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___ Chinese Calendar - Chinese Zodiac

Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese calendar (traditional Chinese: 農曆; simplified Chinese: 农历; pinyin: nónglì). The Chinese calendar, also called Yin Calendar (traditional Chinese: 公曆; simplified Chinese: 公历; pinyin: gōnglì), is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar.

The earliest evidence of the Chinese calendar is found on oracle bones of the Shang dynasty (ca. 1600 BC- ca .1046 BC), which seem to describe a lunisolar year of twelve months, with a possible intercalary thirteenth, or even fourteenth month, added empirically to prevent calendar drift (leap year).
The Sexagenarian cycle for recording days was already in use. Tradition holds that, in that era, the year began on the first new moon after the Winter Solstice.

The Chinese Calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from approximately. 2600BC, when the Emperor Huang Ti (Yellow Emperor) introduced the first cycle of the zodiac.
From the earliest records, the beginning of the year occurred at a new moon near the Winter Solstice. In the late second century B.C.E., a calendar reform established the practice of requiring the Winter Solstice (entering Capricorn) to occur in month 11, as still practised today.

The Chinese New Year- also called Spring Festival- is celebrated at the second new moon after the Winter Solstice and can fall anywhere between late January and the middle of February as per Western calendar.
New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest (full moon in the middle of the month).

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, incorporating elements of a lunar calendar with those of a solar calendar, indicating both the phase of the Moon and the time of the solar year.

The lunar calendar is a dating system based on a year consisting of synodic months (synodic period is the time that it takes for the object to reappear at the same point in the sky, relative to the Sun, as observed from Earth)- i.e., complete cycles of phases, cycles of the Moon.
A lunar calendar is one in which days are numbered within each lunar cycle. A purely lunar calendar quickly drifts against the seasons, because the length of the lunar month is not an even fraction of the length of the tropical, solar year.
The lunar year comprises roughly 12.37 lunations, full cycles of the phases of the Moon, as seen from Earth. It has a duration of approximately 354.37 days.
A lunar month has approximately 29.530589 days.

The solar calendar is a dating system based on the seasonal year of approximately 365.25 days, which is the time it takes the Earth to revolve once around the Sun to complete a cycle of seasons ending at the same position it stared from, as observed from Earth.
A solar calendar is a calendar whose dates indicate the position of the Earth on its revolution around the Sun, (or equivalently the apparent position of the Sun moving on the celestial sphere).
A solar calendar assigns a date to each solar day - i.e. a period between two successive events: sunset - sunrise.
If the position of the Earth (or the Sun) is reckoned with respect to the equinox, then the dates indicate the season (and so is synchronized to the declination of the Sun). Such a calendar is called a tropical solar calendar.

A lunisolar calendar is a calendar whose date indicates both the phase of the Moon and the time of the solar year, hence a combination of the lunar as well as the solar calendar.
A lunisolar calendar is a lunar calendar that keeps months on a lunar cycle, but then intercalary months are added to bring the lunar cycles into synchronisation with the solar year.
The reason for this is that a year is not evenly divisible by an exact number of lunations, so without the addition of intercalary months the seasons will drift each year.
This results in a thirteen-month year every two or three years as i.e. shown in the Chinese calendar.

The Chinese Calendar is a lunisolar calendar, a yearly one.
One lunar year consists of approximately 12.37 lunations and is from one Chinese New Year to the next.
One solar year is either the period between one Vernal Equinox and the next or the period between two Winter Solstices.

In the Chinese calendar there are two different month cycles. One uses the lunar system and the other uses the solar system.
In the lunar system of month, the the first day of a lunar month is the day when a new moon appears in a particular time zone, when the Moon is completely ‘black’ and in conjunction with the Sun, hence is an astronomical new moon and begins at midnight. The first day of a new lunar month is also the darkest night of the month, hence one month corresponds to one lunar cycle, one phase of the Moon, the length of time between two successive new moon days.
The name of a lunar month is taken from the solar system. The months of the Chinese calendar are numbered by the Principal Term that falls within it (see below).

The Chinese solar months are not like the months of a ‘modern’ calendar. The Chinese calendar divides the year into 24 solar segments according to the Sun’s positions on the tropical zodiac. The solar months are defined by the longitudes of the Sun. Each segment's name was given for ancient Chinese farmers' use, representing a weather and /or seasonal condition. The 24 seasonal markers, which follow the solar year, are also called jieqi (節氣, jiéqì).

