Welcome Year of the Tiger!

Updated: Feb 1

If you are familiar with what your Western Zodiac is, you have probably heard of Chinese astrology. But what really is it?

Although based on a lunar year cycle, animilar to Western astrology, Chinese astrology has 12 zodiac signs—which are represented by animals. In Chinese astrology, these zodiac sign seasons last all year long—as opposed to Western astrology’s four-week seasons. Also known as Sheng Xiao or Shu Xiang, Chinese astrology features 12 animal signs in this order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Originating from ancient zoolatry and boasting a history of more than 2,000 years, it plays an essential role in Chinese culture. The 12 Chinese zodiac animals in a cycle are not only used to represent years in China, but also believed to influence people’s personalities, career, compatibility, marriage, and fortune.

Origin of Chinese Zodiac

Records from the excavated ancient bamboo books have proved the existence of Chinese zodiac before the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207BC). But what is the origin of this mysterious theory with more than 2,000 years’ history? There is actually no conclusion, but the various guesses and legends make it more intriguing.

Some people believe that the 12 Chinese zodiac animals are simplified from the 28 animals which represent 28 constellations in ancient Chinese astronomy, while some insist the zodiac’s relationship with Jupiter’s revolution period just about 12 years. The latter is the more accepted.

There is an interesting legend about the origin of Chinese zodiac. As it is told, the Jade Emperor wanted to select 12 animals to be his palace guards. He preferred the Ox to be the first for its honesty and diligence, but out of everyone’s expectation, the smart Rat covertly hided on the Ox back and occupied the first place at the essential moment. The Tiger was crowned as the King of the Forest while the Dragon was titled the Lord of the Sea, and they ranked behind the Ox. The Rabbit won a race with the Dragon and gained No. 4. The Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, and Rooster followed. The Dog was punished to be the last one for biting the Rabbit in a pet. Actually the Dog was the 11th, because there is one being late for the interview – the Pig finally took the last place.

So how does the Chinese zodiac all fit together?

As with both western and Chinese horoscopes, the date and time of one’s birth are the keys. The difference lies in the ways of marking the time of birth. The Chinese lunar calendar is based on the combination of 10 Heavenly Stems (Tian Gan) and 12 Earthly Branches (Di Zhi), two basic groups of terms of ancient Chinese astronomy and astrology, which work together in a fixed order to mark years, months, days, and hours. Here are some interesting technical and fundamental aspects.

1. 12 Earthly Branches: 12 terms in one-to-one correspondence with 12 zodiac animals - 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).

In correlative thinking, the 12 years of the Jupiter cycle also identify the 12 months of the year, 12 animals (mnemonics for the system), cardinal directions, seasons, and the 12 traditional Chinese units of time in the form of two-hour periods that each day was divided into. In this case an Earthly Branch can refer to a whole two-hour period, or to the exact time at its center. For instance 午時 wǔshí can mean either noon or 11 am – 1 pm. (The jiéqì system provided single hours and 15-degree arcs in time and space.)

Chinese seasons are based on observations of the sun and stars. Many Chinese calendrical systems have started the new year on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

The Earthly Branches are today used with the Heavenly Stems in the current version of the "traditional Chinese calendar" and in Taoism. The Ganzhi (Stem-Branch) combination is a fairly new way to mark time; in the second millennium BC, during the Shang era, the 10 Heavenly Stems provided the names of the days of the week. The Branches are as old as the Stems (and according to recent archaeology may actually be older), but the Stems were tied to the ritual calendars of Chinese kings.

2. 10 Heavenly Stems: (Jia, Yi, Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geng, Xin, Ren, Gui)

or Celestial Stems are a Chinese system of ordinals that first appear during the Shang dynasty, c. 1250 BC, as the names of the ten days of the week. They were also used in Shang-period ritual as names for dead family members, who were offered sacrifices on the corresponding day of the Shang week.

The 10 Heavenly Stems match the 12 Earthly Branches in a 60-pair cycle to mark years, months, and days, eg. July 1st 2020 in Gregorian calendar is the Yi Si Day of Ren Wu Month in Gen Zi Year of the Rat. See more about Heavenly Stems & Earthly Branches.

3. Yin Yang: Yin means feminine and negative, while Yang means masculine and positive. They are profound terms in ancient Chinese philosophy. Their simple connection with zodiac animals are: Yang applies to Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, and Dog, while Yin goes to Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Sheep, Rooster, and Pig.

4. Five Elements: Ancient Chinese believed that all things in the world, including the zodiac animals, belonged to five categories – Metal (Monkey, Rooster), Wood (Tiger, Rabbit), Water (Rat, Pig), Fire (Snake, Horse), and Earth (Ox, Dragon, Sheep, Dog). Please also note the within each sign, depending on the year, also has a elemental designation. For example, born in 1974, I am a wood Tiger. Yet the year we have just entered is associated with the water Tiger. Each element gives certain nuances and subtleties to the traits of each animal in the zodiac.

The 12 animals connect to people’s birth dates and time, with interactions from the above five perspectives, affecting people’s personalities, compatibilities, and fortune in the future.

(Sources: www.travelchinaguide.com, Wikipedia)

How do zodiac animals affect people’s personalities and lives?

As with Western astrology, each sign or animal is associated with certain traits. As I mentioned above, the elemental which is dependent on the year also adds differences to the traits. When examining traits, and bringing them together with those of the western astrological chart, we can definitely gain some additional insight into our core being.

"Astrology is one of the earliest attempts made by man to find order behind or within the confusing and apparent chaos that exists in the world" – Karen Hamaker-Zondag

What do you think about your Chinese zodiac sign?

If you aren't sure how to calculate it or figure out the traits of your sign, why not pay me a visit and we can go over it together. I'd be happy to help you explore another aspect of your core being personality!

Blessed be beautiful souls and have an amazing New Year!