The Chinese Zodiac Explained

The Astrology of the East is an intricate, complex science that requires a good deal of time and patience to fully appreciate it’s many intriguing subtleties. The system works on a multiplicity of levels, each fascinating in it’s own right. As a whole, it offers a wealth of information and invaluable insights into every aspect of an individual’s character and way of life.

chinese animal signs

At the heart of it’s complexity lies the Oriental system of reckoning time, the key players being the Sun, Moon and Jupiter, which are seen to traverse the heavens at vastly different speeds to one another. The year is based on the movement of the Moon and calculated according to the lunar phases.

So,  New Year’s Day can fall between late January (Year of Rooster 2017, starting from January 28) and the end of February (Year of the dog 2018, starting from February 16).  Year of the Earth Pig in 2019 starts on Tuesday, February 5th and ends on January 24th, 2020

Days are arranged into groups of ten, with twenty-four fortnights, each fifteen days long, forming a solar year.

To confuse matters further, the twelve year period it takes Jupiter to orbit the Sun is known as a ‘Great Year’. Five Great Years group together to form a grand sexagesimal cycle, which begins the process all over again, once it has run it’s course.

Familiar to all Chinese people are the exotic Animals of Oriental Astrology, each representing one year of the twelve yearly cycle.

The Chinese zodiac signs run in strict sequence, beginning with the Rat, and followed in turn by the Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Monkey, Sheep, Rooster, Dog, and finally, the Pig. Each Animal stands as a symbol , denoting the essential ‘character’, ‘colour’, and ‘flavour’ that influences all things that come into being in any one year.

Origin of the zodiacs

An old legend says that one day Buddha called all the animals for a great celebration. But only 12 animals responded to Buddha’s invitation: the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog and the Pig. To honor them, Buddha decided to dedicate one year from the calendar to each of these animals. Unlike our western astrology, the Chinese zodiac sign depends rather on the year than on the month that you were born in. So, the Chinese people believe that for every period of time, all the people who were born in the same year share similar main character traits.

Each character has both good and bad traits. It is all about using them intelligently to make the best for you and the ones around you!

The Chinese celebrate New Year’s Eve by great festivities with fireworks and special events that are related to their traditions. The celebrations for the Chinese New Year’s festivity last between 5 to 10 days. In the Chinese Zodiac, the current year is under the sign of the Earth Dog lasting between the 16th of February 2018 and the 4th of February 2019.

The calendar of the Chinese Zodiac signs succession for the following years:

    • Rooster January 28th 2017 – February 18th 2018
    • Dog February 19th 2018 – February 4th 2019
    • Pig February 5th 2019 – January 24th 2020
    • Rat January 25th 2020 – February 11th 2021
    • Ox February 12th 2021 – January 31st 2022
    • Tiger February 1st 2022 – January 21st 2023
    • Rabbit January 22nd 2023 – February 9th 2024
    • Dragon February 10th 2024 – January 28th 2025

The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

Rat (鼠—Shǔ)

In China and Japan, the rat is a veneered symbol of good luck and wealth, unlike her western gutter-dwelling counterpart.
But in both east and west, Rats are most often behind the scenes, curiously observing and then taking opportunities that come their way.
Characteristically, Rats are ingenious at overcoming adversity and you are skilled at using your charm and persuasive powers to ensure your own goals are met without ever seeming manipulative.

Rats love socialising, and you are at your happiest surrounded by your close-knit clan. To those in your pack you are generous and fiercely loyal, but you are often defensive and uptight with outsiders.

Professionally, you detest bureaucracy and tight deadlines reduce you to despair. Luckily, you can usually charm your way around such limitations and your lucky streak generally ensures good fortune finds you.

In love, Rats are adventurous pleasure-seekers and monotony is your worst fear. The most compatible match for a Rat is the Dragon or the Monkey.

Ox (牛—Niu)

The Chinese Ox is sturdy and steadfast, a born leader and a great practical thinker. You are ruled by your head and achieve through hard graft.
Unlike the western image of a bull in a china shop, the Chinese Ox is more refined, and you have a fine eye for the smaller details.

Oxen are honorable creatures and, although you can be dogmatic and traditional in your approach to situations, you have a strong moral code. You do not respond well to change and can tend to be obstructive if others force situations upon you.

You detest stress, preferring to work or think at your own pace but you are swift to judge. Oxen generally keep their views to themselves, though, and you are more likely to hold silent grudges than air your grievances as you hate public arguments.

You are loyal and protective of those dearest to you and would rather work out problems in private, even if that takes time, than move on to new pastures.