Every other Solar Term (the instant when the Sun reaches one of twenty-four equally spaced points along the ecliptic, including the Solstices and Equinoxes, positioned at fifteen degree intervals) of the Chinese solar year is equivalent to an entry of the Sun into a sign of the tropical zodiac (a Principal Term).
The zodiac sign which the Sun enters during the month and the ecliptic longitude of that entry point usually determine the number of a regular month. Month 1, 正月, zhēngyuè, literally means principal month (first moon). All other months are literally numbered, second month, third month, etc.

The determination of a Chinese year is based on astrological calculations; the dates of the new moon (= the first day of a lunar month) as well as the Sun’s longitude.
A Chinese year normally consists of 12 months, one month corresponds to one lunar cycle/ one phase of the Moon.
One has to determine the dates when the Sun's longitude is a multiple of 30 degrees. These dates are called the Principal Terms and are used to determine the number of each month:


# Solar Term Principal Term (PT),
Sun's Longi-
Chin. Name
in days
Date Zodiac Season
01 Beginning of Spring   15 Feb 4 Aquarius A
Solar Term
1 - 6
total of 91 days
02 Rain Water PT- 1, 330°
15 Feb 19 Pisces
03 Excited Insects,
Awakening of insects
  15 March 6 Pisces
04 Vernal Equinox PT- 2, 000°
二月, èryuè
15 March 21 Aries
05 Clear & Bright   15 April 5 Aries
06 Grain Rains PT- 3, 030°
三月 sānyuè
16 April 20 Taurus
07 Start of Summer   15 May 6 Taurus B
Solar Term
total of 94 days
08 Grains Fills PT- 4, 060°
四月 sìyuè
16 May 21 Gemini
09 Grain in Ear   15 June 6 Gemini
10 Summer Solstice PT- 5, 090°
五月 wǔyuè
16 June 21 Cancer
11 Slight, Minor Heat   16 July 7 Cancer
12 Great, Major Heat PT- 6, 120°
六月, liùyuè
16 July 23 Leo
13 Start of Autumn   15 Aug 8 Leo C
Solar Term
13- 18
total of 91 days
14 Limit of Heat PT- 7, 150°
七月, qīyuè
16 Aug 23 Virgo
15 White Dew   15 Sept 8 Virgo
16 Autumnal Equinox PT- 8, 180°
八月, bāyuè
15 Sept 23 Libra
17 Cold Dew   15 Oct 8 Libra
18 Frost Descends PT- 9. 210°
九月, jiǔyuè
15 Oct 23 Scorpius
19 Start of Winter   15 Nov 7 Scorpius D
Solar Term
19- 24
total 89 days
20 Light, Little Snow PT- 10, 240°
十月, shíyuè
15 Nov 22 Sagittarius
21 Heavy, Great Snow   15 Dec 7 Sagittarius
22 Winter Solstice PT- 11, 270°
十一月, shíyīyuè
15 Dec 22 Capricornus
23 Little, Minor Cold   14 Jan 6 Capricornus
24 Severe, Major Cold PT- 12, 300°
十二月, shí'èryuè
15 Jan 20 Aquarius

Season Note:
The twelve parts of the year corresponding to the signs of the zodiac each consists of two Solar Terms, but four zodiacal periods overlap two seasons. The seasons are of different lengths because, according to Kepler's Second Law, the Earth travels faster the closer it is to the Sun. (Johannes Kepler, 1571– 1630 AD, German mathematician and astronomer; Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion are thre mathematical laws that describe the motion of planets in the Solar System).

The following rules must apply to a Chinese Calendar:
- The first day of the month is the day on which the new moon occurs, the month are lunar month.
- Calculations of astrological new moons and the Sun entering the zodiac sign are based on a certain time zone and a determined location.
- The Winter Solstice, Principal Term 11, always falls in the 11th month.
- An ordinary year has twelve lunar months; an intercalary year has thirteen lunar months.
- A lunar month in which a Principal Term does not occur becomes a leap (or intercalary) month and is assigned the number of the month that preceded it but is designated as a leap.
If two months contain no Principal Term, only the first such month after the Winter Solstice is considered intercalary.
- Every other Solar Term of the Chinese solar year is equivalent to an entry of the Sun into a sign of the tropical zodiac (a Principal Term).

