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|Alternative Chinese name|
The Chinese zodiac is a classification scheme based on the lunar calendar that assigns an animal and its reputed attributes to each year in a repeating 12-year cycle. The 12 year cycle is an approximation to the 11.85-year orbital period of Jupiter. Originating from China, the zodiac and its variations remain popular in many East Asian countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
Identifying this scheme using the generic term "zodiac" reflects several superficial 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 their life to the supposed influence of the person's particular relationship to the cycle.
Nevertheless, there are major differences between the two: the animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations spanned by the ecliptic plane. 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 etymology of the English word zodiac, which derives from zōdiacus, the Latinized form of the Ancient Greek zōidiakòs kýklos (ζῳδιακός κύκλος), meaning "cycle or circle of little animals".
The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat. The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order, each with its associated characteristics (Earthly Branch, yin/yang force, Trine, and nature element).
In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent how others perceive you 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"). The Earth is all 12 signs, 5 seasons.
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-20s, 40s 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 Gregorian 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.
|1||Feb 05 1924–Jan 23 1925||Yang Wood||甲||子||Rat||Feb 02 1984–Feb 19 1985|
|2||Jan 24 1925–Feb 12 1926||Yin Wood||乙||丑||Ox||Feb 20 1985–Feb 08 1986|
|3||Feb 13 1926–Feb 01 1927||Yang Fire||丙||寅||Tiger||Feb 09 1986–Jan 28 1987|
|4||Feb 02 1927–Jan 22 1928||Yin Fire||丁||卯||Rabbit||Jan 29 1987–Feb 16 1988|
|5||Jan 23 1928–Feb 09 1929||Yang Earth||戊||辰||Dragon||Feb 17 1988–Feb 05 1989|
|6||Feb 10 1929–Jan 29 1930||Yin Earth||己||巳||Snake||Feb 06 1989–Jan 26 1990|
|7||Jan 30 1930–Feb 16 1931||Yang Metal||庚||午||Horse||Jan 27 1990–Feb 14 1991|
|8||Feb 17 1931–Feb 05 1932||Yin Metal||辛||未||Goat||Feb 15 1991–Feb 03 1992|
|9||Feb 06 1932–Jan 25 1933||Yang Water||壬||申||Monkey||Feb 04 1992–Jan 22 1993|
|10||Jan 26 1933–Feb 13 1934||Yin Water||癸||酉||Rooster||Jan 23 1993–Feb 09 1994|
|11||Feb 14 1934–Feb 03 1935||Yang Wood||甲||戌||Dog||Feb 10 1994–Jan 30 1995|
|12||Feb 04 1935–Jan 23 1936||Yin Wood||乙||亥||Pig||Jan 31 1995–Feb 18 1996|
|13||Jan 24 1936–Feb 10 1937||Yang Fire||丙||子||Rat||Feb 19 1996–Feb 06 1997|
|14||Feb 11 1937–Jan 30 1938||Yin Fire||丁||丑||Ox||Feb 07 1997–Jan 27 1998|
|15||Jan 31 1938–Feb 18 1939||Yang Earth||戊||寅||Tiger||Jan 28 1998–Feb 15 1999|
|16||Feb 19 1939–Feb 07 1940||Yin Earth||己||卯||Rabbit||Feb 16 1999–Feb 04 2000|
|17||Feb 08 1940–Jan 26 1941||Yang Metal||庚||辰||Dragon||Feb 05 2000–Jan 23 2001|
|18||Jan 27 1941–Feb 14 1942||Yin Metal||辛||巳||Snake||Jan 24 2001–Feb 11 2002|
|19||Feb 15 1942–Feb 04 1943||Yang Water||壬||午||Horse||Feb 12 2002–Jan 31 2003|
|20||Feb 05 1943–Jan 24 1944||Yin Water||癸||未||Goat||Feb 01 2003–Jan 21 2004|
|21||Jan 25 1944–Feb 12 1945||Yang Wood||甲||申||Monkey||Jan 22 2004–Feb 08 2005|
|22||Feb 13 1945–Feb 01 1946||Yin Wood||乙||酉||Rooster||Feb 09 2005–Jan 28 2006|
