Have you ever read about your Chinese Zodiac Sign on a placemat while dining in a Chinese Restaurant? Have you ever been curious to know if there was more to it, or, if there was more in-depth information available? The Crabby Nook has done extensive research for you on the Chinese Zodiac. We have written guides on each sign that are easy to understand and follow. You will find the links at the bottom of this page.
The Chinese lunar calendar dates back to the second millennium BC. Unlike our calendar, which numbers the years progressively from a given time (the birth of Christ), the Chinese calendar is cyclical. Each cycle is made up of 12 years; after the 12th year, the cycle is repeated. The Chinese associate each year of a 12-year cycle with an animal, and they refer to the years as "the year of the dragon," "the year of the ox," and so forth. The 12 animals and the years associated with them are often represented on a circular chart, and for this reason they are known as animals of the zodiac.
The use of the animal names in the calendar led to the development of Chinese astrology. Astrology can be defined as a pseudo-science linking human destinies to charts associated with heavenly bodies or the recording of time. The Chinese believed the characteristics of a given zodiac animal influenced the personality of every person born in that year. They used this information to create horoscopes, daily predictions based upon the year of one's birth. Although the reading of horoscopes is popular in modern Chinese culture, few people take the predictions seriously.
There is a binary Yin Yang cycle. Even years are yang, odd years are yin. Since the zodiac animal cycle of 12 is divisible by two, every zodiac can only occur in either yin or yang: the dragon is always yang, the snake is always yin, etc. This combination creates a 60-year cycle, starting with Wood Rat and ending with Water Pig. The current cycle began in the year 1984.
The Yin or Yang is broken down into Five Elements (Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, Earth) on top of the cycle of animals. These are modifiers and affect the characteristics of each of the 12 signs. Each element has features that apply to both years and the animals. Each of the 12 animals are governed by an element plus a Yin Yang Direction. Divided into 4 groups:
- The West
- Respiratory system
Pig, Rat, Ox
- The East
- Nervous System
Tiger, Hare, Dragon
- The North
- Skeletal/Excretory System
Snake, Horse, Rooster
- The South
- Circulatory system
Monkey, sheep, Dog
- Digestive system
Additionally there is Earth which (alternately to some) governs the signs of the Dragon, Dog, Sheep, and Ox. It is the central balance of all elements and can lend qualities to all 12 animals as well.
The elements are also associated with colors. The traditional correspondences are green to Wood, red to Fire, yellow to Earth, white to Metal, and black to Water. Some websites denote the years by the color and zodiac sign (as opposed to animal sign and element).