The Chinese Zodiac is based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar representing a cycle of twelve years with each year having a symbolic animal sign. The symbols of the Chinese Zodiac, known in Chinese as Sheng Xiao, are the ox, rat, tiger, dragon, rabbit, horse, snake, monkey, sheep, dog, rooster and pig. The animal ruling the birth year of the individual seems to exert great influence on his personality and destiny. It is like the animal residing in the heart of the particular sign. For instance personality traits of the people born in the Horse year include being hard working, intelligent, popular and beautiful.
Chinese Astrology assigns the birth year to a particular phase of a sixty-year time cycle. The years are counted and classified by using three systems namely the ten ‘Heavenly Stems” the twelve “Animals” and the twelve “Earthly Branches”. Chinese zodiac and astrology is associated with the five elements of fire, earth, water, wood and metal, the concepts of Yin, Yang, Chi and the time cycles to determines one’s destiny.
The Chinese Zodiac of associating animals with year of the birth finds its origin in the Han Dynasty In fact the origin of Chinese Zodiac can be trace to astronomy according to which one “ji” has twelve years with one year having twelve months and one day comprising of twelve time periods described as ‘shi chen’. The twelve animals associated with the twelve signs are divided into the categories of yin and yang. The years of the animal are calculated by taking any year with plus or minus twelve or multiples of twelve. For instance 12, 24, 36 and so on is the year having the same animal sign. Thus the years corresponding to the Chinese Zodiac sign of the “Rat” would be 1900, 1912, 1924, and 1936 and so on.
The twelve symbols of the Chinese Zodiac are based on the Chinese legend according to which the rat secured the first place as it hopped in first with the help of the Ox who secured the second place for displaying good sportsmanship. The courageous tiger was given the third place, the Rabbit got the fourth place followed by the Dragon in the fifth place, the Snake in the sixth place, the Horse in the Seventh position, the sheep or ram in the eight place, the monkey in the ninth position, rooster tenth, the Dog in the eleventh place and the Pig in the twelfth place. In accordance with Chinese folklore every person displays personality traits that correspond to his animal birth sign.
According to popular legend of the Chinese Zodiac, God called all the animals for a meeting in which they would be designated as signs of the year and the twelve animals appearing first would be selected according to their order of appearance. The cat and rat who were good friends decided to go to the meeting together. But the rat who woke up first failed to keep his promise pf waking up the cat, instead set out for the meeting alone. The other animals, ox, tiger, dragon, rabbit, horse, snake, monkey, sheep, dog, rooster and pig also soon arrived. Meanwhile the cat woke up and hurriedly reached the meeting place only to find that the selection was over with the rat appearing as the first sign of the Chinese Zodiac. The legend seems to have sown the seeds of discord between the rat and the cat and the reason for the cat to always chase the rat.