animals, and each is widely associated with a culture of attributing influence of a person's relationship to the cycle upon their personality and/or events in their life. Nevertheless, there are major differences: the "Chinese" 12-part cycle is divided into years rather than months; contrary to the association with animals implied in the Greek etymology of "zodiac", actually four of the Western "signs" or "houses" are represented by humans (one such sign being the twins "Gemini") and one is the inanimate balance scale "Libra"; the animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations, let alone those spanned by the ecliptic plane.



Stone carving of Chinese zodiac

The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so (see below). The following are the twelve zodiac signs (each with its associated Earthly branch) in order and their characteristics.[1]

  1. Rat () (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water): Forthright, tenacious, intense, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, intellectual, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, and shrewd. Can be manipulative, vindictive, self-destructive, envious, mendacious, venal, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, and scheming.
  2. Ox () (Water buffalo in Vietnam) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water): Dependable, ambitious, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious. Can be stubborn, dogmatic, hot-tempered, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.
  3. Tiger () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, moody.
  4. Rabbit or () (Cat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, shy, astute, compassionate, lucky, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.
  5. Dragon / (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, artistic, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.
  6. Snake () (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.
  7. Horse / () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.
  8. Goat () (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, mothering, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.
  9. Monkey () (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, arrogant, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.
  10. Rooster / () (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, proud, opinionated, given to empty bravado.
  11. Dog / () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.
  12. Pig / () (Boar in Japan and Elephant in Northern Thailand) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water): Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naïve, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs and many western descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals), by day (called true animals) and hours (called secret animals).

While a person might appear to be a Dragon because they were born in the year of the Dragon, they might also be a Snake internally, an Ox truly and Sheep secretively. In total, this makes for 103,680 possible combinations (60 year cycle (5 elements × 12 animals) × 12 months × 12 days × 12 periods of the day) that a person might be. These are all considered critical for the proper use of Chinese astrology[citation needed].

Problems with English translation

Due to confusion with synonyms during translation, some of the animals depicted by the English words did not exist in ancient China. For example, 羊 can mean Ram, Goat or Sheep. Similarly, 鼠 (Rat) can also be translated as Mouse, as there are no distinctive words for the two genera in Chinese. Further, 豬 (Pig) is sometimes translated to Boar after its Japanese name, and 牛 plainly means Cow or Ox, and not Water Buffalo. Water Buffalo is 水牛。

Chinese calendar


Within the Four Pillars, the year is the pillar representing information about the person's family background and society or relationship with their grandparents. The person's age can also be easily deducted by comparing the sign of the person, the current sign of the year and the person's perceived age (teens,mid 20's, 40's and so on). For example, a person who is a tiger is either 12, 24, 36 or 48 years old in 2010, the year of the tiger. In 2011, the year of the rabbit, that person is one year older.

The following table shows the 60-year cycle matched up to the Western calendar for the years 1924–2043 (see Sexagenary cycle article for years 1804–2043). The sexagenary cycle begins at lichun 'about February 4' according to some astrological sources.[2]

