WHAT IS THE CHINESE ZODIAC?
The Chinese zodiac is an astrological chart readingplatform that is based on the lunar calendar in a cycle of twelve years. It originated from China and has become very popular in several Asian countries and cultures, including South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Thailand. Similar to the Western zodiac, the Chinese zodiac is also used to describe and predict a person’s attributes and future endeavors based on the influence of the stars.
While the Western Zodiac is divided into twelve sectors that are each defined by a particular mythological creature, the Chinese zodiac is also divided into twelve domains that are considered to be under the influence of a particular animal. The creatures of the Western zodiac are essentially inspired by the most dominant constellation in each of the twelve identified areas in the skies. This is not the case in the Chinese zodiac.
The first known use of the twelve animals as the astrological markers of the Chinese zodiac can be traced way back to around two-thousand years ago in Han Dynasty China. The lunar calendar is the basis for the proper sequencing of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each animal–along with its particular characteristics–governs one year. The cycle is repeated every five years to account for the five Chinese elements. Overall, the Chinese zodiac resets after a sixty year cycle.
THE TWELVE ANIMALS OF THE CHINESE ZODIAC
Each of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiacrepresents a set of attributes. This is quite similar to the twelve signs of the Western Zodiac. The sequence of the animals is based on a myth of the Jade Emperor who issued a call to all animals all over the world to come to his palace and serve as his personal guards. The invitation came with the incentive that whoever reaches the palace first would be granted greater honor and rank.
The way to the domain of the Jade Emperor was blocked by a wide and deep river. For most animals who made the journey, the river presented a difficult obstacle. First to arrive at the river bank was the diligent ox who had no problem wading and swimming across the river. The rat and the cat, both quick-witted and agile, begged ox to carry them on their back since it would be impossible for them to navigate the strong current. Kind-hearted ox agreed. When ox reached the opposite bank, rat distracted cat and pushed it to the river where it drowned. Rat jumped into dry land and was the first. Ox came in second place.
Tiger was also a strong swimmer, but had difficulty with the strong current. It came at third place. Rabbit almost drowned but was lucky enough to jump over some floating logs to finish the race. It came in fourth place.
The dragon actually had the strength to simply fly over the river and come in first place. But it saw a village being ravaged by fire and did not hesitate to turn back and help. It quickly returned to race. But when it saw that rabbit was about to drown, it blew a gust of wind that propelled rabbit to a floating log. The dragon did not mind that it came in fifth place, though.
The horse nearly beat the dragon for fifth place. But it was not aware that there was a snake that wrapped itself around its hoof. Just when the horse was about to jump on dry land, the snake uncoiled itself and slithered ahead. The horse was frightened. Thus, snake came in sixth and the horse came in seventh place.
The goat, the monkey, and the rooster were all poor swimmers. So they decided to work as a team. They built a raft and rowed across the river. When they reached the other side, it did not matter anymore who was to arrive first. Goat came in eight place, followed by the monkey and the rooster.
Surprisingly dog came in eleventh place, despite being an excellent swimmer. This was because the dog became more preoccupied with having fun in the water rather than winning the race. Pig came in last place because it either got too hungry or too sleepy. Even the Jade Emperor almost gave up on it.
THE INCLUSIVE YEARS OF THE CHINESE ZODIAC ANIMALS
Here are the years and the characteristics for each of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac:
- RAT ( 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032 ) – Rats are known for their charisma, and street-smart ways. They are motivated by the desire for material wealth, and security.
- OX ( 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033 ) – Oxen are known for their kindness, and tolerance. They are always driven to accomplish their goal despite any challenge or difficulty.
- TIGER ( 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034 ) – Tigers are known for the competitiveness, and courage. They are not hesitant to display their physical and mental prowess.
- RABBIT ( 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035 ) – Rabbits are known for their honesty, and compassion. They are skilled diplomats who will always look to diffuse tensions quickly.
- DRAGON ( 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036 ) – Dragons are known for their generosity, and friendliness. They are motivated by great ideas, noble acts, and great ambition.
- SNAKE ( 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037 ) – Snakes are known for their eccentricity, and sociability. They are very intuitive. They are skilled in making deep emotional connections.
- HORSE ( 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038 ) – Horses are known for their independence, and energy. They are always eager to try new things and experience new sensations.
- GOAT ( 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039 ) – Goats are known for their humility, and peacefulness. They are perhaps the most humanitarian of all the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
- MONKEY ( 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040 ) – Monkeys are known for their love for fun, and humor. They know their personal limitations and potentials better than others.
- ROOSTER ( 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041 ) – Roosters are known for their confidence, and pragmatism. They are fearless. They are willing to lead by example.
- DOG ( 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042 ) – Dogs are known for their loyalty, and their diligence. They are optimistic. They tend to see the good qualities of everyone.
- PIG ( 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043 ) – Pigs are known for their patience, and appetite for life. They are always eager to share their wealth, and comfort with others.
In addition, each of the animals of the Chinese zodiac is also associated with one of the five Chinese elements. According to Chinese philosophy and astrology, each of the five elements interact with each other in two ways:
- CREATING INTERACTIONS – Creating interactions are those where one element is responsible for creating another. For example, water enables wood to grow. At the same time, wood serves as fuel for starting fire.
- OVERCOMING INTERACTIONS – Overcoming interactions are those where one element is responsible for diminishing another. For example, water can douse fire. At the same time, fire can be used to melt metal.
The five Chinese elements are:
- WOOD – Wood is associated with wisdom and personal growth. It is closely associated with the ability to build and expand social networks. It is associated with the tiger and the rabbit. It creates fire as kindling ( creating ), and cuts the earth with its roots ( overcoming ).
- FIRE – Fire is associated with thrill-seeking and appetite for life. It is closely associated with the ability to innovate ideas and to take risks for success. It is associated with the horse and the snake. It creates earth by burning everything to ash ( creating ) , and melts metal ( overcoming ).
- EARTH – Earth is associated with fairness and altruism. It is closely associated with the ability to dispense justice or find solutions to problems. It is associated with the dragon, dog, ox, and goat. Earth creates metal through pressure ( creating ), and absorbs all traces of water ( overcoming ).
- METAL – Metal is associated with willpower and discipline. It is closely associated with the ability to persevere towards a clear goal. It is associated with the monkey and the rooster. Metal can be shaped into a vessel to carry water ( creating ), and can be used to chop wood ( overcoming ).
- WATER – Water is associated with creativity and intuition. It is closely associated with the ability to connect with others on a deep emotional level. It is associated with the rat and the pig. Water nourishes wood ( creating ), and puts out fire ( overcoming ).
A rather fascinating characteristic of the Chinese zodiac is that the year of the animal you were born under is actually a potentially unlucky year. It is a year where one must be very careful about his or her decisions in life, love, career, and all life-changing events. This is rooted in the ancient belief that Tai Sui, the God of Age and parallel to the Western symbol of Jupiter, is easy to offend during the year where your birth zodiac falls. One way to placate Tai Sui is to avoid any major decision such as accepting an international scholarship, opening a new business venture, or getting married. It is possible to overcome the strong possibility of misfortune by surrounding oneself with charms and talismans, or appease Tai Sui by offering prayers or tributes.