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Discovering the Chinese Zodiac: A Fascinating Astrological Tradition

CEO Khai Intela
Image source: saigonintela.vn Have you ever wondered about the Chinese zodiac? It's an ancient astrological system that assigns a zodiac animal to each year in a 12-year cycle. With each passing Chinese New Year, the...

What is the Chinese Zodiac? Image source: saigonintela.vn

Have you ever wondered about the Chinese zodiac? It's an ancient astrological system that assigns a zodiac animal to each year in a 12-year cycle. With each passing Chinese New Year, the zodiac animal progresses to the next, creating a never-ending rotation of animal signs.

Exploring the Chinese zodiac and the personality traits associated with each animal can be a fascinating and engaging activity, especially for those interested in Chinese culture and language. It provides insight into the complex and captivating world of Chinese traditions and beliefs.

Understanding the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac is a time-honored belief system that helps individuals understand their destiny. Based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, this system follows a 12-year cycle, with each year represented by a specific zodiac animal, known as "生肖" (shēngxiào) in Chinese.

As we approach Spring Festival on February 12, 2021, families in China and across the Chinese diaspora will gather to celebrate. This year, they will welcome the Ox (牛 niú), the second animal in the 12-year rotation.

The Origins of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac is believed to have originated during China's Warring States Period between 475 BCE and 221 BCE. However, its popularity grew during the Han Dynasty from 202 BCE to 202 CE.

Several theories and stories surround the origin of the zodiac animals, making it a tad confusing. One theory suggests that the zodiac animals were introduced to China by Indian Buddhists along the Silk Road trade routes.

Another popular theory revolves around the mythical Jade Emperor. According to this legend, the Jade Emperor invited all the animals in the world to a banquet. However, only 12 animals showed up, and as a result, he dedicated a year on the Chinese calendar to each of these animals, forming the 12 Chinese zodiac signs.

Yet another story claims that Buddha called upon 12 sacred animals to guard his palace. To select the guardians, he organized a race involving all the animals on earth. The first 12 animals to finish the race became the 12 zodiac signs.

The traditional order of the 12 zodiac animals is as follows:

  1. Rat (2020)
  2. Ox (2021)
  3. Tiger (2022)
  4. Rabbit (2023)
  5. Dragon (2024)
  6. Snake (2025)
  7. Horse (2026)
  8. Ram (2027)
  9. Monkey (2028)
  10. Rooster (2029)
  11. Dog (2030)
  12. Pig (2031)

To learn more about the Chinese zodiac's mythical origins, you can watch the informative video below from our friends at Ted-Ed:

Ted-Ed Video Caption: A quick overview of one of the myths behind the Chinese zodiac.

Birth Year vs. Birth Month

Unlike Western astrology that focuses on the day and month of birth, the Chinese zodiac places greater emphasis on the birth year. The traits and events in a person's life are believed to be influenced by the zodiac animal associated with their birth year.

The Five Elements of the Chinese Zodiac

In addition to the zodiac animals, each lunisolar year is also associated with one of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. These elements, influenced by the delicate balance of Yin and Yang, hold significant meaning in traditional Chinese philosophy.

For example, 2021 is the Year of the Ox and Yin Metal, while 2022 will be the Year of the Tiger and Yang Water.

Here's a brief description of the traits associated with each element:

  • Wood: Symbolizes warmth, elegance, sensitivity, and generosity.
  • Fire: Symbolizes decisiveness, innovativeness, dynamism, and joy.
  • Earth: Symbolizes honesty, prudence, and hard work.
  • Metal: Symbolizes independence, ambition, and strength.
  • Water: Symbolizes flexibility, diplomacy, kindness, and persuasiveness.

Discover Your Chinese Zodiac Animal

To determine your Chinese zodiac sign, simply match your birth year with its corresponding zodiac animal. This can also help you identify the element associated with your zodiac sign.

Zodiac Animal Element Recent Years
Rat 鼠 Water 水 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox 牛 Earth 土 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Tiger 虎 Wood 木 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Rabbit 兔 Wood 木 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Dragon 龙 Earth 土 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Snake 蛇 Fire 火 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Horse 马 Fire 火 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Ram 羊 Earth 土 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Monkey 猴 Metal 金 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Rooster 鸡 Metal 金 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Dog 狗 Earth 土 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Pig 猪 Water 水 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Interpersonal Compatibility in the Chinese Zodiac

For centuries, fortune-tellers have used the Chinese zodiac to predict the fate and fortune of countless individuals, including their compatibility with potential partners. Each zodiac animal can interact positively or negatively with others, according to traditional beliefs.