  Year Associated
1924–1983 1984–2043
1 Feb  5, 1924 – Jan 23, 1925 Yang Wood 鼠 Rat Feb  2, 1984 – Feb 19, 1985
2 Jan 24, 1925 – Feb 12, 1926 Yin Wood 牛 Ox Feb 20, 1985 – Feb  8, 1986
3 Feb 13, 1926 – Feb  1, 1927 Yang Fire 虎 Tiger Feb  9, 1986 – Jan 28, 1987
4 Feb  2, 1927 – Jan 22, 1928 Yin Fire 兔 Rabbit Jan 29, 1987 – Feb 16, 1988
5 Jan 23, 1928 – Feb  9, 1929 Yang Earth 龍 Dragon Feb 17, 1988 – Feb  5, 1989
6 Feb 10, 1929 – Jan 29, 1930 Yin Earth 蛇 Snake Feb  6, 1989 – Jan 26, 1990
7 Jan 30, 1930 – Feb 16, 1931 Yang Metal 馬 Horse Jan 27, 1990 – Feb 14, 1991
8 Feb 17, 1931 – Feb  5, 1932 Yin Metal 羊 Goat Feb 15, 1991 – Feb  3, 1992
9 Feb  6, 1932 – Jan 25, 1933 Yang Water 猴 Monkey Feb  4, 1992 – Jan 22, 1993
10 Jan 26, 1933 – Feb 13, 1934 Yin Water 鷄 Rooster Jan 23, 1993 – Feb  9, 1994
11 Feb 14, 1934 – Feb  3, 1935 Yang Wood 狗 Dog Feb 10, 1994 – Jan 30 1995
12 Feb  4, 1935 – Jan 23, 1936 Yin Wood 猪 Pig Jan 31, 1995 – Feb 18, 1996
13 Jan 24, 1936 – Feb 10 1937 Yang Fire 鼠 Rat Feb 19, 1996 – Feb  6, 1997
14 Feb 11, 1937 – Jan 30 1938 Yin Fire 牛 Ox Feb  7, 1997 – Jan 27, 1998
15 Jan 31, 1938 – Feb 18, 1939 Yang Earth 虎 Tiger Jan 28, 1998 – Feb 15, 1999
16 Feb 19, 1939 – Feb  7, 1940 Yin Earth 兔 Rabbit Feb 16, 1999 – Feb  4, 2000
17 Feb  8, 1940 – Jan 26, 1941 Yang Metal 龍 Dragon Feb  5, 2000 – Jan 23, 2001
18 Jan 27, 1941 – Feb 14, 1942 Yin Metal 蛇 Snake Jan 24, 2001 – Feb 11, 2002
19 Feb 15, 1942 – Feb  4, 1943 Yang Water 馬 Horse Feb 12, 2002 – Jan 31, 2003
20 Feb  5, 1943 – Jan 24, 1944 Yin Water 羊 Goat Feb  1, 2003 – Jan 21, 2004
21 Jan 25, 1944 – Feb 12, 1945 Yang Wood 猴 Monkey Jan 22, 2004 – Feb  8, 2005
22 Feb 13, 1945 – Feb  1, 1946 Yin Wood 鷄 Rooster Feb  9, 2005 – Jan 28, 2006
23 Feb  2, 1946 – Jan 21, 1947 Yang Fire 狗 Dog Jan 29, 2006 – Feb 17, 2007
24 Jan 22, 1947 – Feb  9, 1948 Yin Fire 猪 Pig Feb 18, 2007 – Feb  6, 2008
25 Feb 10, 1948 – Jan 28, 1949 Yang Earth 鼠 Rat Feb  7, 2008 – Jan 25, 2009
26 Jan 29, 1949 – Feb 16, 1950 Yin Earth 牛 Ox Jan 26, 2009 – Feb 13, 2010
27 Feb 17, 1950 – Feb  5, 1951 Yang Metal 虎 Tiger Feb 14, 2010 – Feb  2, 2011
28 Feb  6, 1951 – Jan 26, 1952 Yin Metal 兔 Rabbit Feb  3, 2011 – Jan 22, 2012
29 Jan 27, 1952 – Feb 13, 1953 Yang Water 龍 Dragon Jan 23, 2012 – Feb  9, 2013
30 Feb 14, 1953 – Feb  2, 1954 Yin Water 蛇 Snake Feb 10, 2013 – Jan 30 2014
