Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Chinese Zodiac

by ShaoLan

Which sign are you?

Do you know your Zodiac sign? I’m a Taurus according to Western astrology, but like the vast majority of those living in Asia, I grew up learning about the Chinese Zodiac (生肖). In this system, I’m a pig.

Both Eastern and Western astrology is popular in Asia right now, so in order to understand this part of Asian culture, read on and i’ll teach you about the Chinese Zodiac, help you find your Zodiac sign, and show you how astrology affects life in Asia today.

In Chinese, the Eastern Zodiac is written like this: 生肖 (shēng xiào). The first character, 生, means “life” and “to be born”. The second character, 肖, means “similar”, “resembling”, and “to be like”.

生 (Life, To Be Born) + 肖 (Similar, Resembling, To Be Like) = 生肖 (The 12 Zodiac Animals)

Pinyin: 生shēng 肖xiào

Now, before we go any further, I want to make sure you don’t confuse Astrology with Astronomy. In ancient times they were studied together as one science, but now they are on opposite sides of the science/pseudo-science spectrum. In the most basic sense, Astrology is the study of how planets and stars move in relation to each other. At first, it seems just like a part of Astronomy, which is the study of the whole universe and everything in it. However, a defining feature of astrology is the idea that the position and alignment of celestial beings (stars and planets) have a profound effect on the human experience. Many believe that knowing the precise alignment of the planets on a specific date can give us important information about a person’s future. This belief was held by almost all of the major ancient cultures, including China, and is still popular today in countries around the world.

Even though there is no empirical evidence (proof) to suggest that planet and star alignment can tell the future or predict a child’s characteristics, many take Astrology very seriously. In Asia, astrology has been used in traditional culture since the beginning of civilization. Archeologists have even found the names of constellations used to track the progress of the moon’s orbit written on ancient Chinese oracle bones. Because astrology is so deeply embedded in China’s cultural heritage, it remains popular in both religious and social contexts today. Even though many of China and Taiwan’s younger generations are becoming more in tune with the West on matters of science, the influence of older generations is keeping the tradition alive. After we find your sign, I’ll share some more with you about astrology’s impact in the world today.

The most well-known aspect of astrology is the Zodiac. There are two different Zodiacs that are typically used today: there’s the Chinese Zodiac, and the Western Zodiac. They both have twelve signs and they are both used to explain and/or predict an individual's characteristics and the events that occur in their lives. However, if you take a closer look at how each cycle actually works, you’ll find that the two Zodiacs are really quite different. For example, the Western Zodiac is a 12 month cycle based on the sun while the Chinese Zodiac is a 12 year cycle based on the moon. Totally different!

Alright, I know you are eager to find your Chinese Zodiac sign and see if it matches your personality, so let’s get to it! The easiest way to find your sign is to use a chart or calculator. Because the Chinese calendar is based on the moon (lunar) instead of the sun (solar), the Chinese year changes on different solar calendar days each year near end of January and the beginning of February. You can use the wiki chart below, which has the associated element for each animal and your Yin and Yang assignment (more on this later), in addition to the specific dates for each year. Or, If you’re in a hurry, you can use the simple calculator (also below). If you have a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, or husband, be sure to look up their sign too to see if you are compatible according to the Zodiac.


Chinese Zodiac Wiki Chart: http://bit.ly/15xtFkO

Chinese Zodiac Calculator: http://bit.ly/1b4j19u

Like many origin myths, the story of how the Zodiac came to be changes depending on who tells it. The core gist of the story is that in order to earn their place in the zodiac a race was held for a select group of animals – which in this myth is 12. Some animals used trickery (ahem, rat) to come out ahead, while others sacrificed winning to help other animals who were in trouble. You can read more about the myth here: http://bit.ly/191WGuS. It is also interesting to note that the cat is not present in the Chinese zodiac (though it is in the Vietnamese zodiac) the reason behind this is used as an anecdotal reason for why cats hate rats: http://bit.ly/1iMXpjn

Each animal of the Chinese Zodiac has specific attributes and compatibilities with other animals. These attributes, which are symbolized by your Zodiac animal and determined by the alignment of the stars and planets during the year of your birth, are supposed to generally match the characteristics of everyone born that year. Here is a list of all the Zodiac signs, including their common attributes and compatibilities:

1. 鼠 Rat: Rats are clever, quick-witted, and very sociable. They are excellent at analyzing social and business situations. They are also known to have good taste, and can sometimes be artists. Rats are very adaptable and will welcome change. Occasionally, they can have a short temper and be overly critical of others.