The most compatible match for an Ox is the Snake or the Rooster.

Tiger (虎—Hǔ)

The Chinese Tiger is a magnetic creature and few animals can resist your raw, seductive appeal when you’re on the prowl.
Although the Tiger is not the King of the Jungle, you are most certainly Queen of all you survey and your authoritative manner generally ensures that you stay in control. You don’t deal with failure well, though, and demonstrate a fiery temper if challenged.

Tigers are smart and inventive in business, and you’re very good at taking the initiative and winning.

While you are a powerful force to be reckoned with sexually, snaring your prey with your seductive charms, you hate being caged yourself and retreat if you sense an emotional trap.

The most compatible match for a Tiger is a Horse or a Dog.

Rabbit (兔—Tù)

The Chinese Rabbit is popular for its warm nature and sensitivity. Vulnerable creatures, Bunny Girls need love and protection to thrive.

As a Rabbit, you feel most comfortable in the hub of a large group of close friends or family. You don’t deal well with isolation or loneliness and depend on others for emotional support and validation.

Bunnies are incapable of fighting alone, so tend to bolt if faced with problems or arguments. Sometimes, even minor decision-making can be traumatic for poor Rabbits.

Rabbits have keen senses of smell but this goes beyond the physical – you are extremely sensitive to people and situations and your intuition is seldom wrong. Many Rabbits are also psychically gifted.

The Rabbit is most compatible with the Goat or the Pig.

Dragon (龙—Lóng)

The Chinese Dragon is one of the most powerful of all the animals, using its fiery energy to achieve greatness.

You dragons are charismatic creatures and breathe warmth and energy into all that you do. This makes you infectiously charming and generally popular. You love to be in charge and spark enthusiasm in others for whatever project you’re working on.

You can be self-important, however, and your impatient streak can mean you live up to your name.

With all that fire, dragons are passionate and sexy and blessed with a great deal of luck in love. You’re hot on emotions and get frustrated by those who take a cooler approach than you.

Dragons are champions of the weak and, even though you can be insensitive to those who don’t do things your way, you’re quick to rise to the defence of more timid animals.

The most compatible match for a Dragon is the Snake or the Rat.

Snake (蛇—Shé)

The Chinese Snake is the most seductive animal of the zodiac, oozing sensual power with an air of mystery.
Snakes tend to be extravagant creatures and love beautiful clothes and possessions. Luckily, you have a stout financial mind so you are gifted at making your money go a long way.

Although the Chinese Snake is not as sly as the western stereotype, you do enjoy being party to a good bit of gossip and you are very skilful at eliciting people’s secret confidences.

Snakes have a deep-rooted scepticism and jealousy and distrust can mar your relationships if you don’t loosen the reins of control occasionally.

The most compatible match for a Snake is the stylish Rooster or the stalwart Ox.

Horse (马—Mǎ)

The Chinese Horse is a true thoroughbred – naturally elegant and graceful, but with an untameable wild and tempestuous streak.
Horses prize their independence and have an unquenchable passion for travel. You therefore tend towards a minimalistic way of life with few material possessions as you prefer to be free to follow your flights of fancy.

Horses are pioneering spirits and are often the first to discover new territory. You thrive in less disciplined environments where you are free to explore your own methods of doing things.

Your wild temperament means you hunger for physical intimacy and closeness, yet you are afraid of being emotionally fettered. You love the buzz of new faces, places and hot gossip.

The most compatible match for the Horse is the Dog or the Tiger.

Goat (羊—Yang)

The Chinese Goat is an independent, introspective creature, preferring the interior world of its own imagination to the drudgery of the materialistic world.
Goats are hugely creative, great lovers of tranquillity and beautiful places. In fact, you love nothing better than time to yourself to indulge your daydreaming. Any kind of monotonous reality gets you down and you are at your best when allowed to experiment with your typically non-linear approach.

Although you are largely unmaterialistic and you shun power or responsibility, you enjoy luxury and like to have the means to be generous to those you love.

You detest emotional scenes and public shows of affection and keep your personal life and your feelings close to your chest. But your imaginative streak extends to the bedroom and you’re certainly not as sheepish as you initially appear.

Goats are most compatible with Pigs or Rabbits.

Monkey (猴—Hóu)

True to your name, the Chinese Monkey is a cheeky creature, the joker in the pack. Popular and sociable, you’re where the party’s at.
Your great energy allows you to swing from group to group and you like to keep up with a wide selection of friends rather than a close group of intimates, not least because of your love of gossip! You’re great at lightening the mood and you laugh in the face of adversity, but sometimes you don’t know when the joke’s over and it’s time to be serious.