|23||Feb 02 1946–Jan 21 1947||Yang Fire||丙||戌||Dog||Jan 29 2006–Feb 17 2007|
|24||Jan 22 1947–Feb 09 1948||Yin Fire||丁||亥||Pig||Feb 18 2007–Feb 06 2008|
|25||Feb 10 1948–Jan 28 1949||Yang Earth||戊||子||Rat||Feb 07 2008–Jan 25 2009|
|26||Jan 29 1949–Feb 16 1950||Yin Earth||己||丑||Ox||Jan 26 2009–Feb 13 2010|
|27||Feb 17 1950–Feb 05 1951||Yang Metal||庚||寅||Tiger||Feb 14 2010–Feb 02 2011|
|28||Feb 06 1951–Jan 26 1952||Yin Metal||辛||卯||Rabbit||Feb 03 2011–Jan 22 2012|
|29||Jan 27 1952–Feb 13 1953||Yang Water||壬||辰||Dragon||Jan 23 2012–Feb 09 2013|
|30||Feb 14 1953–Feb 02 1954||Yin Water||癸||巳||Snake||Feb 10 2013–Jan 30 2014|
|31||Feb 03 1954–Jan 23 1955||Yang Wood||甲||午||Horse||Jan 31 2014–Feb 18 2015|
|32||Jan 24 1955–Feb 11 1956||Yin Wood||乙||未||Goat||Feb 19 2015–Feb 07 2016|
|33||Feb 12 1956–Jan 30 1957||Yang Fire||丙||申||Monkey||Feb 08 2016–Jan 27 2017|
|34||Jan 31 1957–Feb 17 1958||Yin Fire||丁||酉||Rooster||Jan 28 2017–Feb 15 2018|
|35||Feb 18 1958–Feb 07 1959||Yang Earth||戊||戌||Dog||Feb 16 2018–Feb 04 2019|
|36||Feb 08 1959–Jan 27 1960||Yin Earth||己||亥||Pig||Feb 05 2019–Jan 24 2020|
|37||Jan 28 1960–Feb 14 1961||Yang Metal||庚||子||Rat||Jan 25 2020–Feb 11 2021|
|38||Feb 15 1961–Feb 04 1962||Yin Metal||辛||丑||Ox||Feb 12 2021–Jan 31 2022|
|39||Feb 05 1962–Jan 24 1963||Yang Water||壬||寅||Tiger||Feb 01 2022–Jan 21 2023|
|40||Jan 25 1963–Feb 12 1964||Yin Water||癸||卯||Rabbit||Jan 22 2023–Feb 09 2024|
|41||Feb 13 1964–Feb 01 1965||Yang Wood||甲||辰||Dragon||Feb 10 2024–Jan 28 2025|
|42||Feb 02 1965–Jan 20 1966||Yin Wood||乙||巳||Snake||Jan 29 2025–Feb 16 2026|
|43||Jan 21 1966–Feb 08 1967||Yang Fire||丙||午||Horse||Feb 17 2026–Feb 05 2027|
|44||Feb 09 1967–Jan 29 1968||Yin Fire||丁||未||Goat||Feb 06 2027–Jan 25 2028|
|45||Jan 30 1968–Feb 16 1969||Yang Earth||戊||申||Monkey||Jan 26 2028–Feb 12 2029|
|46||Feb 17 1969–Feb 05 1970||Yin Earth||己||酉||Rooster||Feb 13 2029–Feb 02 2030|
|47||Feb 06 1970–Jan 26 1971||Yang Metal||庚||戌||Dog||Feb 03 2030–Jan 22 2031|
|48||Jan 27 1971–Feb 14 1972||Yin Metal||辛||亥||Pig||Jan 23 2031–Feb 10 2032|
|49||Feb 15 1972–Feb 02 1973||Yang Water||壬||子||Rat||Feb 11 2032–Jan 30 2033|
|50||Feb 03 1973–Jan 22 1974||Yin Water||癸||丑||Ox||Jan 31 2033–Feb 18 2034|
|51||Jan 23 1974–Feb 10 1975||Yang Wood||甲||寅||Tiger||Feb 19 2034–Feb 07 2035|
|52||Feb 11 1975–Jan 30 1976||Yin Wood||乙||卯||Rabbit||Feb 08 2035–Jan 27 2036|
|53||Jan 31 1976–Feb 17 1977||Yang Fire||丙||辰||Dragon||Jan 28 2036–Feb 14 2037|
|54||Feb 18 1977–Feb 06 1978||Yin Fire||丁||巳||Snake||Feb 15 2037–Feb 03 2038|
|55||Feb 07 1978–Jan 27 1979||Yang Earth||戊||午||Horse||Feb 04 2038–Jan 23 2039|
|56||Jan 28 1979–Feb 15 1980||Yin Earth||己||未||Goat||Jan 24 2039–Feb 11 2040|
|57||Feb 16 1980–Feb 04 1981||Yang Metal||庚||申||Monkey||Feb 12 2040–Jan 31 2041|
|58||Feb 05 1981–Jan 24 1982||Yin Metal||辛||酉||Rooster||Feb 01 2041–Jan 21 2042|
|59||Jan 25 1982–Feb 12 1983||Yang Water||壬||戌||Dog||Jan 22 2042–Feb 09 2043|
|60||Feb 13 1983–Feb 01 1984||Yin Water||癸||亥||Pig||Feb 10 2043–Jan 29 2044|
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 the 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 Gregorian calendar, the agricultural calendar varies by only one day, beginning on the Gregorian calendar on 3 or 4 February 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. The fixed element is separate from the cycle of elements which interact with the signs in the 60-year cycle.
