Different from western 12 constellations, Chinese people have their own 12 , which is Chinese zodiac. Chinese zodiac, known as Shengxiao or Shuxiang, is a twelve years cycle, every year in the circle matches corresponding animal signs. Every Chinese has his/her own zodiac animal sign based on the year he/she is born in. As China has its own calendar—lunar calendar, Chinese zodiac does not start from January 1st of Gregorian date but Chinese calendar.
Order of Chinese Zodiac
The 12 animal signs in Chinese Zodiac are fixed the order based on the twelve earthly branches, including rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.
Origin of Chinese Zodiac
The origin of Chinese zodiac relates to animal worship. According to the bamboo book of Qin Dynasty, excavated in Hubei province and Gansu province, we can know that there is a comparable Chinese zodiac system in the period of the early Qin Dynasty.
Find Your Year and Relative Characteristic
Each animal speaks to one’s characteristic, traits, and future unique to their birth year.
|Born in the year of rat:
hard-working, kind; shortsighted, conservative
|Born in the year of ox: honest, patient; stubborn, illogical|
|Born in the year of ox: honest, patient; stubborn, illogical|
|Born in the year of rabbit: elegant, considerate; vainglorious, irritable|
Born in the year of dragon: aggressive, generous; competitive, thrusting
Born in the year of snake: responsible, smart; skeptical, inconstant
Born in the year of horse: determined, eloquent; impatient, stubborn
Born in the year of sheep: creative, tolerant; indecisive, softhead
Born in the year of monkey: romantic, competitive; jealous, dishonest
Born in the year of rooster: sharp, efficient; selfish, weird
Born in the year of dog: loyal, righteous; impatient, stubborn
Born in the year of pig: optimistic, enthusiastic; emotional, sightless
So what’s your Chinese zodiac year? Are you the one with these characteristic listed above?
12 Zodiac Signs and Time (Shichen)
In ancient China, there is an old way to calculate time, that is shichen. Every sichen is named after the twelve earthly branches. One day is divided into 12 shichen, and 1 shichen equals to 2 hours.
Every shichen corresponds to an animal in Chinese zodiac, which is based on the time of these animals’ appear and disappear time. The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac is symbolization of the twelve earthly branches.
Zi shi-rat: 23：00～00：59
Chou shi-ox: 1：00～2：59
Yin shi-tiger: 3：00～4：59
With the development of history, Chinese zodiac merges together with mutual generation and restriction, which embodies in marriage, life, luck and so on. Every animal sign has abundant legends, as an important part of Chinese folk culture, Chinese people gradually generates a systematic idea about Chinese zodiac, no matter love compatibility or pray in temple or something else.
What is Benmingnian?
Every twelve years, you will meet your sign year, Chinese people call it Benmingnian. According to the Chinese astrology, Benmingnian is a year of bad luck. In Chinese opinion, it’s easy to offend Tai Sui in the Benmingnian, who is a god in charge of people’s fortune. Fortune may go down in the year. Although it’s a superstition, this opinion is deeply rooted in Chinese minds. Maybe it’s ridiculous and funny to foreigners, but Benmingnian culture has been one of the most important parts in Chinese culture. Even there is no relationship between bad luck and Benmingnian, when Chinese people encounter financial loss, marriage crisis, physical injuries and obstacles in career or something bad they are accustomed to link bad luck to Benmingnian.
In order to avoid bad luck, people in his/her animal sign year will take some measures.
Wear red: it’s one of the popular things Chinese people like to do in their zodiac year of birth. When Benmingnian is coming, Chinese people like to wear red, especially red underwear. In ancient China, red is always regarded as an auspicious color by Chinese people. So wearing red means to get good luck and drive away bad luck.
Wear jade: Jade is worshiped as a sacred thing by Chinese people since ancient China. Pixiu, the mythical wild beast has always been regarded as the god of fortune, prosperous wealth, and peace. Therefore, wearing jade pendant with pixiu is very popular among people in their year. It’s believed to bring them good luck, such as promotion in study/career, happiness in their family and so on.
Relative Works about Chinese Zodiac
CZ12（Chinese name: 十二生肖）, also named as Chinese Zodiac, is a movie directed by Chinese famous movie star–Jackie Chan. If you have watched American famous movie, National Treasure, you may regard it as Chinese version for national treasure.
The movie is adapted based on real history that Yuanmingyuan Imperial Garden is looted and destroyed by British and French troops in the Second Opium War. The twelve bronze heads of the Chinese zodiac animals are parts of looted treasures. From then on, the twelve bronze heads of the Chinese zodiac animals are loss oversea. In order to get huge bonus, JC (Jackie Chan), tasked by a company and in charge of collecting the remaining lost bronze heads. In the process of finding, JC falls in love with Coco, daughter of a Chinese cultural relic’s scholar Mr. Guan. Moved by Coco and Mr. Guan’s patriotism, JC gives up the huge bonus, but tries his best to rescue the animals’ heads. After innumerable trials and hardships, JC, with help of his friends, succeeds to recover all of the twelve bronze heads of the Chinese Zodiac animals, the gives back to Chinese government.
As folk culture symbolization with long history, there are many handicrafts vividly describing Chinese zodiac, such as paintings, couplets, poetry, and so on. Not only China, many other countries will issue Chinese zodiac stamps during Spring Festival, in celebration of the upcoming Chinese Lunar Year of corresponding animals.
Influence to abroad
As a time-honored culture symbol, the 12-Year Animal Cycle has influence to abroad, especially countries in Asia, such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, India, etc. Actually, the order of the animals or some animals may be a little bit different from China: Vietnam replaces the tiger to cat, and Thailand start the first animal from snake.