The Overview of Chinese Horoscopes

Suz Stokes

Suz Stokes

Founder of the 35 Day Detox.

The Overview of Chinese Horoscopes

chinese zodiac

The twelve horoscopes,or animal zodiac,along with heavenly stems,earthly branches are brainchild of Chinese ancestors.Generally,the former are numbering year while the latter used in calculating hours.

The ancient Chinese calendar is a complex system.Based on the phases of the moon,each of its mo

nth lasts for either 29 or 30 days,and each day is consisted of 12 two-hour period.And it is that each year of a 12-year cycle now has the sign of one of these 12 animals.

This system can be traced back to the pre-Qin era(2070BC-221BC),and relates to the animal worship.

With the development of human history,this system has gradually integrated into the folk beliefs of mutual generation and constraining,which is also embodied in marriage,life,and yearly fortune.Each animal has their rich folkloric culture,and form an ideographic interpretation system accordingly,then gradually become a part of Chinese folk philosophy,such as compatible animals in marriage,worship in temple fair,the year of your born animal.However,most people think these animals as mascots during the spring festival,and symbols of entertainment events.As the historic developing culture symbol,lots of poetry,new year scrolls,calligraphy, paintings and artwares were created to describe images of Chinese horoscopes and its symbolic significance.Besides,many countries also issued animals stamps to celebrate the Chinese new year.

Why is the number twelve?

Twelve is ancient people’s inductive understanding of natural phenomena.Summer alternates winter,Vegetation dry-wing,so it is called a year.Twelve full moon or month is a year.Human have twelve knuckles.

Twelve 2-hours is a day.                               

Twelve astronomical phenomena is the general term for weather in the view of ancient Chinese,including


Twelve channels is the understanding of traditional Chinese medicine in Human body channels.

In Ming Dynasty(1368-1644),Zhu Zaiyu initiated the Twelve-tone equal temperament which later became the universal standard tones.

In the book of Confucianist’s ‘Liyunpian’,people should eat different food and wear different cloth in twelve month.

Naming the years

In combination with Earthly branches,the animal years are called Zi Rat, Chou Ox, Yin Tiger, Mao Rabbit, Chen Dragon, Si Snake, Wu Horse, Wei Sheep, Shen Monkey, You Rooster, Xu Dog and Hai Pig.

Why and how to rank this twelve animals?

All these animals carry different natural instincts.No matter in the past or now,scholars hold various views about that,however each view is hard to justify.Here are four main stream views about it.

Buddhism theory

There are twelve animals are outside of Jambu(a place in Buddhism book)and amongst oceans,they are humanized and enlightened by eight Bodhisattves(also called guardian angel). This theory was created by heavenly stems,earthly branches,twelve links of causation and five elements in Buddhism.Nevertheless,Buddhism was introduced into China by the Eastern Han dynasty(24-220),therefore this theory collapses of itself.

                                                                                                                                                     By Dharma Garden(Fayuan Chulin)

Folktale theory

Yellow Emperor,Xuanyuan(founder of the Chinese nation) was about to choose twelve animals as the guardians of his palace.Cat asked Rat to help sign up,but Rat forgot,since then,Cat would give a revenge once he saw Rat.Ox could become the first if Rat wasn’t on his back and jumped off one step ahead.Other animals also fought for a while until the ranking was fixed.However,the Chinese horoscopes have already formed before cats was introduced into China. Therefore,this theory is just as a folktale.

Animal behavior theory

It is based on the twelve 2-hours system( earthly branches ),and combined with animal behaviors.For instance,when the sky and earth were first divided,it happened at Zi(0 clock),and without dissipation,the air of chaos won’t separate,while Rat likes to consume in the long night with its most active period,and by which gaining power for itself.Thus,Zi is Rat.

                                                                                                                                           By Qing Dynasty Liu Xianting ‘Guang Yang Za Ji’.

                                                                          Five elements and Yin Yang theory

 According to the feet or other body features of animals,with the combination of Yin and Yang ancient people divided earthly branches into two part,tiger,dragon,monkey,dog,rat,horse are one part,while ox,sheep,rooster,pig,rabbit,snake are another part.For instance,Wu(12 clock) is the extremely Yang time,unyielding and imposing,horse are fast and strong enough to match.

Godhood symbol

The twelve animals is not the normal ones and have already integrated into Chinese culture and life.They were given the Godhood and respected and worshiped by people.

Rat symbolizes abundant,productive.

Ox symbolizes hardworking and was treated as sacrificial offering in the ancient China.Tiger symbolizes as a guardian and intrepid in the war.Rabbit symbolizes moon.A perfect marriage lies in the combination of rabbit and snake.

 Dragon symbolizes imperial power,and almost everything the emperor used had the images of dragon.And dragon also symbolizes extraordinary and successful,the balance of Ying and Yang in both psychic and physical.In a word,dragon is the most representative symbol in Chinese nation.

Snake symbolizes greedy,cunning and malevolent.Horse was worshiped by some northern minority as a holy animal.Sheep symbolizes gentle,kindhearted, beauty(In Chinese character ‘beauty’ is consisted by ‘sheep’ and ‘big’ ),auspicious sign and safe.Monkey is a homophone of marquis,so it symbolizes good career.And monkey also symbolizes long life. Rooster symbolizes virtue and sun,it is a saying,’rabbit in the moon while rooster in the sun’. Dog symbolizes the god of wind and loyalty.Pig symbolizes wealth and luck.


According to the five elements and earthly branches,Tiger and rabbit are Wood.Horse and snake are Fire.Rat and pig are Water.Monkey and rooster are Metal.Ox,dragon,sheep and dog are Earth.Therefore,most couples are matched by this.

On one hand,four levels of pairs are need to be avoid.To avoid Chong(the opposite direction,easy to conflict ),like rat and horse,ox and sheep,tiger and monkey,rabbit and rooster,snake and pig.To avoid Hai(hurt),like horse and ox,rat and sheep,tiger and snake,rabbit and dragon,rooster and dog,monkey and pig.To avoid Xing (inappropriate),like rat and rabbit,tiger moneky and snake,ox sheep and dog,dragon rooster horse and pig.To avoid Ke(restraned),like tiger and dragon,tiger and rat,sheep and sheep,tiger and tiger.

On another hand,the attraction,affinity and cohesion of Five elements show that three-He(harmony and happiness)and six-He are the good matches.

Here are the table of good and bad matches of twelve animals.

However,year is just the basic part of theory,people choose their partners are also according to the exactly time,date,month.In addition,there are solutions to solve the ill-fitting pairs.

Suz Stokes

Suz Stokes

Founder of the 35 Day Detox.

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