The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1912, but the lunar calendar is still very used, not only for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese calendar is also called YIN calendar, due to the yin/ lunar characteristics as i.e. darkness, night-time, mysterious heaven, passive, softness, moisture, downward seeking, and docile aspects of things. Further than this, according to ancient Chinese astronomers, the five major planets referred to the Five Elements: Jupiter- Wood, Mars- Fire, Saturn- Earth, Venus- Metal (gold), Mercury- Water had to be taken into account. (See also: Five Elements Chart)
Not only the planets, but the number of each month and the weather conditions are supposed to relate to the Five Elements: month 1, 2/ rain- Wood; month 4,5/ heat- Fire; month 3,6,9,12/ wind- Earth; month 7,8/ clear Metal; month 10, 11/ cold- Water.

Leap months are assigned in order to harmonize or synchronise the cycle of the Moon with the cycle of the Sun.

A calendar year shows a fixed amount of counted days (365 days), a solar year does not have a whole number of days (roughly 365.25 days). In order to receive a reconciliation, the days of the calendar year must be changed.
In solar/ Western calendars, this is often done by adding to a common year of 365 days, an extra day/ leap day, making the leap year of 366 days. This occurs every four years.
The solar year does not have a whole number of lunar months either, so a lunisolar calendar must have a variable number of months in a year.

In a ‘regular’ Chinese lunisolar calendar, one year is divided into 12 months, one month is corresponding to one full moon. Since the cycle of the Moon is not an even number of days, a month in the lunar calendar can vary between 29 and 30 days and a normal year can have 353, 354, or 355 days.

The average calendrical month, which is 1/12 of a year, is about 30.4 days (365 days ./. 12 month), while the Moon's phase (synodic) cycle repeats every 29.530589 days. Therefore the timing of the Moon's phases shifts by an average slightly less than a day for each successive month, very roughly speaking 12 days/ year; 24 days/ 2 years; 36 days/ 3 years, leading to above mentioned addition of an extra month at regular intervals.

The Chinese calendar is adjusted to the length of the solar year by the addition of extra months at regular intervals; every second or third year has an leap/ intercalary month.

Leap years have 13 months. To determine if a year is a leap year, the number of new moons between the 11th month in one year and the 11th month in the following year have to be calculated. If there are 13 new moons from the start of the 11th month in the first year to the start of the 11th month in the second year, a leap month must be inserted.

In leap years, at least one month does not contain a Principal Term. The first such month is the leap month and can occur after any regular month. It carries the same number as the preceding regular month, with the additional note that it is the leap month. If this happens to occur twice in one year, only the first month in which it occurs is a leap month.
Unfortunately all festivals and holidays of the preceding month are not repeated in a leap month.

An ‘ordinary’ year in a lunar calendar has 12 lunar month, totalling 354,37 days.
An ‘ordinary’ year in a lunisolar calendar has 12 months, a leap year has 13 months.
An ‘ordinary’ year in lunisolar calendar has 353, 354, or 355 days, a leap year has 383, 384, or 385 days.
An ‘ordinary’ year in solar calendar has 365 days, a leap year has 366 days and occurs every 4 years, hence the ‘average year’ would have 365.25 days.
An ‘ordinary’ month in the solar calendar has a length of 30.4167 days, a leap year has 30.5 days to a month.

CHINESE SEXAGENARY CYCLE - 60 YEAR CYCLE (Chinese: 干支; pinyin: gānzhī)

The perception of time in China is cyclical; according to a pattern which repeats itself over and over.
The Chinese name the years rather than counting them.
In the Sexagenarian Circle the names of the years are repeated every 60 years.
Within each 60-year cycle, each year is assigned a name consisting of two components: one name from a cycle of 10 Heavenly Stems/Celestial Stems and one name from a cycle of 12 Earthly Branches/ Terrestrial Branch.