|Solar term||Gregorian date||Approx.|
|Spring||1st – 寅 (yin) Tiger||Wood||314°||立春 lìchūn||Feb 4 – Feb 19||Aquarius|
|329°||雨水 yǔshuǐ||Feb 20 – Mar 5||Pisces|
|2nd – 卯 (mao) Rabbit||Wood||344°||啓蟄 qǐzhé (驚蟄 jīngzhé)||Mar 6 – Mar 20|
|359°||春分 chūnfēn||Mar 21 – Apr 4||Aries|
|3rd – 辰 (chen) Dragon||Earth||14°||清明 qīngmíng||Apr 5 – Apr 20|
|29°||穀雨 gǔyǔ||Apr 21 – May 4||Taurus|
|Summer||4th – 巳 (si) Snake||Fire||44°||立夏 lìxià||May 5 – May 21|
|59°||小滿 xiǎomǎn||May 22 – Jun 5||Gemini|
|5th – 午 (wu) Horse||Fire||74°||芒種 mángzhòng||Jun 6 – Jun 21|
|89°||夏至 xiàzhì||Jun 22 – 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 23|
|181°||秋分 qiūfēn||Sep 24 – Oct 7||Libra|
|9th – 戌 (xu) Dog||Earth||194°||寒露 hánlù||Oct 8 – Oct 23|
|211°||霜降 shuāngjiàng||Oct 24 – Nov 6||Scorpio|
|Winter||10th – 亥 (hai) Pig||Water||224°||立冬 lìdōng||Nov 7 – Nov 22|
|244°||小雪 xiǎoxuě||Nov 23 – 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 20|
|299°||大寒 dàhán||Jan 21 – Feb 3||Aquarius|
Four pillars calculators can determine the zodiac animal of the day. Chinese animal signs rule over days of the week, too. The term for them is “True Animals”. If your astrologer wishes to prepare an astrological chart (aka horoscope), it is essential he or she knows the animals of your day of birth. Given there are only seven days of the week and 12 animals, there is some repetition or doubling up. The animals for each day are as follows:
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 Heavenly Match
(Harm; Best to Avoid)
|Rat||Rat, Dragon, Monkey||Ox||Pig, Rat, Ox||Snake, Rooster, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Goat, Dog, Tiger||Horse||Goat|
|Ox||Ox, Snake, Rooster||Rat||Pig, Rat, Ox||Dragon, Monkey, Rat, Dog, Tiger, Horse, Pig, Rabbit||Goat||Horse|
|Tiger||Tiger, Horse, Dog||Pig||Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon||Pig, Rabbit, Goat, Snake, Rooster, Ox, Dragon, Rat||Monkey||Snake|
|Rabbit||Rabbit, Goat, Pig,||Dog||Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon||Dog, Tiger, Horse, Dragon, Monkey, Rat, Snake, Ox||Rooster||Dragon|
|Dragon||Dragon, Monkey, Rat||Rooster||Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon||Snake, Rooster, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Goat, Tiger, Horse||Dog||Rabbit|
|Snake||Snake, Rooster, Ox||Monkey||Snake, Horse, Goat||Dragon, Monkey, Rat, Dog, Tiger, Horse, Rabbit, Goat||Pig||Tiger|
|Horse||Horse, Dog, Tiger||Goat||Snake, Horse, Goat||Pig, Rabbit, Goat, Snake, Rooster, Ox, Dragon, Monkey||Rat||Ox|
|Goat||Goat, Pig, Rabbit||Horse||Snake, Horse, Goat||Dog, Tiger, Horse, Dragon, Monkey, Rat, Snake, Rooster||Ox||Rat|
|Monkey||Monkey, Rat, Dragon||Snake||Monkey, Rooster, Dog||Snake, Rooster, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Goat, Dog, Horse||Tiger||Pig|
|Rooster||Rooster, Ox, Snake||Dragon||Monkey, Rooster, Dog||Dragon, Monkey, Rat, Dog, Tiger, Horse, Pig, Goat||Rabbit||Dog|
|Dog||Dog, Tiger, Horse||Rabbit||Monkey, Rooster, Dog||Pig, Rabbit, Goat, Snake, Rooster, Ox, Monkey, Rat||Dragon||Rooster|
|Pig||Pig, Rabbit, Goat||Tiger||Pig, Rat, Ox||Dog, Tiger, Horse, Dragon, Monkey, Rat, Rooster, Ox||Snake||Monkey|
The Four Pillars method can be traced back to the Han dynasty (201 BC – 220 AD), 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.
