The Chinese zodiac, known as Shengxiao or Shuxiang. Is one of the classic culture symbols of China. It is different from the 12 western constellations which are measured in months, The Chinese zodiac has a twelve year cycle, every year in the circle matches a corresponding animal sign. Every Chinese has his/her own zodiac animal sign based on the year they were born in. People are said to have characteristics of the animal which symbolises the particular year they were born in. It has a deep-rooted influence among Chinese and also some other Asian countries and has roots in Buddhism as well.
Origin of Chinese Zodiac
The origin of the Chinese zodiac relates to human relationship to and reverence for the natural world.
According to ancient books made of bamboo parchment, from the Qin Dynasty, excavated in Hubei province and Gansu province, we know that there was a comparable Chinese zodiac system in the period of the early Qin Dynasty. How did the whole theory developed it still a matter of debate among scholars.
Among the various theories, one significant theory holds that the story of the zodiac originally originates from ‘totems’ of the ancient tribes of China, the ancestors of people today. Each tribe had its unique animal symbol serving as their protecting deity and which was the object of their reverence. Among all the zodiac animals half of them could be called ‘domestic animals’ (horse ox rabbit sheep rooster dog pig), which people kept either as working animals or as part of their farm stock. The rest are essentially wild creatures which the ancestors admired and revered and they paid respect to these animals in order to maintain good fortune for their tribe. As time went by, these different totems gradually evolved into the system which forms the zodiac of present day.
Nowadays, the zodiac animals are regarded as mascots or decorations and symbols during the spring festivals and are classic representations of Chinese culture.
Order of Chinese Zodiac
The 12 animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac are fixed on the order based of ‘the twelve earthly branches’, including the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig in sequence. Each animal’s characteristics and traits are particular to the animal and so therefore particular to people born in the corresponding year.
As legend has it, in ancient time the Jade Emperor summoned all the animals to meet in heaven to discuss how to save the world. Yet only those animals above had come. So then the King named them as the zodiac to protect humanity in the sequence of their arrivals. The reason why cat is not involved is because it was only after the zodiac had already took form that cat was introduced to China from India by the famous Buddhist master Tang sanzang in Tang Dynasty.
As China has its own calendar—based on the lunar calendar, the Chinese zodiac does not start from January 1st of Gregorian date but Chinese lunar calendar based on the spring full moon as its’ starting point.
Find Your Year and Relative Characteristic
Born in the year of rat: intelligent, active, hard-working, kind, shortsighted, conservative.
Rat：As it has a habit of stealing grain in house, rat is also a symbol of abundance showing that your house has got ‘something for rat to work with.
Rat year：1924、1936、1948、1960、1972、1984 、1996、2008、2020
Celebrities: Chinese great poet Du fu.
Born in the year of ox
: hard-working, honest; endurance, strength and patience
Ox year : 1925、1937、1949、1961、1973、1985、1997、2009、2021
Celebrities：The First Emperor of Qin
Born in the year of tiger
: integrity, reluctance to pretend,patience, diligence, persistence.
Tiger is considered to be the children’ s protection in China.Kids wear shoes and hats decorated with tigers on them to avoiding evil spirits . It also contains good will for a healthy growth. For instance,in Shanxi province, uncles often bring tiger-shaped pillow for their nephews as birthday gifts. During Dragon boat festivals cloth tigers are often gave to kids as toys all in a good wish for them to grow strong and active.
Celebrities：Chinese great poet Li bai.
Born in the year of rabbit
: elegant, considerate; vainglorious, irritable
Born in the year of dragon
: aggressive, generous; competitive, thrusting
The Dragon is also the god in charge of rain in Chinese mythology. In Chinese history starting from Song dynasty, almost every village had a a Dragon King Temple where people would meditate and pray for a blessing of control of rain for the crops and good weather for their human activities. After thousands of years of evolving, the dragon has become the most potent symbol of Chinese culture.
Celebrities：Deng xiaoping, Bruce Lee, Jack Ma ,.Li Ka – Shing
Born in the year of snake
: responsible, smart; skeptical, inconstant
Celebrities：President Mao Zedong and President Xi Jinping
Born in the year of horse
: determined, eloquent; impatient, stubborn
Horse is generally favored by Chinese , as they were very important in transportation in history. It has also been seen as an animal of treasure in old times.Because horses were massively used during war times for carrying equipments and serving knight. Chinese have a proverb saying” thousands of chariots or millions of chariots”to describe a prosperous country.
Celebrities：Genghis Khan,Jacky Chen
Born in the year of sheep
: creative, tolerant; indecisive, soft head
Sheep is regarded as a very kind and harmless animal in China.It’s also a representative of Filial piety as the baby sheep are always keen down to their mothers for milk. A gesture of great apperication respectful and thankfulness
Sheep year :1931、1943、1955、1967、1979、1991、2003、2015、2027…
Celebrities：The Empress Dowager,Empress Wu of the Tang dynasty
Born in the year of monkey
: romantic, competitive; jealous, dishonest
Monkey year :1932、1944、1956、1968、1980、1992、2004、2016、2028
Celebrities：the famous Chinese hostess Yang Lan
Born in the year of rooster
: sharp, efficient; selfish, weird
Rooster year :1933、1945、1957、1969、1981、1993、2005、2017、2029
Celebrities：Mozi, the famous ideologist and statesman in the Warring State Period in China.
