The twelve Chinese zodiac signs are the twelve animals Chinese people customarily use to mark the year in which a person was born. The twelve animals and the order in which they are arranged are called “the twelve zodiac signs”. The twelve animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
The ShÄ“ngxiÃ o literally “birth likeness”, is also known in English as the Chinese zodiac. Zodiac derives from the similar concept in western astrology and means “circle of animals”. It is a scheme and systematic plan of future action that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes according to a 12-year mathematical cycle and it remains popular in several East Asian countries including China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan.
Identifying this scheme using the term “zodiac” reflects several similarities to the western zodiac: both have time cycles divided into 12 parts, each labels at least the majority of those parts with names of animals, and each is widely associated with a culture of ascribing a person’s personality or events in his or her life to the supposed influence of the person’s particular relationship to the cycle. Nevertheless, there are major differences: the Chinese 12-part cycle corresponds to years, rather than months. The Chinese zodiac is represented by 12 animals, whereas some of the signs in the Western zodiac are not animals, despite the implication of the Greek etymology of “zodiac”. The animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations spanned by the ecliptic plane.
Stone carving of the Chinese zodiac
The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat. The following are the twelve zodiac signs (each with its associated Earthly Branch) in order and their characteristics.
Rat â€“ é¼ (å) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water)
Ox â€“ ç‰› (ä¸‘) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water)
Tiger â€“ è™Ž (å¯…) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
Rabbit â€“ å…” or å…Ž (å¯) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
Dragon â€“ é¾ / é¾™ (è¾°) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
Snake â€“ è›‡ (å·³) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
Horse â€“ é¦¬ / é©¬ (åˆ) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
Goat â€“ ç¾Š (æœª) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
Monkey â€“ çŒ´ (ç”³) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
Rooster â€“ é›ž / é¸¡ (é…‰) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
Dog â€“ ç‹— / çŠ¬ (æˆŒ) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
Pig â€“ è±¬ / çŒª (äº¥) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water)
In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs and many western descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals), by day (called true animals) and hours (called secret animals).