Chinese Zodiac Signs — Zodiac Animals, Chinese Zodiac Calendar, Facts, Compatibility, and Reconciliation
Chinese Zodiac Signs include 12 animals that are used to represent the 12 Earthly Branches or Terrestrial Branches in ancient China.
These 12 animals that represent the Chinese Zodiac Years, also named the Chinese Zodiac Calendar or Chinese Calendar Animals, in order are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
When Did the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs Form?
The earliest unearthed artifacts that recorded zodiac animals are Bamboo Slips of Qin State from Shuihudi and Fangmatan.
That proved that the Chinese Zodiac Calendar had already formed in the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC); however, the actual origin era is still unknown.
What Are the 12 Earthly Branches or Terrestrial Branches?
Together with 10 Heavenly Stems, the 12 Earthly Branches have been used to count and record numbers since the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC), whose oracle inscriptions documented this system.
The Ecliptic is divided into 12 sections, with 12 months in a year; hence, 12 Earthly Branches were invented to represent each section, year, month, and hour.
The 12 Earthly Branches are:
子(Zi) 丑(Chou) 寅(Yin) 卯(Mao) 辰(Chen) 巳(Si)
午(Wu) 未(Wei) 申(Shen) 酉(You) 戌(Xu) 亥(Hai)
How Do Chinese Zodiac Animal Signs Connect with Earthly Branches?
In ancient China, one day was divided into 12 Shichen, each Shichen had two hours.
Hence, each Shichen was represented by one Earthly Branch signal.
For most civilians in an ancient agricultural society, animals were easier to remember and use.
Therefore, 12 animals were used to represent the 12 Earthly Branches.
What’s the Order of Zodiac Animals in the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, and Why?
Among many animals, the rat is unique. A rat has four toes on each forefoot and five on each hindfoot.
In Yin Yang Theory, four is Yin, and five is Yang, which made the rat a perfect representative of transferring from Yin to Yang and from an old day to a new day.
Besides, the rat is adaptable, multiparous, and quite active at midnight.
Therefore, the rat is the animal of midnight and the first one in the Chinese Zodiac Sign.
Bronze Rat Statue of the Qing Dynasty (1636 — 1912) — Palace Museum
Then, based on other animals’ living habits and active hours, they were set and linked to the 12 Earthly Branches to tell time.
Rat: 23:00 ~ 1:00 (Zi). Most active time for rats to seek food.
Ox: 1:00 ~ 3:00 (Chou). Oxen usually eat and ruminate during these hours.
Tiger: 3:00 ~ 5:00 (Yin). Ferocious tigers usually hunt and howl at dawn.
Rabbit: 5:00 ~ 7:00 (Mao). Rabbits like eating grass with morning dew.
Dragon: 7:00 ~ 9:00 (Chen). This is the foggiest time of the day, and dragons like to fly among fog and clouds.
Snake: 9:00 ~ 11:00 (Si). Cold-blooded snakes will leave their caves and start to hunt for food in the warm morning.
First Six Chinese Zodiac Animals, Painted by ZouChi.
Horse: 11:00 ~ 13:00 (Wu). Horses usually run and are pretty active at noon.
Goat: 13:00 ~ 15:00 (Wei). Best time for herding goats that love dried grass.
Monkey: 15:00 ~ 17:00 (Shen). Monkeys usually roar lively before sunset.
Rooster: 17:00 ~ 19:00 (You). Time to get roosters to go back to their henhouses and feed them.
Dog: 19:00 ~ 21:00 (Xu). When people are getting ready to rest, the dogs start their duty by alerting and guarding houses.
Pig: 21:00 ~ 23:00 (Hai). At quiet midnight, the most obvious sound would be pigs rooting in their food tanks or pigsties.
Latter Six Chinese Zodiac Animals, Painted by ZouChi.
Some Fun Facts About Chinese Zodiac Animals
Among 12 animals, only the dragon doesn’t exist in today’s world.
It is possible that dragons had evolved or used to represent other animals, or they had been living in our world. But the real reason is still unset.
Among the 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals, six are domestic and beneficial, while the other six are wild, which would harm agriculture.
This reveals a fundamental idea in Chinese philosophy, the balance of Yin and Yang, good and bad.
What Is My Chinese Zodiac Sign, and What Does It Represent?
Ancient people gradually started using these 12 animals to represent the zodiac years.
Based on one’s birth year, every person has a Zodiac Animal Sign representing certain personalities.
