Chinese zodiac

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

The Shēngxiào (Chinese: 生肖), better known in English as the Chinese Zodiac, is a scheme, a systematic plan of future action, that relates each year to animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year mathematical cycle. It has wide currency in several East Asian countries such as China, Vietnam, 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 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 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 () (Yang, 1st Trine Fixed Element Water)
  2. Ox () (Water buffalo in Vietnam) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water)
  3. Tiger () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
  4. Rabbit or () (Cat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
  5. Dragon / () (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
  6. Snake () (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
  7. Horse / () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
  8. Goat (aka Ram or Sheep) – () (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
  9. Monkey () (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
  10. Rooster / () (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
  11. Dog / () (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
  12. Pig / () (Boar in Japan and Elephant in Northern Thailand) (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 Goat 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.[2]

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.[3]

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

SeasonLunar MonthFixed ElementSolar LongitudeSolar TermWestern Date
Spring1st – 寅(yin) TigerWood314°立春 lìchūnFeb 04 – Feb 18
329°雨水 yǔshuǐFeb 19 – Mar 05
2nd – 卯(mao) RabbitWood344°啓蟄 qǐzhé (驚蟄 jīngzhé)Mar 06 – Mar 20
春分 chūnfēnMar 21 – Apr 04
3rd – 辰(chen) DragonEarth14°清明 qīngmíngApr 05 – Apr 19
29°穀雨 gǔyǔApr 20 – May 4
Summer4th – 巳(si) SnakeFire44°立夏 lìxiàMay 5 – May 20
59°小滿 xiǎomǎnMay 21 – June 5
5th – 午(wu) HorseFire74°芒種 mángzhòngJun 06 – Jun 20
89°夏至 xiàzhìJun 21 – Jul 06
6th – 未(wei) GoatEarth104°小暑 xiǎoshǔJul 07 – Jul 22
119°大暑 dàshǔJul 23 – Aug 06
Autumn7th – 申(shen) MonkeyMetal134°立秋 lìqiūAug 07 – Aug 22
149°處暑 chùshǔAug 23 – Sep 07
8th–酉(you) RoosterMetal164°白露 báilùSep 08 – Sep 22
181°秋分 qiūfēnSep 23 – Oct 07
9th–戌(xu) DogEarth194°寒露 hánlùOct 08 – Oct 22
211°霜降 shuāngjiàngOct 23 – Nov 06
Winter10th – 亥(hai) PigWater224°立冬 lìdōngNov 07 – Nov 21
244°小雪 xiǎoxuěNov 22 – Dec 06
11th – 子(zi) RatWater251°大雪 dàxuěDec 07 – Dec 21
271°冬至 dōngzhìDec 22 – Jan 05
12th – 丑(chou) OxEarth284°小寒 xiǎohánJan 06 – Jan 19
301°大寒 dàhánJan 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.[4]


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.

The times above are based on Beijing CST.


Chinese Zodiac is derived according to the ancient Five Elements Theory, Every Chinese Sign is composed by five elements, The relations between five elements are interpolation, interaction, over action and counter-action, which are believed to be the common law of the motions and changes of the creatures in the universe. Different people born under each animal sign have different personalities. It is possible to check details and compatibilities to gain guidance in life, for love or for marriage.

Chinese Zodiac Compatibility Grid

SignBest MatchMatchNo Match
RatDragon, Monkey, OxRat, Snake, Pig, Dog, TigerHorse, Rabbit
OxRat, Snake, RoosterOx, Tiger, Monkey, Dragon, Rabbit, PigHorse, Goat, Dog
TigerHorse, Dog, RabbitRat, Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Goat, Rooster, PigSnake, Monkey
RabbitGoat, Dog, PigTiger, Rabbit, Snake, Monkey, Ox, Dragon, HorseRat, Rooster
DragonRat, Monkey, SnakeTiger, Rooster, Dragon, Goat, Horse, Pig, Ox, RabbitDog
SnakeOx, Rooster, DragonRat, Rabbit, Monkey, Snake, Horse, Goat, DogTiger, Pig
HorseTiger, Goat, DogDragon, Snake, Monkey, Rooster, Pig, Rabbit, HorseRat, Ox
GoatRabbit, Horse, PigTiger, Dragon, Snake, Goat, Monkey, Rat, RoosterOx
MonkeyRat, Dragon, RoosterOx, Rabbit, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Snake, Dog, PigTiger
RoosterOx, Snake, MonkeyRat, Tiger, Horse, Goat, Rooster, Dog, PigRabbit
DogTiger, Horse, PigRat, Snake, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, RabbitOx, Dragon
PigGoat, Rabbit, DogRat, Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Rooster, PigSnake, Monkey

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.[5]

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 drum. 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, beauty, and a more philosophical, and intellectual approach in life. Their calm nature gives them great leadership abilities. They are artistic, refined, intuitive, intelligent 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, empathetic, 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 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 the behaviour of the animals:

A Branch may refer 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.

The Great Race

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 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.

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. 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 finished in 13th 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 13 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, 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, 水牛. 雞(Rooster) may mean chicken, hen, rooster, 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 Chinese zodiac except the fourth animal is the Cat instead of the Rabbit. The Japanese zodiac includes the Wild Boar instead of the Pig.[citation needed] The Thai zodiac includes a Naga in place of the Dragon.[citation needed] 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.[6] The Japanese however have since 1873 celebrated the beginning of the new year on the 1st of January as per the Gregorian Calendar.

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 – Goat
  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 - Goat
  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