Chinese Zodiac


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Chinese Zodiac

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In much the same way that popular astrology in the West is confined to a knowledge of the 12 sun signs, most people’s awareness of Chinese astrology is confined to the 12 animal “year signs.” The earliest Chinese zodiac was a system of lunar mansions; the 12 animal signs were incorporated into the system much later. Some speculate that these later signs originated outside of China proper, perhaps in northern central Asia. The 12 signs of East Asian astrology derive not from the 12 months of the year, but from the 12 years of the Jupiter cycle (Jupiter takes approximately a dozen years to complete one orbit of the Sun). Despite the parallelism of 12 signs in each system, attempts to correlate the Chinese zodiac with the Western zodiac have been problematic, to say the least. The 12 animal signs are:

Rat: People born in 1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, and 2008.
Ox: People born in 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, and 2009.
Tiger: People born in 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, and 2010.
Rabbit: People born in 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, and 2011.
Dragon: People born in 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012.
Snake: People born in 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, and 2013.
Horse: People born in 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, and 2014.
Sheep: People born in 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, and 2015.
Monkey: People born in 1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, and 2016.
Cock: People born in 1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, and 2017.
Dog: People born in 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018.
Pig: People born in 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019.

In contrast to the Western year, the Chinese year begins on variable dates (on the second new moon after the winter solstice) in late January or early February. Hence, someone born on January 10, 1911, for instance, would be a Dog rather than a Pig.

In a manner that contrasts with the way in which the four classical elements of classical Western philosophy are associated with the 12 signs of the Western zodiac, the five elements of East Asian philosophy—earth, fire, water, metal, and wood—are associated with the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. Instead of being an integral association (e.g., Sagittarius is always a fire sign, Pisces is always a water sign, etc.), the elemental associations vary from year to year in Chinese astrology. For example, a Tiger person born in 1950 is a metal Tiger; a Tiger born in 1962 is a water Tiger; a Tiger born in 1974 is a wood tiger; etc. These elemental differences are reflected in somewhat different personality profiles. The other nuances of the Chinese system are explored in the entry on Chinese astrology.

Much is often made of the compatibility between the signs of the Chinese zodiac. Harmonious unions, particularly marriages, are regarded as best between Rats, Dragons, and Monkeys; between Oxen, Snakes, and Cocks; between Tigers, Horses, and Dogs; and between Rabbits, Sheep, and Pigs. The most inharmonious relationships are between Rats, Rabbits, Horses, and Cocks; between Oxen, Dragons, Sheep, and Dogs; and between Tigers, Snakes, Monkeys, and Pigs.

Sources:

Brau, Jean-Louis, Helen Weaver, and Allan Edmans. Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology. New York: New American Library, 1980.
Lau, Theodora. The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes. 4th ed. New York: Harper, 2000.
Logan, Daniel. Your Eastern Star: Oriental Astrology, Reincarnation and the Future. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1972.
Starr, Amanda. Chinese Astrology. Hod Hasharon, Israel: Astrolog, 2002.
Twicken, David. Classical Five Element Chinese Astrology Made Easy. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club, 2000.
Twicken, David. Four Pillars and Oriental Medicine. Lincoln, NE: Writers Club, 2000.
Walters, Derek. Chinese Astrology: Interpreting the Revelations of the Celestial Messengers. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK: Aquarian Press, 1987.
Walters, Derek. The Chinese Astrology Workbook: How to Calculate and Interpret Chinese Horoscopes. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, UK: Aquarian Press, 1988.