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What is Chinese Zodiac?

The Chinese Zodiac, also known in Chinese as Shengxiao, is a set pattern of animals that is said to guide the divinity and mysticism in each year that that animal is given affinity to. People are assigned these animals based on the year they were born.

The Chinese Zodiac has twelve parts or time cycles representative of the twelve essential animals in Chinese Mythology. When a person is born, a zodiac animal is assigned to him. It goes in Chinese mythology that whatever animal a person is given affinity to, he will have traits and characteristics similar to that particular animal.

The twelve animals are the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the ram, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the pig. Though it may seem that the animals have more majesty or mysticism than the others (i.e., a dragon versus a rat) the traits are actually very much balanced and equal, both positive and negative. The animals are chosen out of Chinese context and are picked from among the most famous fables and stories that have guided Chinese thought. For example, the rabbit was chosen by the gods to be a zodiac sign simply because he woke up sooner than the cat to chase after a mouse.

There is however a problem with the translation, very much common in Chinese and English verses. Some of the words in Chinese have multiple meanings, although synonymous, that can portray a different animal. For example, what the Chinese call the twelfth animal can be a pig, a boar, or even an elephant in many other languages both within and outside of Asia. And this has created many shortcomings across different cultures, such as the fact that sometimes people number the same animal twice or forget one.

The Chinese Zodiac also involves one’s daily life, not just on a yearly basis. There are animals for each day which will guide that day according to that animal’s personality. There is also the concept of the Four Pillars in which the animals reside guiding the personality, the business, or love interests, to the many decisions that that person makes in that day. The Chinese believed this to be very much true and they would often act based on what day it was.

On a more detailed note, the Zodiac also represents the hours in the day. Each animal had its own hour within that day regardless of which animal had its affinity on that day. For example, the time between 3am-5pm is called the Hour of the Tiger even though it is the Day of the Rat in the Year of the Ox. There can only be three presences of animals at a given time.

The animals are not assigned their years, days, or hours randomly. They are given such by means of a cycle. For the years, it takes a dozen years to complete one cycle. For the days, it takes another twelve. For the hours, it takes twenty-four hours for one cycle.

Whatever the Chinese have in common over mythology and the traits one should possess, they have put into a cycle which they believe can predict the person’s behavior and personality. Despite having no scientific claim to this ancient art, millions of people each day still acknowledge ad respect Chinese Zodiac signs and their influence on their character since the aligning of the planets at their birth.


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