Chinese Zodiac

What is the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese zodiac (Mandarin: Shēngxiào) refers to a 12 year cycle where each year is represented by an animal and its traits. The zodiac system originated during or before the Imperial China period, having existed since the Qin and Han Dynasties, over 2,000 years back.

What are the Chinese Zodiac Signs

A zodiac cycle begins with the Rat, and ends with the Pig. Each of the twelve signs is associated with one of the twelve Earthly Branches, while also having their fixed element. The order of the animals is determined by the Chinese Yin-Yang theory, with those having an even number of digits on their paw/foot/hand being Yin animals, and the ones with an odd number of digits being Yang animals.

Chinese Zodiac in Order Yin/Yang Earthly Branch
1. Rat Yang Zi
2. Ox Yin Chou
3. Tiger Yang Yin
4. Rabbit Yin Mao
5. Dragon Yang Chen
6. Snake Yin Si
7. Horse Yang Wu
8. Goat (Sheep) Yin Wei
9. Monkey Yang Shen
10. Rooster Yin You
11. Dog Yang Xu
12. Pig (Boar) Yin Hai

There are ten Heavenly Stems in Chinese astrology that are associated with the Earthly Branches, and through tem, with the Zodiac Animals. Each Heavenly Branch is also associated with one of the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. So, the Zodiac signs also have association with these elements, and the characteristic traits of an element may be prominent in a specific Zodiac.

The Origin Story of the Chinese Zodiac: The Great Race

The myth regarding the origin and selection of the animals for the zodiac signs involves the Jade Emperor, the lord of the heaven and all Gods according to Chinese folklore, who ordered all animals from the land to participate in a race to earn a place in the calendar. Their selection and positions among the zodiac signs were decided based on which twelve animals arrived first.

What is the Chinese New Year

The Zodiac system, as well as the Earthly Branches and Heavenly Stems, all were originally introduced with the purpose of keeping the time and calculate hours, days, weeks, months, and years. The Chinese calendar was established based on these calculations and it is still followed in many East Asian countries, as well as other places around the world. The first day on the Chinese calendar is referred to as the Chinese New Year, also called the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, celebrated all over the world through special feasts, and parades.

As there are twelve zodiac signs, the Chinese calendar assigns one animal to each month, with the year beginning with a Year of the Rat, and ending with a Year of the Pig.

Here is a 24 year cycle showing how the Zodiac animals rotate in dominating a year:

Date and Year Zodiac Animal Associated Element Earthly Branch Heavenly Stem
Feb 7, 2008–Jan 25, 2009 Rat Yang Earth Zi Wu
Jan 26, 2009–Feb 13, 2010 Ox Yin Earth Chou Ji
Feb 14, 2010–Feb 2, 2011 Tiger Yang Metal Yin Geng
Feb 3, 2011–Jan 22, 2012 Rabbit Yin Metal Mao Xin
Jan 23, 2012–Feb 9, 2013 Dragon Yang Water Chen Ren
Feb 10, 2013–Jan 30, 2014 Snake Yin Water Si Gui
Jan 31, 2014–Feb 18, 2015 Horse Yang Wood Wu Jia
Feb 19, 2015–Feb 7, 2016 Goat Yin Wood Wei Yi
Feb 8, 2016–Jan 27, 2017 Monkey Yang Fire Shen Bing
Jan 28, 2017–Feb 15, 2018 Rooster Yin Fire You Ding
Feb 16, 2018–Feb 4, 2019 Dog Yang Earth Xu Wu
Feb 5, 2019–Jan 24, 2020 Pig Yin Earth Hai Ji
Jan 25, 2020–Feb 11, 2021 Rat Yang Metal Zi Geng
Feb 12, 2021–Jan 31, 2022 Ox Yin Metal Chou Xin
Feb 1, 2022–Jan 21, 2023 Tiger Yang Water Yin Ren
Jan 22, 2023–Feb 9, 2024 Rabbit Yin Water Mao Gui
Feb 10, 2024–Jan 28, 2025 Dragon Yang Wood Chen Jia
Jan 29, 2025–Feb 16, 2026 Snake Yin Wood Si Yi
Feb 17, 2026–Feb 5, 2027 Horse Yang Fire Wu Bing
Feb 6, 2027–Jan 25, 2028 Goat Yin Fire Wei Ding
Jan 26, 2028–Feb 12, 2029 Monkey Yang Earth Shen Wu
Feb 13, 2029–Feb 2, 2030 Rooster Yin Earth You Ji
Feb 3, 2030–Jan 22, 2031 Dog Yang Metal Xu Geng
Jan 23, 2031–Feb 10, 2032 Pig Yin Metal Hai Xin

Why is the Chinese New Year Date Different Every Year

Being a lunisolar calendar (combining both solar and lunar cycles), the first day of each month in the Chinese calendar is determined by the date of the new moon. A month lasts for a single lunar cycle that is 29.5 days in average. The Chinese New Year date coincides with the new moon in February, which comes sometime between 21st January and 20th February every year. As a result, the Chinese New Year date can vary from year to year.

What Does the Chinese Year of Birth Mean

As each year is attributed to a certain animal, each person has a specific zodiac year of birth, according to their birth date. These signs can be used to predict the character, temperament, as well as career, marriage, and compatibility of a person born in a specific zodiac year.

Though it might sound superstitious and odd, but your birth year is believed to be unlucky for you according to Chinese astrology. It is like a hurdle for you that return every twelve years with unfortunate events like job-problems, financial loss, health issues, and family problems. There is a simple-enough solution for this as well – wearing red underwear, belts, or socks given to you by someone elder, as the color red is supposed to bring you good luck.

How to Find Out Your Chinese Zodiac

You can easily find out you Chinese Zodiac by calculating what animal your birth year was assigned to. For example, based on the above table, a baby born between Feb 7, 2008 and Jan 25, 2009 will have the Rat as his Chinese Zodiac as he was born in the year of the Rat.

The element dominant in your birth year is your zodiac element, and it also determines your characteristic traits, contributing to shape your basic personality. In the above example, the birth element will be Earth.

Chinese Zodiac Relationship Compatibility

Out of the twelve animals, some suit each other like soul mates, while others may have issues adjusting. For example, a Snake person is best matched with a Monkey for a romantic relationship, while their personality doesn’t match that of a Pig. The following table gives an idea about one compatible and one incompatible sign for each animal:

Zodiac Best Match Worst Match
Rat Ox Horse
Ox Rat Goat
Tiger Pig Monkey
Rabbit Dog Rooster
Dragon Rooster Dog
Snake Monkey Pig
Horse Goat Rat
Goat Horse Ox
Monkey Snake Tiger
Rooster Dragon Rabbit
Dog Rabbit Dragon
Pig Tiger Snake

The solar and lunar calendars help to calculate the compatibility between Chinese and Western Zodiac signs as well.

Each of the zodiacs also has specific numbers, colors, and gemstones that are considered lucky for those born in their years. The Chinese Zodiac system is followed by many around the world, alongside the Western Zodiacs.

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