Origin Of The Chinese Zodiac

Origin of the zodiacs

One legend says that the Jade Emperor (玉皇大帝—yù huáng dà dì) needed to choose 12 animals as palace guards. The Cat asked his neighbor Rat to help him sign up. Rat forgot, which is why they became mortal enemies.

At the palace, Ox was first in line, but Rat secretly climbed onto Ox’s back and jumped in front of him. Tiger and Dragon thought it was unfair, but they could only settle behind Ox. Rabbit found it unfair too. He wanted to race with Dragon and succeeded.

This angered Dog, who bit Rabbit in a fit and was sent to the back as punishment. Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey and Rooster fought amongst themselves as well. Pig came late, after everything was finally settled, and could only be the last.

The science behind it all

How do Chinese astrologers know each zodiac’s personality, fortune and compatibility with others?

Below is some technical information you might be interested in.

Dì Zhī (地支), or Earthly Branches, were the original terms used for the years. These branches are also assigned to the hours of the day, based on solar time.

The animals were later added as mnemonics and categorized as either yīn (阴) or yáng (阳).

Ten Celestial Stems (天干—tiān gān) pair with the Earthly Branches for a 60 year calendrical cycle. Then add in an element. These cycle through, but each zodiac also has a fixed element. This fixed element is what determines which sign you’re compatible with.

Twelve Earthly Branches: zi (子), chǒu (丑), yín (寅), mǎo (卯), chén (辰), sì (巳), wǔ (午), wèi (未), shēn (申), yǒu (酉), xū (戌), hài (亥).

Ten Celestial Stems: jiǎ (甲), yǐ (乙), bǐng (丙), ding (丁), wù (戊), jǐ (己), gēng (庚), xīn (辛), rén (壬), guǐ (癸).

Five elements: water (水—shuǐ), wood (木—mù), fire (火—huǒ), earth (土—tǔ), metal (金—jīn).

A calendar of recent years with everything explained above would look like this:

2000 gēng chén Dragon Metal Yang
2001 xīn Snake Metal Yin
2002 rén Horse Water Yang
2003 guǐ wèi Goat Water Yin
2004 jiǎ shēn Monkey Wood Yang
2005 yǒu Rooster Wood Yin
2006 bǐng Dog Fire Yang
2007 ding hài Pig Fire Yin
2008 zi Rat Earth Yang
2009 chǒu Ox Earth Yin
2010 gēng yín Tiger Metal Yang
2011 xīn mǎo Rabbit Metal Yin
2012 rén chén Dragon Water Yang
2013 guǐ Snake Water Yin
2014 jiǎ Horse Wood Yang
2015 wèi Goat Wood Yin
2016 bǐng shēn Monkey Fire Yang
2017 ding yǒu Rooster Fire Yin
2018 Dog Earth Yang
2019 hài Pig Earth Yin
2020 gēng zi Rat Metal Yang
2021 xīn chǒu Ox Metal Yin
2022 rén yín Tiger Water Yang
2023 guǐ mǎo Rabbit Water Yin
2024 jiǎ chén Dragon Wood Yang
2025 Snake Wood Yin

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