The Chinese animal zodiac, or sheng xiao in pinyin, is based on a twelve year cycle, each year in that cycle related to an animal sign. These animal signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. It is calculated according to Chinese lunda calendar.
Actually the Chinese animal zodiac has certain similarities with the Western zodiac. Both have rotating cycles divided into 12 parts, and both imply the influence of each sign on a person’s personality. However, the differences are major. The Chinese animal zodiac is divided into years, while the Western zodiac is divided into months, and the animals are not associated with constellations.
Similar to the ten heavenly stems and twelve earthly branches, animals in Chinese zodiac were also created for counting years as the system that is now universally accepted based on the Christian calendar was as yet non-existent. The selection and order of the animals that influence people's lives very much was originated in the Han Dynasty (206 – 220) and based upon each animal's character and living habits. The old time division was mostly related to number 12: one ji equals 12 years, one year has 12 months, one day has 12 time periods called shi chen. Ancient people observe that there are 12 full moons within one year. So, its origin is associated with astronomy. Each animal sign is usually related with an earthly branch, so the animal years were called zi rabbit, chou ox, yin tiger, mao rabbit, chen dragon, si snack, wu horse, wei sheep, shen monkey, you rooster, xu dog and hai pig.
12 Chinese Zodiac Animal Signs
For a long time there has been a special relationship between humans and the 12 zodiacal animals. It is believed that the years represented by the animals affect the characters of people in the same manner as the sign of zodiac adopted by western civilizations. Click the following signs to know information on the characters of persons under different signs. Interesting facts like zodiac years, strengths, weaknesses, best matches and fortune of 2011 of each sign are introduced.
The animal year when a person was born is called his/her Benming Nian (year of birth). The distinctive zodiacal way of calculating years based on the lunar calendar decides that every once in every twelve year cycle people will meet their birth sign.
According to Chinese Solar Terms, the Beginning of Spring is the first solar term regarded as the start of a new year. So, years should be divided by this day. Now, Chinese New Year's Day is commonly adopted as the division of two animal years.
It is said that in one's year of birth, he will offend 'Taisui', a mysterious power or celestial body that could control people's fortune. That is, he will meet either exultation or misery during that year. The best way to avoid miserable events is to wear red clothes, a waistband, or decorations such as a red bracelet and necklace as a talisman that must be purchased by others. If the person himself buys them, the function of the talisman is greatly reduced.
This may be due to the people's special affection for red since the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220). In the Han people's wedding ceremony, the bride was picked up by her bridegroom's red sedan, the new couple wore red clothes, and their rooms were decorated with red candles, red carpets and red lanterns. When an army won a battle, victory would be reported with a red flag; and when a candidate passed the imperial examination, he would wear red flowered clothes. Thus redness has become the token of festivities, success, bravery, rightness, and exorcism. From another point of view, there are just more and greater changes in the birth year than in other years, which are not always ominous. A change to one's fate to ensure the predomination of good fortune requires both effort and a firm belief.