Rat: adaptable, smart, agile, thrifty, thoughtful, suspicious.
Rat and Bitter Gourd (Gua Shu Tu), Xuande Emperor Zhu Zhanji (1399 — 1435) Painted to Celebrate the Birth of His First Boy — Palace Museum
Ox: diligent, responsible, ambitious, straightforward, stable, stubborn.
Stone Cattle Unearthed from Tomb of Queen Fu Hao (? — 1200 BC) — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Tiger: brave, independent, firm, passionate, adventurous, capricious.
Tiger Shaped Certificate (Hu Fu) of Emperor Qin Shi Huang (259 BC — 210 BC) to Deploy Forces — National Museum of China
Rabbit: gentle, cautious, responsible, elegant, chill, conservative.
Rabbit Shaped Bronze Wine Container (Zun) of the Western Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC — 771 BC) — Poly Art Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Dragon: mysterious, competitive, talented, energetic, confident, impatient.
Dragon Shaped Jade Decoration of Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC) — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Snake: calm, organized, firm, intelligent, ambitious, suspicious.
Snake Shaped Belt Hood (Dai Gou) of the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC) — Sanxia Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Horse: talkative, energetic, decisive, optimistic, practical, unstable.
Tri-coloured Glazed Pottery Horse (Tang San Cai) of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Goat: benign, polite, creative, reliable, endurance, irresolute.
Jade Sheep of the North and South Dynasties (420 — 589) — Tianjin Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Monkey: competitive, smart, romantic, fun, passionate, jealous.
Playful Apes (Xi Yuan Tu) Painted by Xuande Emperor Zhu Zhanji (1399 — 1435) — Taipei Palace Museum
Rooster: sharp, straightforward, sincere, helpful, creative, capricious.
Tri-coloured Glazed Pottery Rooster (Tang San Cai) of the Tang Dynasty (618 — 907) — Guangdong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Dog: faithful, honest, righteous, organized, diligent, obstinate.
Painted Pottery Dog of the Han Dynasty (202 BC — 220 AD) — Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Chinese Zodiac Compatibility — Benefactors
In Chinese culture, based on the Generate Theory of the Five Elements, the aura of people of certain zodiac signs could influence others in positive ways.
They are more likely to attract, help, cohere, beneficial to each other.
Meanwhile, wearing benefactor-shaped accessories is believed can bring good luck.
There are two types of fortunate benefactors’ combinations.
Monkey — Rat — Dragon;
Snake — Rooster — Ox;
Tiger — Horse — Dog;
Pig — Rabbit — Goat.
Rat — Ox;
Tiger — Pig;
Rabbit — Dog;
Dragon — Rooster;
Snake — Monkey;
Horse — Goat.
Incompatible Zodiac Animal Signs Matches
Here is the list of the incompatible zodiac signs for marriage.
However, nothing is definitive or permanent. A good marriage requires more than just a good zodiac sign.
Rat ✖ Horse
Ox ✖ Goat
Tiger ✖ Monkey
Rabbit ✖ Rooster
Dragon ✖ Dog
Snake ✖ Pig
What Are the Uneasy Years of Each Zodiac Sign?
Because of influences among zodiac signs, some people may find themselves not quite lucky or easy in specific years.
They might encounter significant changes or not be smooth in their career, health, or relationships.
Rat in the year of Rat, Horse, Rabbit, Rooster;
Ox in the year of Ox, Goat, Dragon, Dog;
Tiger in the year of Tiger, Monkey, Snake, Pig;
Rabbit in the year of Rabbit, Rooster, Horse, Rat;
Dragon in the year of Dragon, Dog, Goat, Ox;
Snake in the year of Snake, Pig, Monkey, Tiger;
Horse in the year of Horse, Rat, Rooster, Rabbit;
Goat in the year of Goat, Ox, Dog, Dragon;
Monkey in the year of Monkey, Tiger, Pig, Snake;
Rooster in the year of Rooster, Rabbit, Rat, Horse;
Dog in the year of Dog, Dragon, Ox, Goat;
Pig in the year of Pig, Snake, Tiger, Monkey.
How Can We Reconcile in Uneasy Zodiac Years?
It’s always good to stay organized and careful;
Start wearing something red in one’s zodiac animal year (Ben Ming Nian) a few days before Chinese New Year, like a red bracelet, belt, or socks;
Wear benefactor-shaped zodiac animal decorations.
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