31 Feb  3, 1954 – Jan 23, 1955 Yang Wood 馬 Horse Jan 31, 2014 – Feb 18, 2015
32 Jan 24, 1955 – Feb 11, 1956 Yin Wood 羊 Goat Feb 19, 2015 – Feb  7, 2016
33 Feb 12, 1956 – Jan 30 1957 Yang Fire 猴 Monkey Feb  8, 2016 – Jan 27, 2017
34 Jan 31, 1957 – Feb 17, 1958 Yin Fire 鷄 Rooster Jan 28, 2017 – Feb 18, 2018
35 Feb 18, 1958 – Feb  7, 1959 Yang Earth 狗 Dog Feb 19, 2018 – Feb  4, 2019
36 Feb  8, 1959 – Jan 27, 1960 Yin Earth 猪 Pig Feb  5, 2019 – Jan 24, 2020
37 Jan 28, 1960 – Feb 14, 1961 Yang Metal 鼠 Rat Jan 25, 2020 – Feb. 11, 2021
38 Feb 15, 1961 – Feb  4, 1962 Yin Metal 牛 Ox Feb 12, 2021 – Jan 31, 2022
39 Feb  5, 1962 – Jan 24, 1963 Yang Water 虎 Tiger Feb  1, 2022 – Jan 21, 2023
40 Jan 25, 1963 – Feb 12, 1964 Yin Water 兔 Rabbit Jan 22, 2023 – Feb  9, 2024
41 Feb 13, 1964 – Feb  1, 1965 Yang Wood 龍 Dragon Feb 10, 2024 – Jan 28, 2025
42 Feb  2, 1965 – Jan 20 1966 Yin Wood 蛇 Snake Jan 29, 2025 – Feb 16, 2026
43 Jan 21, 1966 – Feb  8, 1967 Yang Fire 馬 Horse Feb 17, 2026 – Feb  5, 2027
44 Feb  9, 1967 – Jan 29, 1968 Yin Fire 羊 Goat Feb  6, 2027 – Jan 25, 2028
45 Jan 30, 1968 – Feb 16, 1969 Yang Earth 猴 Monkey Jan 26, 2028 – Feb 12, 2029
46 Feb 17, 1969 – Feb  5, 1970 Yin Earth 鷄 Rooster Feb 13, 2029 – Feb  2, 2030
47 Feb  6, 1970 – Jan 26, 1971 Yang Metal 狗 Dog Feb  3, 2030 – Jan 22, 2031
48 Jan 27, 1971 – Feb 14, 1972 Yin Metal 猪 Pig Jan 23, 2031 – Feb 10 2032
49 Feb 15, 1972 – Feb  2, 1973 Yang Water 鼠 Rat Feb 11, 2032 – Jan 30 2033
50 Feb  3, 1973 – Jan 22, 1974 Yin Water 牛 Ox Jan 31, 2033 – Feb 18, 2034
51 Jan 23, 1974 – Feb 10 1975 Yang Wood 虎 Tiger Feb 19, 2034 – Feb  7, 2035
52 Feb 11, 1975 – Jan 30 1976 Yin Wood 兔 Rabbit Feb  8, 2035 – Jan 27, 2036
53 Jan 31, 1976 – Feb 17, 1977 Yang Fire 龍 Dragon Jan 28, 2036 – Feb 14, 2037
54 Feb 18, 1977 – Feb  6, 1978 Yin Fire 蛇 Snake Feb 15, 2037 – Feb  3, 2038
55 Feb  7, 1978 – Jan 27, 1979 Yang Earth 馬 Horse Feb  4, 2038 – Jan 23, 2039
56 Jan 28, 1979 – Feb 15, 1980 Yin Earth 羊 Goat Jan 24, 2039 – Feb 11, 2040
57 Feb 16, 1980 – Feb  4, 1981 Yang Metal 猴 Monkey Feb 12, 2040 – Jan 31, 2041
58 Feb  5, 1981 – Jan 24, 1982 Yin Metal 鷄 Rooster Feb  1, 2041 – Jan 21, 2042
59 Jan 25, 1982 – Feb 12, 1983 Yang Water 狗 Dog Jan 22, 2042 – Feb  9, 2043
60 Feb 13, 1983 – Feb  1, 1984 Yin Water 猪 Pig Feb 10, 2043 – Jan 29, 2044

