Chinese Zodiac Calendar

Most people’s understanding of the Chinese Zodiac Calendar doesn’t extend beyond what they see on the paper placemats that cover the tables of their favorite Chinese restaurants. But there really is much more to know about this doctrine that dates back more than 2,000 years.

Most Chinese Zodiac Calendar discussions focus only on the 12 animals. According to legend, these were the animals that appeared before Buddha (or the Jade Emperor, depending on the story) in response to an invitation. The 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac represent the order of each animal’s arrival. The legends depicting each animal’s journey differ slightly, but the order that prevails is as follows: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

These 12 animals represent the rotating 12-year cycle that is the basis of the Chinese Zodiac. You’ve likely heard reference to a particular year being the “Year of the Rabbit” or “Year of the Pig.”

But here’s what people don’t learn from most Chinese Zodiac Calendar discussions. In addition to the 12 animals, the Chinese Zodiac involves 5 elements: metal, wood, water, fire and Earth. These elements are associated with the 5 major planets Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn, respectively. The combinations presented by these 5 elements and the 12 animals actually combine to create a 60-year cycle. This cycle, along with Yin and Yang, directions, the positions of the sun and moon, and a person’s date and time of birth are all used to help foresee a person’s future.

Something else that people don’t understand from most Chinese Zodiac overviews is that it is based on the Chinese New Year which does not begin on January 1. The date varies but typically is towards the end of January. Therefore, when determining the correct animal, most people born during the month of January should be included as part of the previous year. Also, the 12 phases that make up the Chinese year are lunar months, coinciding with the appearance of each New Moon.

While the major players in the Chinese Zodiac are the 12 animals, it is the various combinations of animals, yin and yang, birth date and time, and the elements that help establish a person’s inner and outer self. This combination is also what helps determine a person’s personality traits, compatibility, and his good (or bad) fortune. To fully understand the Chinese Zodiac, it’s important to understand the relationship between all the elements, something most people don’t get from the typical Chinese Zodiac Calendar explanation.