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Chinese zodiac


Chinese zodiac

The 12 Chinese zodiac jade figurines.
Shengxiao or Chinese zodiac
The Chinese zodiac
Chinese 生肖
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 属相

The Shēngxiào, literally "birth likeness", is also known in English as the Chinese zodiac. Zodiac derives from the similar concept in western astrology and means "circle of animals". It is a scheme and systematic plan of future action that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes according to a 12-year cycle, and it remains popular in several East Asian countries including China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.


  • Name 1
  • Signs 2
  • Chinese calendar 3
    • Years 3.1
    • Months and solar terms 3.2
    • Days 3.3
    • Hours 3.4
  • Compatibility 4
  • Four Pillars 5
  • Four Animal Trines 6
    • First Trine 6.1
    • Second Trine 6.2
    • Third Trine 6.3
    • Fourth Trine 6.4
  • Zodiac origin stories 7
    • The Great Race 7.1
  • Problems with English translation 8
  • Chinese zodiac in other countries 9
    • East Asia 9.1
    • Bulgars, Huns and Turkic people 9.2
      • Torè calendar 9.2.1
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Sources 12
  • External links 13


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 ascribing a person's personality or events in his or her life to the supposed influence of the person's particular relationship to the cycle. Nevertheless, there are major differences: the Chinese 12-part cycle corresponds to years, rather than months. The Chinese zodiac is represented by 12 animals, whereas some of the signs in the Western zodiac are not animals, despite the implication of the Greek etymology of "zodiac". The animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations, let alone those spanned by the ecliptic plane.


Stone carving of the Chinese zodiac

The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat. The following are the twelve zodiac signs (each with its associated Earthly Branch) in order and their characteristics.[1]

  1. Rat – 鼠 (子) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water)
  2. Ox – 牛 (丑) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water)
  3. Tiger – 虎 (寅) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
  4. Rabbit – 兔 or 兎 (卯) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
  5. Dragon – 龍 / 龙 (辰) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
  6. Snake – 蛇 (巳) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
  7. Horse – 馬 / 马 (午) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
  8. Goat – 羊 (未) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
  9. Monkey – 猴 (申) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
  10. Rooster – 雞 / 鸡 (酉) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
  11. Dog – 狗 / 犬 (戌) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
  12. Pig – 豬 / 猪 (亥) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water)

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 a Goat secretively.

Depending on the source, the Goat is sometimes interchangeable with a Sheep or Ram.

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

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


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]

Monday: Goat
Tuesday: Dragon
Wednesday: Horse
Thursday: Rat, Pig
Friday: Rabbit, Snake, Dog
Saturday: Ox, Tiger, Rooster
Sunday: Monkey


The Chinese zodiac is also used to label times of the day, with each sign corresponding to a "large-hour" or shichen (時辰), which is a two-hour period (24 divided by 12 animals). Determining this period depends on knowing an individual's exact time of birth. 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 shown on a local clock, followers of this system believe it to be important to compensate for daylight saving time. However, some on-line systems already compensate for daylight saving time, and astrologers may compensate for this as well, even though a client may already have compensated for it, leading to a theoretically inaccurate reading.

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

  • 23:00 – 00:59: 子 Rat
  • 01:00 – 02:59: 丑 Ox
  • 03:00 – 04:59: 寅 Tiger
  • 05:00 – 06:59: 卯 Rabbit
  • 07:00 – 08:59: 辰 Dragon
  • 09:00 – 10:59: 巳 Snake
  • 11:00 – 12:59: 午 Horse
  • 13:00 – 14:59: 未 Goat
  • 15:00 – 16:59: 申 Monkey
  • 17:00 – 18:59: 酉 Rooster
  • 19:00 – 20:59: 戌 Dog
  • 21:00 – 22:59: 亥 Pig

The times above are based on Beijing CST, not on local solar time. As China has only a single time zone, a particular locality's solar time can differ by as much as four hours from Beijing time. Since China does not observe daylight savings time, conversions to and from other time systems is slightly complex. For example, 9 p.m. PST or 10 p.m. PDT corresponds to 12 noon Beijing CST, and 9 p.m. CET or 10 p.m. CEST corresponds to 4 a.m. of the next day, Beijing CST.