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, and deceitful.
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 intelligent, hard-working, modest, industrious, loyal, philosophical, patient, goodhearted and morally upright, but can also be self-righteous, egotistical, vain, judgmental, narrow-minded, and petty.
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, honorable, loyal and protective, but can also be rash, rebellious, quarrelsome, anxious, disagreeable, and stubborn.
The fourth Trine consists of the Rabbit, Goat, and Pig. These three signs are said to have a calm nature and somewhat reasonable 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, selfish, indecisive, and pessimistic.
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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 behavior of the animals:
This article is missing information about the origin and history of the folktale.June 2019)(
An ancient folk story called the "Great Race" tells that the Jade Emperor decreed that the years on the calendar would be named for each animal in the order they reached him. To get there, the animals would have to cross a river.
Another folk story tells that the Rat deceived the Ox into letting it jump on its back, in order for the Ox to hear the Rat sing, before jumping off at the finish line and finishing first. Another variant says that the Rat had cheated the Cat out its place at the finishing line, having stowed-away on the dog's back, who was too focused to notice that he had a stow-away; this is said to account for the antagonistic dynamic between cats and rats, beyond normal predator-and-prey behaviour; and also why dogs and cats fight, the cat having tried to attack the rat in retaliation, only to get the dog by accident.
In Buddhism, legend has it that Gautama 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 twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac were developed in the early stages of Chinese civilization, therefore it is difficult to investigate its real origins. Most historians agree that the cat is not included, as they had not yet been introduced to China from India with the arrival of Buddhism. However, the Vietnamese, unlike all other countries who follow the Sino lunar calendar, have the cat instead of the rabbit as a zodiac animal. The most common explanation is that the ancient word for Rabbit (Mao) sounds like cat (Meo).
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 several other countries' postal service issue a "Year of the ____" postage stamp each year to honor this Chinese heritage.
The Korean zodiac is essentially identical to the Chinese zodiac, but the Sino-Korean word 양 (yang) normally refers specifically to a sheep in the Korean language (where a native Korean word 염소 yeomso is used to mean "Goat"), although the Chinese source of the loanword yang may refer to any goat-antelope.
The Japanese zodiac includes the Sheep (hitsuji) instead of the Goat (which would be yagi), and the Wild boar (inoshishi, i) instead of the Pig (buta). Since 1873, the Japanese have celebrated the beginning of the new year on 1 January as per the Gregorian calendar.
The Cambodian zodiac is exactly identical to that of the Chinese although the dragon is interchangeable with the Neak (nāga) Cambodian sea snake. Sheep and Goat are interchangeable as well. Unlike China, Cambodians start their new year in April rather than in the beginning of the year. That is why the Cambodian New Year is celebrated in April rather than in January like most countries.
Similarly the Malay zodiac is identical to the Chinese but replaces the Rabbit with the mousedeer (pelanduk) and the Pig with the tortoise (kura). The Dragon is normally equated with the nāga but it is sometimes called Big Snake (ular besar) while the Snake sign is called Second Snake (ular sani).
The Thai zodiac includes a nāga in place of the Dragon and begins, not at the Chinese New Year, but either on the first day of the fifth month in the Thai lunar calendar, or during the Songkran New Year festival (now celebrated every 13–15 April), depending on the purpose of the use.
The Volga Bulgars, Kazars and other Turkic peoples replaced some animals by local fauna: Leopard (instead of Tiger), Fish (instead of Dragon), Crocodile (also instead of Dragon), Hedgehog (instead of Monkey), Elephant (instead of Pig), and Camel (instead of Mouse).