Months and solar terms

Within the Four Pillars, the month is the pillar representing information about the person's parents or childhood. Many Chinese astrologers consider the month pillar to be the most important one in determining the circumstances of one's adult life.

The 12 animals are also linked to traditional Chinese agricultural calendar, which runs alongside the better known lunar calendar. Instead of months, this calendar is divided into 24 two week segments known as Solar Terms. Each animal is linked to two of these solar terms for a period similar to the Western month. Unlike the 60 year lunar calendar, which can vary by as much as a month in relation to the Western calendar, the agricultural calendar varies by only one day, beginning on the Western February 3 or 4 every year. Again unlike the cycle of the lunar years, which begins with the Rat, the agricultural calendar begins with the Tiger as it is the first animal of spring.

As each sign is linked to a month of the solar year, it is thereby also linked to a season. Each of the elements is also linked to a season (see above), and the element that shares a season with a sign is known as that sign's fixed element. In other words, that element is believed to impart some of its characteristics to the sign concerned. The fixed element of each sign applies also to the year and hour signs, and not just the monthly sign. It is important to note that the fixed element is separate from the cycle of elements which interact with the signs in the 60 year cycle.

Season Lunar Month Fixed Element Solar Longitude Solar Term Western Date
Spring 1st – 寅(yin) Tiger Wood 314° 立春 lìchūn Feb 04 – Feb 18
329° 雨水 yǔshuǐ Feb 19 – Mar 05
2nd – 卯(mao) Rabbit Wood 344° 啓蟄 qǐzhé (驚蟄 jīngzhé) Mar 06 – Mar 20
春分 chūnfēn Mar 21 – Apr 04
3rd – 辰(chen) Dragon Earth 14° 清明 qīngmíng Apr 05 – Apr 19
29° 穀雨 gǔyǔ Apr 20 – May 4
Summer 4th – 巳(si) Snake Fire 44° 立夏 lìxià May 5 – May 20
59° 小滿 xiǎomǎn May 21 – June 5
5th – 午(wu) Horse Fire 74° 芒種 mángzhòng Jun 06 – Jun 20
89° 夏至 xiàzhì Jun 21 – Jul 06
6th – 未(wei) Goat Earth 104° 小暑 xiǎoshǔ Jul 07 – Jul 22
119° 大暑 dàshǔ Jul 23 – Aug 06
Autumn 7th – 申(shen) Monkey Metal 134° 立秋 lìqiū Aug 07 – Aug 22
149° 處暑 chùshǔ Aug 23 – Sep 07
8th–酉(you) Rooster Metal 164° 白露 báilù Sep 08 – Sep 22
181° 秋分 qiūfēn Sep 23 – Oct 07
9th–戌(xu) Dog Earth 194° 寒露 hánlù Oct 08 – Oct 22
211° 霜降 shuāngjiàng Oct 23 – Nov 06
Winter 10th – 亥(hai) Pig Water 224° 立冬 lìdōng Nov 07 – Nov 21
244° 小雪 xiǎoxuě Nov 22 – Dec 06
11th – 子(zi) Rat Water 251° 大雪 dàxuě Dec 07 – Dec 21
271° 冬至 dōngzhì Dec 22 – Jan 05
12th – 丑(chou) Ox Earth 284° 小寒 xiǎohán Jan 06 – Jan 19
301° 大寒 dàhán Jan 20 – Feb 3


A different animal rules each day. Within the Four Pillars, the day is the pillar representing information about the person him/herself—his/her adult and married life.[3]


The Chinese zodiac is also used to label times of day, with each sign corresponding to a "large-hour" or shichen (時辰), which is a two-hour period (24 divided by 12 animals). It is therefore important to know the exact time of birth to determine it. The secret animal is thought to be a person's truest representation, since this animal is determined by the smallest denominator: a person's birth hour. As this sign is based on the position of the sun in the sky and not the time of your local clock, it is important to compensate for daylight saving time. However, some online systems already compensate for daylight saving time, and astrologers may compensate your time for you oblivious to the fact that you've compensated it yourself, leading to an inaccurate reading.

Within the Four Pillars, the hour is the pillar representing information about one's kids and contributions to the world or later life.

  • 23:00 – 01:00: 子 Rat
  • 01:00 – 03:00: 丑 Ox
  • 03:00 – 05:00: 寅 Tiger
  • 05:00 – 07:00: 卯 Rabbit
  • 07:00 – 09:00: 辰 Dragon
  • 09:00 – 11:00: 巳 Snake
  • 11:00 – 13:00: 午 Horse
  • 13:00 – 15:00: 未 Goat
  • 15:00 – 17:00: 申 Monkey
  • 17:00 – 19:00: 酉 Rooster
  • 19:00 – 21:00: 戌 Dog
  • 21:00 – 23:00: 亥 Pig

Four Pillars

The Four Pillars method can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220), and is still much used in Feng Shui astrology and general analysis today. The Four Pillars or Columns chart is called such as the Chinese writing causes it to fall into columns. Each pillar or column contains a stem and a branch—and each column relates to the year, month, day and hour of birth. The first column refers to the year animal and element, the second to the month animal and element, the third to the day animal and element, and the last to the hour animal and element. Within the 'Four Pillars', the Year column is the information about your ancestor or early age. The Month column is the information about your parents or growing age. The Day column is the information about you (upper character) and your spouse (lower character) or adult age. The Hour column is the information about kids or late age.[4]

Four Animal Trines

See: Astrological aspect#Trine

First Trine

The first trine consists of the Rat, Dragon, and Monkey. These three signs are intense and powerful individuals, capable of great good or great evil. They make great leaders, but the three may have different approaches. Frustrated when hampered, these signs are ruled by highly potent energy and unpredictability. At their worst, Rats are ruthlessly power-hungry, vindictive, and Machiavellian; Dragons are inflexible megalomaniacs and narcissists; and Monkeys are destructive manipulators and hedonists. They are intelligent, magnanimous, charismatic, charming, authoritative, confident, eloquent, and artistic. They can also be tyrannical, bombastic, prejudiced, deceitful, imperious, and ruthless.

