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|
|0°||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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