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The 12 animals

In Chinese astrology each individual personality is associated with an animal sign that represents it. It is a common misconception that there are only the singular animals assigned by year. Many western descriptions of Chinese astrology descriptions draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month and hours of the day.

The animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. The full 60 year cycle is a combination of the 12 animals with each of five possible elements, which distinctively vary the base animal's personality (12 x 5 = 60). The inner animal speaks directly to what motivates a person and is assigned by the month of birth. Since this dictates your love life and inner persona it is critical to a proper understanding of your compatibility with other signs. The secret animal is assigned by the hour of birth and so it is important to know the exact time of birth to determine it correctly. It is your own true sign which your personality is based on. It is important to compensate for daylight saving time or any clock adjustment performed by your country in determining this sign, as it is mapped according to the sun's location and not the local time.

To sum it up, while a person might appear to be a dragon they might actually be a snake internally and an ox secretively. Combined with the five elements, this makes for 8,640 possible combinations (five elements, 12 animals, 12 months, 12 times of day) that a person might be. These are all are critical for the proper use of Chinese astrology. Many Western displays of the Chinese zodiac omit these, as well as the elements, for easier consumption and understanding.

The 12 zodiac animals
The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order. The first symbol is simply the name of the animal written in Chinese, while the second symbol is the character specifically used in astrology to denote the animal sign.

鼠 子 Rat
牛 丑 Ox
虎 寅 Tiger
兔 卯 Rabbit
龍 辰 Dragon
蛇 巳 Snake
馬 午 Horse
羊 未 Sheep
猴 申 Monkey
雞 酉 Rooster
狗 戌 Dog
豬 亥 Pig
Legend describes the order of the zodiac was determined through a race, in which the rat cheated by standing on the ox's head and jumping ahead of him when they reached the finish line.

The twelve year cycle
The system of the yearly cycle was built from observations of the orbit of Jupiter. Chinese astronomers divided the celestial circle into 12 sections to follow the orbit of 歳星 Suìxīng (Jupiter, the Year Star). Astronomers rounded the orbit of Suixing to 12 years (from 11.86). Suixing was associated with Sheti (ɳ Böotes) and sometimes called Sheti.

The months - the inner animals
The 12 animals also apply to the lunar months. The month born affects a person's inner animal, as stated above. Remember, the Chinese Calendar is offset to start in the traditional February, or even in early March.

Solar Longitude Segment Name Western date Lunar Month (Ordinal - Name)
314° 立春 lìchūn Feb 03/04 - Feb 18/19 1st -寅 Tiger
329° 雨水 yǔshuǐ Feb 18/19 - Mar 05/06
344° 啓蟄 qǐzhé (驚蟄 jīngzhé) Mar 05/06 - Mar 20/21 2nd - 卯 Rabbit
春分 chūnfēn Mar 20/21 - Apr 04/05
14° 清明 qīngmíng Apr 04/05 - Apr 19/20 3rd - 辰 Dragon
29° 穀雨 gǔyǔ Apr 19/20 - May 05
44° 立夏 lìxià May 05 - May 20/21 4th - 巳 Snake
59° 小滿 xiǎomǎn May 20/21 - June 05/06
74° 芒種 mángzhòng Jun 05/06 - Jun 20/21 5th - 午 Horse
89° 夏至 xiàzhì Jun 20/21 - Jul 06/07
104° 小暑 xiǎoshǔ Jul 06/07 - Jul 22/23 6th - 未 Sheep
119° 大暑 dàshǔ Jul 22/23 - Aug 07
134° 立秋 lìqiū Aug 07 - Aug 22/23 7th - 申 Monkey
149° 處暑 chùshǔ Aug 22/23 - Sep 07/08
164° 白露 báilù Sep 07/08 - Sep 22/23 8th - 酉 Rooster
181° 秋分 qiūfēn Sep 22/23 - Oct 07/08
194° 寒露 hánlù Oct 07/08 - Oct 23 9th - 戌 Dog
211° 霜降 shuāngjiàng Oct 23 - Nov 07
224° 立冬 lìdōng Nov 07 - Nov 21/22 10th - 亥 Pig
244° 小雪 xiǎoxuě Nov 21/22 - Dec 06/07
251° 大雪 dàxuě Dec 06/07 - Dec 21/22 11th - 子 Rat
271° 冬至 dōngzhì Dec 21/22 - Jan 05/06
284° 小寒 xiǎohán Jan 05/06 - Jan 19/20 12th - 丑 Ox
301° 大寒 dàhán Jan 19/20 - Feb 03/04

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