Heavenly Stems (天干)
The first component of a year’s name are the Heavenly Stems representing the Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water) in their dual Yin - Yang form:

Heavenly Stem Stem name in Chinese in pinyin
1st heavenly stem jia jiǎ
2nd heavenly stem yi
3rd heavenly stem bing bǐng
4th heavenly stem ding dīng
5th heavenly stem wu
6th heavenly stem ji
7th heavenly stem geng gēng
8th heavenly stem xin xīn
9th heavenly stem ren rén
10th heavenly stem gui guǐ

Earthly Branches (地支)
The second component of a year’s name are the Earthly Branches; associated and corresponding with the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac, the ‘Twelve Animals’,
a 12-year cycle used for dating the years.
The names of the Earthly Branches are:

Earthly Branch Branch name in Chinese in pinyin related Zodiac sign
1st earthly branch zi Rat
2nd earthly branch chou chǒu Ox
3rd earthly branch yin yín Tiger
4th earthly branch mao mǎo Rabbit
5th earthly branch chen chén Dragon
6th earthly branch si Snake
7th earthly branch wu Horse
8th earthly branch wei wèi Ram
9th earthly branch shen shēn Monkey
10th earthly branch you yǒu Rooster
11th earthly branch xu Dog
12th earthly branch hai hài Pig

Each of the above two components is used sequentially.
The 1st year of a 60 year cycle would be named jia- zi.
The 2nd year of a 60 year cycle would be named yi- chou.
The 3rd year of a 60 year cycle would be named bing- yin.

When reaching the end of one component, the enumeration of this component will be started again. This procedure is valid for the Celestial System as well as for the Terrestrial Branch.

The 11th year of a 60 year cycle would be named jia-xu (restarting the Celestial Stem).
The 12th year of a 60 year cycle would be named yi-hai.
The 13th year of a 60 year cycle would be named bing-zi (restarting the Terrestrial Branch).
The 60th year of a 60 year cycle would be named gui-hai.

Since the numbers 10 (Celestial/ Heavenly Stems) and 12 (Terrestrial/Earthly Branches) have a common factor of 2, only 1/2 of the 120 possible stem-branch combinations actually occur.
The resulting 60-year cycle takes the name jia- zi after the initial year in the cycle, being the Heavenly Stem of ‘jia’ and Earthly Branch of ‘zi’, translating into ‘a full span of life’.

The Heavenly Stems are associated with the duality of yin (odd number in the end of a Gregorian Calender) and yang (even number in the end of an Gregorian Calendar) and the Five Elements.

Cycle’s procedure:
Gregorian year ends in 0 - yang Metal
Gregorian year ends in 1 - yin Metal
Gregorian year ends in 2 - yang Water
Gregorian year ends in 3 - yin Water
Gregorian year ends in 4 - yang Wood
Gregorian year ends in 5 - yin Wood
Gregorian year ends in 6 - yang Fire
Gregorian year ends in 7 - yin Fire
Gregorian year ends in 8 - yang Earth
Gregorian year ends in 9 - yin Earth

The Earthly Branches are associated with the twelve signs of the Chinese Zodiac, known as the ‘Twelve Animals’.
This combination of 5 elements × 12 animals creates the 60-year cycle, which always starts with Wood Rat and ends with Water Pig. Since the zodiac animal cycle of 12 is divisible by two, every zodiac sign can also only occur in either Yin or Yang: the snake is always yin, the horse is always yang etc

Year of Birth and the Twelve Animal Sign:
Years from 1924 - 1971

Animal Year Heavenly Stem Year Heavenly Stem Year Heavenly Stem Year Heavenly Stem
Rat 1924 (yang Wood) 1936 (yang Fire) 1948 (yang Earth) 1960 (yang Metal)
Ox 1925 (yin Wood) 1937 (yin Fire) 1949 (yin Earth) 1961 (yin Metal)
Tiger 1926 (yang Fire) 1938 (yang Earth) 1950 (yang Metal) 1962 (yang Water)
Rabbit 1927 (yin Fire) 1939 (yin Earth) 1951 (yin Metal) 1963 (yin Water)
Dragon 1928 (yang Earth) 1940 (yang Metal) 1952 (yang Water) 1964 (yang Wood)
Snake 1929 (yin Earth) 1941 (yin Metal) 1953 (yin Water) 1965 (yin Wood)
Horse 1930 (yang Metal) 1942 (yang Water) 1954 (yang Wood) 1966 (yang Fire)
Ram 1931 (yin Metal) 1943 (yin Water) 1955 (yin Wood) 1967 (yin Fire)
Monkey 1932 (yang Water) 1944 (yang Wood) 1956 (yang Fire) 1968 (yang Earth)
Rooster 1933 (yin Water) 1945 (yin Wood) 1957 (yin Fire) 1969 (yin Earth)
Dog 1934 (yang Wood) 1946 (yang Fire) 1958 (yang Earth) 1970 (yang Metal)
Pig 1935 (yin Wood) 1947 (yin Fire) 1959 (yin Earth) 1971 (yin Metal)