Born in the year of dog
: loyal, righteous; impatient, stubborn
Dog year : 1934、1946、1958、1970、1982、1994、2006、2018、2030
Celebrities：The great philosopher Confucius
Born in the year of pig
: optimistic, enthusiastic; emotional, sightless
Pig year :1935、1947、1959、1971、1983、1995、2007、2019、2031
So what’s your Chinese zodiac year? Are you the one with these characteristic listed above?
12 Zodiac Signs and Time (Shichen)
In ancient China, there is an old way to calculate time, that is shichen. Every sichen is a two-hour period divided by twelve animals . Each shichen corresponds to an animal in Chinese zodiac, which is based on the time of these animals’ appear and disappear time. The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac is symbolization of the twelve earthly branches.
12 Zodiac time
With the development of history, Chinese zodiac merges together with mutual generation and restriction, which embodies in marriage, life, luck and so on. Every animal sign has abundant legends, as an important part of Chinese folk culture, Chinese people gradually generates a systematic idea about Chinese zodiac, no matter love compatibility or pray in temple or something else.
What is Benmingnian?
Every twelve years, you will meet your sign year, Chinese people call it Benmingnian. According to the Chinese astrology, Benmingnian is a year of bad luck. In Chinese opinion, it’s easy to offend Tai Sui in the Benmingnian, who is a god in charge of people’s fortune. Fortune may go down in the year. Although it’s a superstition, this opinion is deeply rooted in Chinese minds. Maybe it’s ridiculous and funny to foreigners, but Benmingnian culture has been one of the most important parts in Chinese culture. Even there is no relationship between bad luck and Benmingnian, when Chinese people encounter financial loss, marriage crisis, physical injuries and obstacles in career or something bad they are accustomed to link bad luck to Benmingnian.
In order to avoid bad luck, people in his/her animal sign year will take some measures.
Wear red: It’s one of the popular things Chinese people like to do in their zodiac year of birth. When Benmingnian is coming, Chinese people like to wear red, especially red underwear. In ancient China, red is always regarded as an auspicious color by Chinese people. So wearing red means to get good luck and drive away bad luck.
Wear jade: Jade is worshiped as a sacred thing by Chinese people since ancient China. Pixiu, the mythical wild beast has always been regarded as the god of fortune, prosperous wealth, and peace. Therefore, wearing jade pendant with pixiu is very popular among people in their year. It’s believed to bring them good luck, such as promotion in study or career, happiness in their family and so on.
Festivals Relevant to Zodiac Animals
Dragon:“’Er yue er” falls on the second day of the second month in Chinese lunar calendar, also known as the day when the dragon in charge of the rain lifts its head. People believe that the dragon staring to waking up from its winter nap and getting to work. Because generally speaking, it is after this point the vast area of mainland china staring to come to spring and get more lively rains.
Horse:Mongolian hold the horse milk festival and horse racing festival at the end of August yearly.They carry horse milk for supply and set off very early on this day for horse racing.When the evening come,they start singing and dancing.
Relative Works about Chinese Zodiac
CZ12（Chinese name: 十二生肖）, also named as Chinese Zodiac, is a movie directed by Chinese famous movie star–Jackie Chan. If you have watched American famous movie, National Treasure, you may regard it as Chinese version for national treasure. The movie is adapted based on real history that the Old Summer Palace,an imperial GARDEN is looted and destroyed by British and French troops in the Second Opium War. The twelve bronze heads of the Chinese zodiac animals are parts of looted treasures. From then on, the twelve bronze heads of the Chinese zodiac animals are loss oversea. In order to get huge bonus, JC (Jackie Chan), tasked by a company and in charge of collecting the remaining lost bronze heads. In the process of finding, JC falls in love with Coco, daughter of a Chinese cultural relic’s scholar Mr. Guan. Moved by Coco and Mr. Guan’s patriotism, JC gives up the huge bonus, but tries his best to rescue the animals’ heads. After innumerable trials and hardships, JC, with help of his friends, succeeds to recover all of the twelve bronze heads of the Chinese Zodiac animals, the gives back to Chinese government. As folk culture symbolization with long history, there are many handicrafts vividly describing Chinese zodiac, such as paintings, couplets, poetry, and so on. Not only China, many other countries will issue Chinese zodiac stamps during Spring Festival, in celebration of the upcoming Chinese Lunar Year of corresponding animals.
Zodaics Among Minority Groups in China
Since China has 55 minorities ethnic groups,and many of them have unique culture ,special customs and also different zodiacs as well . Such as the Yi people having their zodiac started with tiger.The Uygur ethnic group has their dragon replaced with fish and so on. It is mainly because of different settlements and different relationships with local animals.
Influence to abroad
As a time-honored culture symbol, the 12-Year Animal Cycle has influence to abroad, especially countries in Asia, such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, India, etc. Actually, the order of the animals or some animals may be a little bit different from China: Vietnam replaces the tiger to cat and India has lion instead of tiger.Korea ,Japan, Cambodia and Thailand are the same with Chinese but the last two countries are slightly different as their first animals are ox and snake respectively .Myanmar has zodiac too yet with only eight animals in their chart.
Vietnan and Janpanese zodiac