Second Trine

The second trine consists of the Ox, Snake, and Rooster. These three souls conquer life through endurance, application, and slow accumulation of energy. Although each sign is fixed and rigid in opinions and views, they are geniuses in the art of meticulous planning. They are hardworking, discreet, modest, industrious, charitable, loyal, punctual, philosophical, patient, and good-hearted individuals with high moral standards. They can also be self-righteous, vain, critical, judgmental, myopic, narrow-minded, and petty. They are also natural leaders, but are better natured than the first trine.

Third Trine

The third trine consists of the Tiger, Horse, and Dog. These three signs seek a true lover, and are like-minded in their pursuit of humanitarian causes. Idealistic and impulsive, the Tiger, Horse and Dog follow the beat of their own drummer. Defiant against injustice, these three signs wilt without large amounts of physical affection and loyal support for causes. They are productive, enthusiastic, independent, engaging, dynamic and honorable. They can also be rash, rebellious, quarrelsome, hot-headed, reckless, anxious, moody, disagreeable, and stubborn. Although these three signs are loyal, they can be very protective when lied to. The three signs do not enjoy being told what to do, but will listen when it is a person they love or trust whole-heartedly. These three animals can also be particular and will get aggressive when something true to them is broken.

Fourth Trine

The fourth trine consists of the Rabbit, Goat, and Pig. The quest for these three signs is the aesthetic and beautify in life. Their calm nature gives them great leadership abilities. They are artistic, refined, intuitive, and well-mannered. These souls love the preliminaries in love, and are fine artists in their lovemaking. The Rabbit, Goat and Pig have been bestowed with calmer natures than the other 9 signs. These three are compassionately aware, yet detached and resigned to their condition. They seek beauty and a sensitive lover. They are caring, unique, self-sacrificing, obliging, sensible, creative, empathic, tactful, and prudent. They can also be naive, pedantic, insecure, cunning, indecisive, and pessimistic.

Zodiac origin stories

There are many stories and fables to explain the beginning of the zodiac. Since Han Dynasty, 12 Earthly Branches is used to record the time of a day. People divided 24 hours of every day into 12 time periods and use mnemonic, representing the living characters of the animals:

When a Branch is used for a double hour, the listed periods are meant. When used for an exact time of a day, it is the center of the period. For instance, 午 (the Horse) means noon or a period from 11am to 1pm.

Rat: 23:00 ~ 1:00 named Zishi, This is the time when Rats are most active in seeking food. Rat also have different number of digits on front and hind legs, thus earning Rat the symbol of "turn over" or "new start".

Ox: 01:00 ~ 03:00 named Choushi, This is the time when Oxen begin to crush the food, regurgitating to the mouth slowly and comfortably.

Tiger: 03:00 ~ 05:00 named Yinshi, This is the time when hurt their prey more and show their ferocity.

Rabbit: 05:00 ~ 07:00 named Maoshi, This is the time when the Jade Rabbit is busy pounding herbal medicine on the Moon according to the tale

Dragon: 07:00 ~ 09:00 named Chenshi, This is the time when Dragons are hovering in the sky to give rain.

Snake: 09:00 ~ 11:00 named Sishi, This is the time when Snakes are leaving their caves.

Horse: 11:00 ~ 13:00 named Wushi, This is the time when the sun is high above and other animals are lying down for a rest, while the Horses are still standing.

Goat: 13:00 ~ 15:00 named Weishi, This is the time when Goats eat grass and urinate frequently.

Monkey: 15:00 ~ 17:00 named Shenshi, This is the time when the Monkeys are lively.

Rooster: 17:00 ~ 19:00 named Youshi, This is the time when Roosters begin to go back to their coops.

Dog: 19:00 ~ 21:00 named Xushi, This is the time when Dogs begin to carry out their duty of guarding the houses.

