Introduction

Happy Chinese New Year of the goat!

The history of the Chinese zodiac goes back to ancient times. Even today, the Chinese use it a source of information on the character, talents, inclinations and conduct of other people. Every person, depending on their date of birth, is assigned to one sign out of the twelve: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog or Pig.

The Chinese zodiac is governed the number 12. It is made of 12 signs named after animals. However, the constant cycle can be divided not only into 12 months as in the zodiac we know in Europe, but also into 12 years and 12 double hours of a full day. Moreover, an important role in the Chinese zodiac is played by the 5 elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal. In summary, 60 combinations can be counted, which assigned to particular years, form 60-year cycles affecting the people born at a given time.

The mythology of the Chinese zodiac

Many stories on the zodiac’s origins have accumulated throughout the years, two of which are most widespread. The first claims it was Buddha who summoned all of the animals, but only twelve of them came. As a reward, Buddha promised to name the following years after each animal in the order they had arrived. These were: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. According to the second legend, the twelve animals had an argument over which of them was most important. Unable to reach an agreement, they asked the gods to solve the argument. A race was hence decreed: the animal that crossed the river first would also take the first place in the cycle of consecutive years. The animals gathered on one shore of the river, and when given the signal, jumped into the water. Ox did not even feel the rat had hopped on his back. Then, as Ox neared the other side of the river, Rat jumped ahead, reached the shore and won the race. The order the animals reached the finish set the order they rule different periods within the calendar.

Is it better to be Rat or Pig?

According to the Chinese, the nature of the animal ruling a given year has huge influence on the people born in that time. The Chinese zodiac not so much foretells the future, but rather provides information on the character, lifestyle, emotions, actions, strong and weak sides of a person born under a given sign. This way it can aid in choosing a professional career or a life partner, but also helps understand a friend, colleague or a boss. Perhaps it is hence worth taking advantage of the Chinese wisdom and finding out who we truly are?