Compatible With: Dragon and Monkey

2. 牛 Ox: Oxen are strong and loyal, making them extremely reliable companions. Oxen are hard workers and will finish a project to completion. Sometimes, they are determined to a fault and can become stubborn. They also tend to be introverted and rely on family and friends for support.

Compatible With: Snake and Rooster

3. 虎 Tiger: Tigers are strong characters who are enthusiastic and ambitious, with an authoritative leadership style that helps them get things done. Tigers are extremely charismatic, even seductive, and they typically exude confidence and bravery.

Compatible With: Horse and Dog

4. 兔 Rabbit: Rabbits are kind and sensitive. They are well known for being peacemakers and are often called upon to settle disputes. Rabbits are very artistic, and usually have a lot of natural talent and/or excellent taste. Rabbits can be emotionally detached and moody, and sometimes indulge too much in luxury and comfort.

Compatible With: Goat and Pig

5. 龍 Dragon: Dragons are the most popular Zodiac animal in Asia. They are very strong, proud, passionate, and independent. They often have an entrepreneurial spirit and will stop at nothing to achieve their dreams. Dragons can overdo it and be arrogant, or tyrannical to others because they are completely focused on themselves.

Compatible With: Monkey and Rat

6. 蛇 Snake: Out of all the zodiac animals, snakes are the most intelligent. They are known for wisdom and deep thinking. Snakes love learning and are quick to share knowledge but keep their personal lives and feelings a secret. Snakes typically prefer their own company over that of others and can be loners. They can also tire of people quickly and don’t always keep close friends for a long time.

Compatible With: Rooster and Ox

7. 馬 Horse: The Horse is the most masculine of the Zodiac animals. Horses are happy, friendly people, with amazing amounts of energy and vigor. They are also particularly independant and love outdoor activities and exercise. Sometimes horses can be impulsive and headstrong; they don’t always think through the consequences of their actions.

Compatible With: Dog and Tiger

8. 羊 Sheep (or Goat): 羊 can mean either sheep or goat, so you’ll see both translations in different Zodiac lists. The sheep sign is the most feminine of the Zodiac animals. Sheep are usually very sincere and gentle. They are fond of cute things like animals and children, and give them motherly protection. Sheep are not adventurous, but instead prefer to enjoy peaceful activities or relaxing scenery. Sheep are also artistic and empathize well with others. When things don’t go their way, they can be passive-aggressive and moody.

Compatible With: Pig and Rabbit

9. 猴 Monkey: Monkeys are very clever. They are often proficient at many different things and are adept at solving problems and adapting to new situations. Monkeys are a bundle of joy and make everyone around them happy. They are also very curious and can have an intense competitive streak. They love to gamble, and sometimes take on too much risk. Monkeys are known to be very flirty and promiscuous as well.

Compatible With: Rat and Dragon

10. 鷄 Rooster: Roosters are most known for being acute, organized, and detail oriented people, making them excellent at completing projects. They have an insane amount of self-confidence, sometimes to a fault, and are usually perfectionists. Roosters are adept at hogging the spotlight and can sometimes be insensitive to others as a result.  

Compatible With: Ox and Snake

11. 狗 Dog: Dogs are loyal, honest, and kind. They are good at getting along with everyone, and enjoy participating in their communities. They also have a sense of justice and are often idealistic. Dogs make very good friends, but sometimes they can be cynical and judgemental of an imperfect world.