Pig: 21:00 ~ 23:00 named Haishi, This is the time when Pigs are sleeping sweetly.

The Great Race

Once upon a time, the Jade Emperor thought it'd be better to assign an animal to each year so people could more easily remember the Zodiac cycle. So he decided to hold a meeting with all the animals and he would choose 12 of them to be the Zodiac animals. At that time, Cat and Rat were close friends. They were very excited about the meeting and decided to go early. However, Cat was a sleepyhead. He hardly ever woke up before noon. On the night before the meeting, he asked Rat to wake him early the next morning. When morning came, Rat got up early and quietly left for the meeting alone. When Cat finally woke up in afternoon, he knew it was too late. Feeling betrayed, he vowed that henceforth Rat would be his enemy. That is probably the main reason Cats are always chasing after Rats.

Another folk story tells that Cat and Rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. Although they were poor swimmers, they were both quite intelligent. To get to the meeting called by the Jade Emperor, they had to cross a river to reach the meeting place. The Jade Emperor had also decreed that the years on the calendar would be named for each animal as they arrived to the meeting. Cat and Rat decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of Ox. Ox, being naïve and good-natured, agreed to carry them both across. Midway across the river, Rat pushed Cat into the water. Then as Ox neared the other side of the river, Rat jumped ahead and reached the shore first. So he claimed first place in the competition and the zodiac.

Following closely behind was strong Ox who was named the 2nd animal in the zodiac. After Ox, came Tiger, panting, while explaining to the Jade Emperor how difficult it was to cross the river with the heavy currents pushing it downstream all the time. But with its powerful strength, Tiger made to shore and was named the 3rd animal in the cycle.

Suddenly, from a distance came a thumping sound, and the Rabbit arrived. It explained how it crossed the river: by jumping from one stone to another in a nimble fashion. Halfway through, it almost lost the race but the Rabbit was lucky enough to grab hold of a floating log that later washed him to shore. For that, it became the 4th animal in the Zodiac cycle. Coming in 5th place was the Flying Dragon. Of course, the Jade Emperor was deeply curious as to why a swift flying creature such as the Dragon should fail to reach first place. The mighty Dragon explained that he had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth, and therefore he was held back. Then, on his way to the finish, he saw a little helpless Rabbit clinging onto a log so he did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore. The Jade Emperor was very pleased with the actions of the Dragon, and he was added into the zodiac cycle. As soon as he had done so, a galloping sound was heard, and the Horse appeared. Hidden on the Horse's hoof was the Snake, whose sudden appearance gave the Horse a fright, thus making it fall back and giving the Snake the 6th spot, while the Horse placed 7th.

Not long after that, a little distance away, the Goat, Monkey, and Rooster came to the shore. These three creatures helped each other to get to where they are. The Rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it. Together, the Goat and the Monkey cleared the weeds, tugged and pulled and finally got the raft to the shore. Because of their combined efforts, the Emperor was very pleased and promptly named the Goat as the 8th creature, the Monkey as the 9th, and the Rooster the 10th.

The 11th animal was the Dog. Although he was supposed to be the best swimmer, he could not resist the temptation to play a little longer in the river. Though his explanation for being late was because he needed a good bath after a long spell. For that, he almost didn't make it to finish line. Just as the Jade Emperor was about to call it a day, an oink and squeal was heard from a little Pig. The Pig got hungry during the race, promptly stopped for a feast and then fell asleep. After the nap, the Pig continued the race and was named the 12th animal of the zodiac cycle. The Cat finished as thirteenth place and did not make it in the zodiac.

Another folk story tells that on registration day, the Rat met up with the Ox. He thought to himself "Ox is the fastest, strongest animal!" So the little Rat played a trick on the Ox. He asked the Ox if he would like to listen to him sing. The Rat opened his mouth but said nothing. "How was that?" he asked the Ox and of course he replied "Sorry little Rat, I didn't hear you." The Rat told the Ox to let him jump onto his back so that he could sing it more clearly, and the Ox agreed. Soon without knowing, the Ox was walking to the signing post, forgetting the Rat on his back. When they reached there, the Rat jumped off and claimed first place. The Ox following and the rest.

In Buddhism, legend has it that Buddha summoned all of the animals of the earth to come before him before his departure from this earth, but only thirteen animals actually came to bid him farewell. To reward the animals who came to him, he named a year after each of them. The years were given to them in the order they had arrived.