Years from 1972 - 2031
Animal Year Heav. Stem Year Heav. Stem Year Heav. Stem Year Heav. Stem Year Heav. Stem
Rat 1972 (yang Water) 1984 (yang Wood) 1996 (yang Fire) 2008 (yang Earth) 2020 (yang Metal)
Ox 1973 (yin Water) 1985 (yin Wood) 1997 (yin Fire) 2009 (yin Earth) 2021 (yin Metal)
Tiger 1974 (yang Wood) 1986 (yang Fire) 1998 (yang Earth) 2010 (yang Metal) 2022 (yang Water)
Rabbit 1975 (yin Wood) 1987 (yin Fire) 1999 (yin Earth) 2011 (yin Metal) 2023 (yin Water)
Dragon 1976 (yang Fire) 1988 (yang Earth) 2000 (yang Metal) 2012 (yang Water) 2024 (yang Wood)
Snake 1977 (yin Fire) 1989 (yin Earth) 2001 (yin Metal) 2013 (yin Water) 2025 (yin Wood)
Horse 1978 (yang Earth) 1990 (yang Metal) 2002 (yang Water) 2014 (yang Wood) 2026 (yang Fire)
Ram 1979 (yin Earth) 1991 (yin Metal) 2003 (yin water) 2015 (yin Wood) 2027 (yin Fire)
Monkey 1980 (yang Metal) 1992 (yang Water) 2004 (yang Wood) 2016 (yang Fire) 2028 (yang Earth)
Rooster 1981 (yin Metal) 1993 (yin Water) 2005 (yin Wood) 2017 (yin Fire) 2029 (yin Earth)
Dog 1982 (yang Water) 1994 (yang Wood) 2006 (yang Fire) 2018 (yang Earth) 2030 (yang Metal)
Pig 1983 (yin Water) 1995 (yin Wood) 2007 (yin Fire) 2019 (yang Earth) 2031 (yin Metal)

Example: A person born in the year 1978 would be born, according to above chart of the Earthly Braches, in the year of the "Horse" and as per Heavenly Stem with the element "Yang Earth". That person would be characterised as "Earth Horse".

Note: Chinese New Year is celebrated on the second new moon after the winter solstice, between January and February, hence it is not the New Year celebrated January 1st as per Gregorian Calendar.

Historically the calendar was sponsored by the Emperor. Not only did a calendar serve practical needs in agriculture as in when to plant to receive the best results, but even more did the calender show the connection between the Heaven and the Imperial Court. (Yellow Emperor 2698 B.C.E.). An emperor’s accession could mark a new era, (hence the name span of life?), as well as an emperor could declare a new era within his reign based on special events. Declaring a new era was considered to restrengthen the connection between Heaven and Earth/ Emperor.
The break might be revealed by the death of an emperor, the occurrence of a natural disaster, or the failure of astronomers to predict a celestial event such as an eclipse.
Historical dates were normally given as a combination of: dynasty name + reign name + year within the reign (counted from the first lunar new year in the reign) + lunar month + day of that month.

The Chinese zodiac refers to a pure calendrical cycle; there are no equivalent constellations like those of the occidental zodiac.
The Chinese zodiac, based on pure calendrical cycles, is only used to name the years and not to count them, repeating itself continuously.
The Chinese believe that the ruling animal of every year moulds the personality traits of persons born in that year. However, in proper Chinese astrology, not only the year (characterizing how one presents oneself, hence how others view one), but the month (characterizing the inner animal of a person, showing one's motivation), day (characterizing the secret animal of a person, showing one’s truest representation) have to be taken into account. While describing a person’s personality and fate, the position of the major planets (see Five Elements) as well as the the position of the Sun, the Moon and comets have to be considered as well.

The Yin or Yang is broken down into Five Elements on top of the cycle of animals. These are modifiers and affect the characteristics of each of the 12 animal signs. Hence, each of the 12 animals are governed by an element plus a Yin- Yang Direction. The balance of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements in a person's make-up has a major bearing on what is beneficial and effective for them in terms of Feng Shui. This is because each element is linked to a particular direction and season and their different kinds of life force energy (Chi).