As the Chinese zodiac is derived according to the ancient Five Elements Theory, every Chinese Sign is composed of five elements with relations, among those elements, of interpolation, interaction, over-action, and counter-action — believed to be the common law of motions and changes of creatures in the universe. Different people born under each animal sign supposedly have different personalities, and practitioners of Chinese astrology consult such traditional details and compatibilities to offer putative guidance in life or for love and marriage.

Chinese Zodiac Compatibility Grid
Sign Best Match Match No Match
Rat Ox, Dragon, Monkey Dog, Rat, Goat, Snake, Pig, Tiger Horse, Rabbit, Rooster
Ox Rat, Rooster, Pig, Snake Ox, Tiger, Monkey, Dragon, Rabbit Goat, Horse, Dog
Tiger Pig, Dog, Rabbit, Horse, Rooster Goat, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Snake Monkey
Rabbit Dog, Pig, Tiger, Goat Snake, Monkey, Ox, Dragon, Horse, Rabbit Rooster, Rat
Dragon Rooster, Monkey, Rat, Goat, Snake Tiger, Pig, Ox, Rabbit, Horse, Dragon Dog
Snake Monkey, Rooster, Ox, Dragon Rabbit, Horse, Tiger, Goat, Snake, Dog, Rat Pig
Horse Goat, Dog, Tiger Dragon, Monkey, Rooster, Pig, Rabbit, Snake, Horse Rat, Ox
Goat Horse, Rabbit, Pig, Dragon Monkey, Goat, Snake, Rooster, Rat, Dog, Tiger Ox
Monkey Snake, Rat, Dragon Horse, Goat, Ox, Pig, Rooster, Monkey, Rabbit, Dog Tiger
Rooster Dragon, Ox, Tiger, Pig, Snake Rooster, Dog, Goat, Monkey, Horse Rabbit, Rat
Dog Rabbit, Tiger, Horse, Pig Rat, Snake, Dog, Goat, Monkey, Rooster Dragon, Ox
Pig Tiger, Rabbit, Rooster, Goat, Ox, Dog Pig, Monkey, Dragon, Rat, Horse Snake

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 purports to provide information about one's ancestor or early age, and the Month column about one's parents or growing age. The Day column purports to offer information about oneself (upper character) and one's spouse (lower character) or adult age, and the Hour column about children or late age.[3]

Four Animal Trines

See: Astrological aspect#Trine

First Trine

The first trine consists of the Rat, Dragon and Monkey. These three signs are said to be intense and powerful individuals capable of great good, who make great leaders but are rather unpredictable. The three are said to be intelligent, magnanimous, charismatic, charming, authoritative, confident, eloquent and artistic, but can be manipulative, jealous, selfish, aggressive, vindictive or deceitful.

Second Trine

The second trine consists of the Ox, Snake and Rooster. These three signs are said to possess endurance and application, with slow accumulation of energy, meticulous at planning but tending to hold fixed opinions. The three are said to be hard-working, modest, industrious, loyal, philosophical, patient, good-hearted and morally upright, but can also be self-righteous, egotistical, vain, judgmental, narrow-minded or petty.

Third Trine

The third trine consists of the Tiger, Horse and Dog. These three signs are said to seek true love, to pursue humanitarian causes, to be idealistic and independent but tending to be impulsive. The three are said to be productive, enthusiastic, independent, engaging, dynamic, honourable, loyal and protective, but can also be rash, rebellious, quarrelsome, anxious, disagreeable or stubborn.

Fourth Trine

The fourth trine consists of the Rabbit, Goat and Pig. These three signs are said to have a calm nature and an intellectual approach; they seek aesthetic beauty and are artistic, well-mannered and compassionate, yet detached and resigned to their condition. The three are said to be caring, self-sacrificing, obliging, sensible, creative, empathetic, tactful and prudent, but can also be naïve, pedantic, insecure, cunning, indecisive or pessimistic.

Zodiac origin stories

There are many stories and fables to explain the beginning of the zodiac. Since the Han Dynasty, the 12 Earthly Branches have been used to record the time of day. However, for the sake of entertainment and convenience, they have been replaced by the 12 animals. The 24 hours are divided into 12 periods, and a mnemonic refers to the behaviour of the animals:[4][5]

A Branch may refer to a double-hour period. In the latter case it is the center of the period; for instance, 马 (the Horse) means noon or a period from 11am to 1pm.