The 12 animals for the Chinese zodiac must have been developed in the early stage of Chinese civilization for hundreds of years until it become the current edition; and it’s very hard to investigate the real origin. Most historians agree that Cat is not in the list since the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac were formed before Cats were introduced to China from India with Buddhism.

Another story tells that God called the animals to a banquet that night. The Rat loved to play tricks on the Cat so he told the cat that the banquet was on the day after tomorrow. When the Cat was sleeping and dreaming about the banquet, the rest of the animals all arrived to the banquet. The order of the animals was decided by the order that they arrived. The Cat was devastated and vowed that he would always hate the Rat.

Chinese zodiac in other countries

The Chinese zodiac signs are also used by cultures other than Chinese. For one example, they usually appear on Korean New Year and Japanese New Year's cards and stamps. The United States Postal Service and those of several other countries issue a "Year of the ____" postage stamp each year to honor this Chinese heritage. However, those unfamiliar with the use of the Chinese lunar calendar usually just assume that the signs switch over on January 1 of each year. Those who are serious about the fortune telling aspect of the signs can consult a table, such as the one above.

The Chinese lunar coins, depicting the zodiac animals, inspired the Canadian Silver Maple Leaf coins, as well as varieties from Australia, Korea, and Mongolia. The Chinese zodiac is an internationally popular theme, available from many of the world's government and private mints.

The Chinese zodiac is also used in some other Asian countries that have been under the cultural influence of China. However, some of the animals in the Zodiac may differ by country.

East Asia

The Korean zodiac is identical to the Chinese one. The Vietnamese zodiac is almost identical to Chinese zodiac except that the second animal is the Water Buffalo instead of the Ox, and the fourth animal is the Cat instead of the Rabbit. The Japanese zodiac includes the Wild Boar instead of the Pig. The Thai zodiac includes a Naga in place of the Dragon. Furthermore, the Thais reckon that the new zodiac year starts, not at Chinese New Year, but at either on the first day of fifth month in Thai lunar calendar, or during the Songkran festival (now celebrated every 13-15 April), depending on the purpose of the use.[5]

Bulgars, Huns and Turkic people

The European Huns used the Chinese Zodiac complete with "Dragon", "Pig". This common Chinese-Turkic Zodiac was in use in Balkan Bulgaria well into the Bulgars' adoption of Slavic language and Orthodox Christianity. Following is the Hunnish or Turkic Bulgarian Pagan zodiac calendar, distinctive from the Greek zodiac but much in conformity with the Chinese one:

Torè calendar

Names of years

  1. Kuzgé – [Year of] Saravana - Mouse
  2. Shiger (Syger) – Artom (Taurus)
  3. Kuman (Imén)
  4. Ügur – Tiger, Myachè Ügur – Tiger
  5. Taushan – Rabbit
  6. Samar – Dragon Birgün (Bergen, Birig, Baradj) – Dragon
  7. Dilan – Snake
  8. Tykha – Horse
  9. Téké – Sheep
  10. Bichin, Michin – Monkey
  11. Tavuk – Rooster, Hen (also written tağuk—ğ is pronounced as v in Turk. verbs döğmek and öğmek)
  12. It – Dog
  13. Shushma – Pig (many mistake it as boar though)(Turk., Russ. "Kaban"—Translator's Note, also cognate of Turkish şişman, "fat")

In Kazakhstan, an animal cycle similar to the Chinese is used, but the dragon is substituted by a snail (Kazakh: улу), and tiger appears as a leopard (Kazakh: барыс).

In Mongolia 12 year beasts are called "Арван хоёр жил" meaning "12 years"

  1. Hulgana - Хулгана - Mouse
  2. Ukher - Үхэр - Cattle (Ukher is general name for cows)
  3. Bar - Бар - Tiger (Mongolian : Барс -leopard )
  4. Tuulai - Туулай - Rabbit
  5. Luu - Луу - Dragon
  6. Mogoi - Могой - Snake
  7. Mori - Морь - Horse
  8. Honi - Хонь - Sheep
  9. Bichin, Michin, Mechin - Бичин, Мичин, Мэчин - Monkey
  10. Tahiya - Тахиа - Chicken
  11. Nohai - Нохой - Dog
  12. Gahai - Гахай - Pig (Gahai is general name for pig, it can be wild boar)

See also



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