Exploring the Personality Traits of the Zodiac Animals

People in China also believe that each of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals possesses both favorable and unfavorable traits. These traits are thought to be reflected in the personalities of individuals born under a specific zodiac sign.

1. Rat

  • Positive traits: Smart, curious, clever, persuasive, and generous.
  • Negative traits: Uptight and monotonous.
  • Representative individuals: Katy Perry, Prince Harry.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Rat, Monkey, and Dragon.

2. Ox

  • Positive traits: Reliable, protective, leadership skills, and goal-oriented.
  • Negative traits: Private and holds grudges silently.
  • Representative individuals: Barack Obama, George Clooney.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Ox, Rooster, and Snake.

3. Tiger

  • Positive traits: Natural leaders, powerful, bravery, and warm-heartedness.
  • Negative traits: Moody and hot-tempered.
  • Representative individuals: Tom Cruise, Marilyn Monroe.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Tiger, Dog, and Horse.

4. Rabbit

  • Positive traits: Sensitive, compassionate, kind, and popular.
  • Negative traits: Unable to defend themselves in arguments.
  • Representative individuals: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Rabbit, Pig, and Goat.

5. Dragon

  • Positive traits: Natural leaders, powerful, charismatic, and lucky.
  • Negative traits: Self-centered.
  • Representative individuals: Rihanna, Bruce Lee.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Dragon, Rat, and Snake.

6. Snake

  • Positive traits: Generous, mentally sharp, analytical, and good with money.
  • Negative traits: Distrustful, jealous, and insecure.
  • Representative individuals: Muhammad Ali, Daniel Radcliffe.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Snake, Ox, and Rooster.

7. Horse

  • Positive traits: Self-reliant, energetic, and love for travel.
  • Negative traits: Impatient.
  • Representative individuals: Katie Holmes, Kristen Stewart.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Horse, Tiger, and Dog.

8. Ram

  • Positive traits: Loving, supportive, creative, and beauty.
  • Negative traits: Unorganized and unrealistic expectations.
  • Representative individuals: Bruce Willis, Nicole Kidman.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Ram, Rabbit, and Pig.

9. Monkey

  • Positive traits: Excellent listening skills, energetic, and cheerful.
  • Negative traits: Dislikes commitments and can be heartbreakers.
  • Representative individuals: Tom Hanks, Daniel Craig.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Monkey, Dragon, and Rat.

10. Rooster

  • Positive traits: Straightforward, honest, practical, and perfectionists.
  • Negative traits: Materialistic.
  • Representative individuals: Kate Middleton, Britney Spears.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Rooster, Ox, and Snake.

11. Dog

  • Positive traits: Loyal, sensitive, attention to detail, and honest.
  • Negative traits: Emotionally insecure and judgmental.
  • Representative individuals: Madonna, Winston Churchill.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Dog, Horse, and Tiger.

12. Pig

  • Positive traits: Good manners, intelligent, and tastefulness.
  • Negative traits: Incapable of making tough choices.
  • Representative individuals: Hillary Clinton, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • Compatibility: Most compatible with Pig, Goat, and Rabbit.

The Chinese Zodiac Clock

Some people believe that the position of zodiac animals on the Chinese zodiac clock affects their compatibility. Animals that are four hours apart are considered more compatible than those that are six hours apart.

The Chinese zodiac clock divides our 24-hour day into 12 windows, assigning a zodiac animal to each:

  • 11:00 PM to 1:00 AM — Hour of the Rat
  • 1:00 AM to 3:00 AM — Hour of the Ox
  • 3:00 AM to 5:00 AM — Hour of the Tiger
  • 5:00 AM to 7:00 AM — Hour of the Rabbit
  • 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM — Hour of the Dragon
  • 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM — Hour of the Snake
  • 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM — Hour of the Horse
  • 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM — Hour of the Goat
  • 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM — Hour of the Monkey
  • 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM — Hour of the Rooster
  • 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM — Hour of the Dog
  • 9:00 PM to 11:00 PM — Hour of the Pig

For example, rats are most compatible with other rats, monkeys (four hours ahead), and dragons (eight hours ahead). On the other hand, rats are least compatible with rabbits (five hours ahead) and horses (12 hours ahead).

The Legend Lives On

The Chinese zodiac is just one of the many cultural treasures that have been passed down through thousands of years of Chinese civilization. It continues to thrive and captivate people's imaginations to this day.

We hope you've enjoyed this guide to the Chinese zodiac and its fascinating intricacies. If you're ever interested in learning the Chinese language or exploring Chinese culture further, consider joining us in Guilin, where CLI will be your guide. Until then, keep studying and keep growing!