  • Rat (Zishi): 23:00 to 00:59. This is the time when Rats are most active in seeking food. Rats also have a different number of digits on front and hind legs, thus earning Rats the symbol of "turn over" or "new start".
  • Ox (Choushi): 01:00 to 02:59. This is the time when Oxen begin to chew the cud slowly and comfortably.
  • Tiger (Yinshi): 03:00 to 04:59. This is the time when Tigers hunt their prey more and show their ferocity.
  • Rabbit (Maoshi): 05:00 to 06:59. This is the time when the Jade Rabbit is busy pounding herbal medicine on the Moon according to the tale.
  • Dragon (Chenshi): 07:00 to 08:59. This is the time when Dragons are hovering in the sky to give rain.
  • Snake (Sishi): 09:00 to 10:59. This is the time when Snakes are leaving their caves.
  • Horse (Wushi): 11:00 to 12:59. This is the time when the sun is high overhead and while other animals are lying down for a rest, Horses are still standing.
  • Goat (Weishi): 13:00 to 14:59. This is the time when Goats eat grass and urinate frequently.
  • Monkey (Shenshi): 15:00 to 16:59. This is the time when Monkeys are lively.
  • Rooster (Youshi): 17:00 to 18:59. This is the time when Roosters begin to get back to their coops.
  • Dog (Xushi): 19:00 to 20:59. This is the time when Dogs carry out their duty of guarding the houses.
  • Pig (Haishi): 21:00 to 22:59. This is the time when Pigs are sleeping sweetly.

The Great Race

An ancient 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 in the order 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.[6][7]

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.[5]

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. 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 the 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 drowned in 13th place and did not make it in the zodiac. It is said that that is the reason why Cats always chase Rats; to get back at them for what they have done.

Another folk story tells that on registration day, 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 12 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, who loved to play tricks on his neighbour, told the cat that the banquet was on the day after tomorrow. The Cat believed his neighbour the Rat and slept whilst dreaming of the banquet. The next day, the Rat arrived first followed by the Ox, the Tiger and the rest of the animals. 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. This is why cats chase Rats in folklore.

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, sheep or goat. 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, 水牛. 雞(rooster) may mean chicken, hen or cock. However, rooster is the most commonly used one among all the synonyms, same for 羊, 鼠, etc.

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.

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 the Chinese zodiac except 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 boar instead of the Pig, and the Japanese have since 1873 celebrated the beginning of the new year on the 1st of January as per the Gregorian Calendar. The Thai zodiac includes a naga in place of the Dragon and begins, not at Chinese New Year, but 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.[8]

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 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 - Rat
  2. Shiger (Syger) – Ox
  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 – Goat
  10. Bichin, Michin – Monkey
  11. Tavuk – Rooster (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 - Rat
  2. Ukher - Үхэр - Ox
  3. Bar - Бар - Tiger
  4. Tuulai - Туулай - Rabbit
  5. Luu - Луу - Dragon
  6. Mogoi - Могой - Snake
  7. Mori - Морь - Horse
  8. Honi - Хонь - Goat
  9. Bichin, Michin, Mechin - Бич/Мич, Бичин, Мичин, Мэчин - Monkey
  10. Tahiya - Тахиа - Rooster
  11. Nohoi - Нохой - Dog
  12. Gahai - Гахай - Pig

See also


  1. ^ Theodora Lau, The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, pp. 2–8, 30–5, 60–4, 88–94, 118–24, 148–53, 178–84, 208–13, 238–44, 270–78, 306–12, 338–44, Souvenir Press, New York, 2005
  2. ^ Almanac" "lunar" zodiac beginning of spring as the boundary dislocation? — China Network""". 16 February 2009. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac 十二生肖, Drake University, retrieved October 11, 2013 
  5. ^ a b Annotated Bibliography Plan: Chinese Astrology, University of Hawai‘i, retrieved October 11, 2013 
  6. ^ Flying Snake of Paradise and the Zodiac, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, retrieved October 11, 2013 
  7. ^ Chinese Zodiac Background Information, retrieved October 11, 2013 
  8. ^ "การเปลี่ยนวันใหม่ การนับวัน ทางโหราศาสตร์ไทย การเปลี่ยนปีนักษัตร โหราศาสตร์ ดูดวง ทำนายทายทัก". 


  • Shelly H. Wu. (2005). Chinese Astrology. Publisher: The Career Press, Inc. ISBN 1-56414-796-7

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