Wood governs the Tiger, Rabbit (weakest wood), and Dragon (strongest wood).
Fire governs the Snake, Horse (strongest fire), and Ram (weakest fire).
Earth governs Dragon, Rat, and Ox. It is the central balance of the elements and can lend qualities to all 12 animals as well.
Metal governs the Monkey (strongest metal), Rooster, and Dog (weakest metal).
Water governs the Rat (strongest water), Ox, and Pig (weakest water).

DESCRIPTIONS OF THE 12 YEARLY SIGNS (Chin.: 十二生肖 - shí'èrshēngxiào)
In the Chinese Zodiac, each of the 12 animals has a different characteristic and represents a different personality. Below a brief list of ascpects.

(鼠 - shǔ)
(as above mentioned: Yang, 1st trine (see below), fixed Element Water): Forthright, disciplined, systematic, meticulous, charismatic, hard working, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable and shrewd. Can be manipulative, cruel, dictatorial, rigid, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant and scheming.

(牛 - niú)
(as above mentioned: Yin, 2nd trine, fixed Element Water): Dependable, calm, methodical, patient, hard working, ambitious, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute and tenacious. Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding, dependable and calm.

(虎 - hǔ)
(as above mentioned: Yang, 3rd trine, fixed Element Wood): Unpredictable, rebellious, colourful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian and generous. Can be restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish and can be viewed with fear and respect.

(兔 - tù)
(as above mentioned: Yin, 4th trine, fixed Element Wood): Gracious, thoughtful, reserved, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, retrospective, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate and flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic and lazy.

(龍 - lóng)
(as above mentioned: Yang, 1st trine, fixed Element Wood): Magnanimous, strong, vigorous, self-assured, proud, direct, harmonic, eager, zealous, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, ambitious, generous, loyal and healthy. Can be arrogant, tyrannical, demanding, eccentric, dogmatic, over-bearing, impetuous and brash.

(蛇 - shé)
(serpent)- (as above mentioned: Yin, 2nd trine, fixed Element Fire): Enigmatic, is a deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, ambitious, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant and purposeful. Can be a loner, bad communicator, is possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful and mendacious.

(馬 - mǎ)
(as above mentioned: Yang, 3rd trine, fixed Element Fire): Cheerful, independent, liberty (giving and taking), determined, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile mentally and physically, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible and open-minded. Can be fickle, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn, lacking stability and perseverance.

(羊 - yáng)
(as above mentioned: Yin, 4th trine, fixed Element Fire): Righteous, artistic, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous and seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, pessimistic, over-sensitive, a worrier and complainer.

(猴 - hóu)
(as above mentioned: Yang, 1st trine, fixed Element Metal): Inventing, motivating, improvising, problem solving, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, just, self-assured, sociable, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual and intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, cunning, jealous and suspicious.

(雞 - jī)
(Phoenix)- (as above mentioned: Yin,2nd trine, fixed Element Metal): Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible and a perfectionist. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive and opinionated.

(狗 - gǒu)
(as above mentioned: Yang, 3rd trine, fixed Element Metal): Honest, intelligent, straightforward, obedient, responsible, loyal, attractive, amiable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, dogged and has a sense of justice and fair play. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn and quarrelsome.

(豬 - zhū)
(as above mentioned: Yin, 4th trine, fixed Element Water): Honest, simple, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, fertile, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate and intelligent. Can be naive, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic and materialistic.

NOTE: A trine is an astrological aspect formed when a planet, point, or other celestial body is 120 degrees away from another planet, point or celestial body.

As legends are, they vary and are often ‘recomposed’ as they are told.
As for the story’s beginning of how the animals signs for the Chinese Zodiac were chosen, the legends differ, though the main part seems to be the same. Here are a few of them:

1. According to the Chinese legend, Buddha summoned all the animals to him before he departed from Earth. Twelve animals arrived as a sign of obedience. In turn Buddha rewarded them by naming the years after them in the order in which they arrived.