The Monkey is an ingenious animal and you’re quick to master complicated theories and use your lateral thinking to get around obstacles.

In love, the Monkey hates commitment and you rebel against anything or anyone who tries to compromise your independence. If you feel trapped emotionally, you are likely to be unfaithful.

Monkeys are most compatible with Rats or Dragons.

Rooster (鸡—Jī)

The most stylish animal in the Chinese Zodiac, Roosters are very visual. The Rooster delights in material goods and aesthetic perfection.
As a Rooster, you’re a calm customer and you don’t like to ruffle your feathers unnecessarily. You spend too much time preening to lose your composure in public. That said, you can be theatrical and over-dramatic if the perfect world you strive for is threatened.

Combined with your keen eye for detail, your love of wealth and material possessions means you are likely to spend a great deal of time and investment on perfecting your dream home.

Naturally, you like to rule the roost and, despite your love of physical beauty, will prefer a more subdued mate who will be content to bask in your limelight.

The most compatible match for a Rooster is the Snake or the Ox

Dog (狗—Gǒu)

The Chinese Dog is as loyal as his western counterpart but can have a sharp bite and a determined bark.
Dogs love to please those they love, even if this involves bending the truth ever so slightly to keep the peace. And if your cover is blown, you Dogs hang on to your new version of events like a juicy bone, digging yourselves further and further into trouble.

On the other hand, however, you hate superficiality or deceit in others. This, combined with your own underlying emotional insecurity, means you guard your feelings closely and are wary of new people. You prefer to stick to your pack and those who have earned your trust.

Dogs are sticklers for issues and are swift to judge those they see as unethical. You will fiercely protect your values and stand your ground against anyone who attacks your beliefs.

Dogs are most compatible with Tigers or Horses.

Pig(猪—Zhū)

The Chinese Pig is the most honorable animal of the zodiac. Gentle and home-loving, Pigs are generous and indulgent by nature.
Unlike the typical view of the Pig, the Chinese Pig is known for its impeccable manners, exquisite taste and gentle disposition.

You Pigs love comfort and prefer to indulge in a luxurious home than in going out. Subsequently, you spend more time with close friends and family than in wider social circles.

You hate emotional uncertainty but Pigs are incapable of making hard decisions so you often end up putting up with relationships that don’t entirely satisfy you. You would still rather be with an unsuitable partner than be alone as one of your greatest fears is isolation.

The most compatible match for a Pig is a Rabbit or a Goat.

China’s Five Elements Philosophy

In order to explain the subtleties of personality that differentiate one person from another, it is on the refinements of the sophisticated Oriental system that we must concentrate. Most salient of these are the Elements that govern the years, the Yin-Yang polarity of each year and the hour in which the individual is born.

According to Chinese philosophy, five Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water (in that order) form the essential building blocks of all living things.

Each Animal sign within it’s sixty year framework is ruled by a different Element. Each successive appearance of the Animal sign is modified by the characteristics of the next Element in turn, which help to distinguish one year’s nativity from another under the same Animal sign.

The characteristics of each of the Elements are as follows:

ElementKey Characteristics
WoodWarm,
Generous, Considerate, Elegant, Cooperative.
FireDynamic,
Decisive, Inovative, Joyful, Lucid.
EarthHonest,
Patient, Responsible, Industrious, Prudent.
MetalStrong,
Moral, Ambitious, Energetic, Independent.
WaterFlexible,
Persuasive, Diplomatic, Creative, Kind.

The dynamic complementary forces that keep the universe in balance are known as Yin and Yang. Yin, seen as feminine and receptive, is associated with water, night and the Moon.  Yang, considered to be masculine and active, is associated with day, fire and the Sun.

Yin contains a seed of Yang, and vice versa, as represented by the central spots in the Yin-Yang symbol. The two forces interrelate, dominating and yielding in turn, waxing and waning like the day and night, summer and winter, birth and death. Balance between the two is the key to harmony.

Each Animal year is designated either as Yin or Yang, and therefore confers either a receptive or dominating undercurrent to the nature according to when an individual is born.

Since the aim is to achieve equalibrium, recognizing which force underpins our birth time will enable each one of us to find ways of avoiding excesses, or shoring up a dearth of either in our lives.

The hour in which we are born adds yet another differentiating facet to our character. Like the years, the twelve double hours are also ruled by the same sequence of Animals, beginning with the Rat who rules the time between 11pm-1am.

So, an individual who is born in a Tiger year and in the hour of the Rabbit, will have Tiger characteristics tempered by those of the Rabbit.

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