Compatible With: Tiger and Horse

12. 猪 Pig: Even though pigs are the final animal in the zodiac, they aren’t the least. Pigs are regarded as being extremely kind, honest, and genuine. They are cheerful and happy almost all of the time and are typically optimists. Occasionally, pigs can be too trusting of others, which leads to naivety and easily hurt feelings. When feeling down, pigs should be careful not to fall into gluttony.

Compatible With: Rabbit or Goat

So, does your Chinese Zodiac animal match your personality? Many people find that it’s actually a very close or even perfect match. And how about your partner’s sign? Does their animal seem like a fit? Are you two compatible? Even if you don’t believe that the alignment of the planets has anything to do with the personality of humans, finding your Zodiac Animal and reading your horoscope is, at the very least, a method of self-reflection. It can encourage you to think about what personality traits and weaknesses you may have, as well as those around you. For those that do believe in astrology’s musings, you’re certainly not alone! Almost 100% of adults in the East and the West know their Zodiac sign (usually the Chinese or Western Zodiac, not both) and while recent polls differ in estimations of how many actually “believe” in astrology, the average seems to be around 20 to 30% in the West. I couldn’t find any recent surveys about astrology belief in the East, but I know from personal experience that it’s significantly higher than the West and much higher among older generations.


Even though astrology’s popularity as a method of divination seems to be waning, there are still many ways it affects the lives of those in Asia. Here are a few examples:

1. Based on your Zodiac sign and whether you are Yin or Yang (see Wiki Chart) certain years may be very lucky or unlucky. If it’s an unlucky year for you, you can get some of that luck back by making a donation at your local temple. If you travel to Taiwan or China and visit a temple, you can see large walls or circular columns covered with small boxes, each of which has a single glowing light. Inside these boxes are names written on a piece of paper that can be placed in a box after a substantial donation. This is the most sure-fire way to remain lucky throughout the year.

2. Some Zodiac signs are favored more than others. The most popular is the Dragon, a sign that contains most of the traits that are highly valued in Asian culture, such as financial success and personal strength. Because of Dragon’s popularity, there is a large spike in Asian birth rates during the year of the dragon, usually about 5-7%.

3. Chinese media has reported that some companies will strongly consider an applicant’s Zodiac sign (Western or Eastern) before hiring them. There have even been alleged ads that will explicitly say which Zodiac signs are accepted and which are not. This is by no means the norm, but it certainly shows how many still believe that someone’s sign really says something about their personality.

4. Another use of the Chinese Zodiac is determining the compatibility of a couple. Today, younger generations in Asia won’t let supposedly incompatible Zodiac signs get in the way of a budding relationship, but this wasn’t always the case. It used to be very common for parents to accept or deny a courtship based on the couple’s signs. There may still be some pressure from parents about this, so be sensitive if you date an Asian man or woman!

5. Daily horoscopes are supposedly a divination of your luck for a given day. However, according to most serious astrologists, this is complete hogwash! Even those who actually check their daily horoscopes mostly agree that they aren’t accurate or reliable. However, this is still a popular phenomenon in the East and in the West. There are many publications and blogs in both English and Chinese that provide daily horoscopes.

This article is just a quick peek at one of the most ancient sciences known to man. If you are feeling curious and want to learn more about astrology, check out the links below. One thing to look for is Yin and Yang, which are opposing forces and are ascribed to different birth years. Your Yin and Yang can determine your luck each year. Also check out fixed and individual elements. Each element comes with a small set of characteristics and some other useful information. Many articles from Western sources also miss the “inner”, “true”, and “secret” animal signs which correspond to the month, day, and hour of your birth. Fortunately for you, a thing called Wikipedia exists! Get all the extra info you need here: http://bit.ly/170lsWz.

Sources and Further Reading*:

Relevant Wikipedia Pages:




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zodiac (Western)



Astrology Blog:


Zodiac Discrimination - South China Morning Post:


The International Dunhuang Project:


*Please note that some of these articles are lacking some citations or have other issues. Remember that astrology is a controversial subject in modern times and be aware that some information may be inaccurate or speculative