2. According to the Chinese legend, Buddha summoned all the animals to him, asking for the animals' help in naming the cycles of years.
Legend has it that the animals heard that the first one to swim across and reach the other bank of a river would head the cycle of years.
The animals assembled on one bank of the river and happily splashed into the river to be the first one to swim across to the other bank so as to have the first year of the animal cycle named after it. The rat being clever, unknown to the Ox, jumped on his back and just as the Ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off his back and won the race while the pig being extremely lazy and sluggish ended up last. That is the reason for the Rat being the first year of the animal cycle and the Pig last.
(as for the naming of the other 10 month, read below...)

3. The Jade Emperor, who had ruled Heaven and Earth wisley, had never found time to visit the Earth and did not know what the creatures looked like. Hence he invited the animals for a banquet in order to help him decide which animal should be represented in the Chinese Zodiac (or, as another legend goes, the Jade Emperor was so pleased by the animals, that he decided to name the years after each one).
In order to reach the Jade Emperor’s palace, the task for the animals was to cross a river. Whichever animal would reach the opposite river bank first, would be granted a zodiac sign. So all the animals gathered at the river bank.
The cat and the rat were the worst swimmers in the animal kingdom. Although bad swimmers, they were both intelligent. They decided that the best and fastest way to cross the river was to hop on the back of the ox. The ox, being a naïve and good-natured animal, agreed to carry them across. However, overcome with a fierce competitiveness, the rat decided that in order to win, it must do something and promptly pushed the cat into the river. Because of this, the cat has never forgiven the rat, swearing to be its worst enemy for ages to come, and hates the water as well. After the ox had crossed the river, the rat jumped ahead and reached the shore first, and it claimed first place in the competition.
Following closely behind was the strong ox, and it was named the 2nd animal in the zodiac. After the ox, came the tiger, panting, while explaining to the Emperor just how difficult it was to cross the river with the heavy currents pushing it downstream all the time. But with powerful strength, it made to shore and was named the 3rd animal in the cycle.
Suddenly, from a distance came a thumping sound, and the rabbit arrived. It explained how it crossed the river: by jumping from one stone to another in a nimble fashion. Halfway through, it almost lost the race but the rabbit was lucky enough to grab hold of a floating log that later washed him to shore. For that, it became the 4th animal in the zodiac cycle.
Coming in 5th place was the dragon, flying and belching fire into the air. Of course, the Emperor was deeply curious as to why a strong and flying creature such as the dragon should fail to reach first. The mighty dragon explained that he had to stop and make rain to help all the people and creatures of the earth, and therefore he was held back a little. Then, on his way to the finish line, he saw a little helpless rabbit clinging on to a log so he did a good deed and gave a puff of breath to the poor creature so that it could land on the shore. The Emperor was very pleased with the actions of the dragon, and he was added into the zodiac cycle.
As soon as the Emperor had done so, a galloping sound was heard, and the horse appeared. Hidden on the horse's hoof is the snake, whose sudden appearance gave the horse a fright, thus making it fall back and gave the snake 6th spot while the horse took the 7th.
Not long after that, a little distance away, the ram, monkey and rooster came to the shore. These three creatures helped each other to get to where they were. The rooster spotted a raft, and took the other two animals with it. Together, the ram and the monkey cleared the weeds, tugged and pulled and finally got the raft to the shore. Because of their combined efforts, the Emperor was very pleased and promptly named the ram as the 8th creature, the monkey as the 9th, and the rooster the 10th.
The 11th animal is the dog. His explanation for being late—although he was supposed to be the best swimmer amongst the rest—was that he needed a good bath after a long spell, and the fresh water from the river was too big a temptation. For that, he almost didn't make it to finish line.
Just as the Emperor was about to call it a day, an oink and squeal was heard from a little pig. The pig got hungry during the race, promptly stopped for a feast and then fell asleep. After the nap, the pig continued the race and was named the 12th and last animal of the zodiac cycle.

The cat finished too late (thirteenth) to win any place in the calendar, and vowed to be the enemy of the rat forever.
Or, according to a different version of the legend, the cat never made it to the river due to happenings of the previous day. The cat, being the most handsome of all animals, asked his friend the rat to wake him on the day they were to go to Heaven so he wouldn't oversleep. The rat, however, was worried that he would seem ugly compared to the cat, so he didn't wake the cat. Consequently, the cat missed the meeting with the Jade Emperor and hence was not granted a place in the calendar.

See also: History of China


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