twelve animals are the most popular and familiar aspect of Chinese astrology
in the West. You must have often heard about this being the Year of the Goat
or the last year being the Year of the Horse. On the first day of the Chines
new year, one of the twelve animals takes its place for the year. Now how did
these animals come about?
There are many tales but basically the animals were used to
represent the twelve Earthly branches that are a part of Chinese astrology. In
ancient times people did not have the benefits of reading or writing. So the
animals were used to help them remember the twelve Earthly branches which is
used in classical Chinese Feng Shui and Chinese astrology. These twelve
Earthly branches have intricate meaning and are consistently used in Chinese
These 12 Characters are Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu,
Wei, Shen, You, Xu and Hai. Now I am sure you would find it hard to remember
these characters but it is much easier to remember them if they were given
animal names. Like rat, ox, tiger, etc.
time progressed, these animal symbols became synonymous with Chinese
astrology. The animal symbols took a form and people began to attach true
animalistic traits to those born under the sign. The ancient classical Chinese
astrology was too intense or deep a study so people started simplifying it and
began creating irrevalant information about animals and how they behave a and
maybe how mankind behaved in that way. BUT NONE OF THAT IS TRUE. So if you are
a dog would you “woof, woof, and be trustworthy.” and if you are a pig
would you ‘oink, oink, and be filthy’. So let’s get realistic now!
So before you go any further I would like to stress that
‘please don’t take the animals
signs literally, they are actually the earthly branches-a part of classical
Chinese Feng Shui. They do help in ascertaining a person’s general fortune
in life and to a certain extent help in predicting a person’s fortune based
on his Four Pillars of Destiny or help in Feng Shui.
It is more a myth than real study! So a horseman or woman is
not one who gallops or runs fast………. or a monkey full of tricks. It is
left to your own imagination on how you want to use this science. Do you want
to start believing that the million tigers in India or around the world all
posses the characteristics of the tiger.
you know the animal that represents your Year of Birth? And if you do know
yours would you be able to calculate what animal represents a certain Year.
There are numerous Chinese myths surrounding the origin of the twelve animals.
Here is a simple tale of how the 12 animals came to be in
the Chinese calendar. This will help you remember the order of the animals and
once you know one year it will be easy to add up the others.
So here goes………
The Jade Emperor was the Supreme ruler of the Heaven and all
it contained but he had never been to Earth. He was curious about the
creatures that lived on the Earth. He often wondered about their size and
colour and shape. One day the Jade Emperor summoned his advisor and asked him
to get the creatures from Earth so he could have a look at them.
advisor told the Emperor that the Earth was inhabited within thousands of
animals and it would take him a long to see and every one of them. To this the
Emperor said “then just get 12 of the most interesting animals”. And the
criteria would also be that the animal had to be of use to humanity or be one
of the first to arrive at the Heavenly Palace on the days when the animals
The advisor set off on his task and went to the rat to
invite him to visit the Emperor. He then told the rat to invite his friend the
cat. The invitation was then sent off to the tiger, the rabbit, the snake, the
dragon, the horse, dog, rooster, ox, monkey and goat.
The cat was very excited about the invitation but was afraid that he would
oversleep and miss his big opportunity of meeting the Jade Emperor. So he
asked his friend the rat to wake him up in the morning. The rat in the
meantime was beginning to feel insecure about his own ordinary looks in
comparison to the beauty of the cat. So he decided that he was not going to
wake the cat.
next morning the animals all turned up to present themselves to the Jade
Emperor. The Emperor looked around and found there were only eleven animals so
asked his advisor what had happened to the twelfth animal. The advisor rushed
down to Earth to find an animal. When he reached Earth he found a farmer
walking along with is Pig. He coaxed the farmer to part with his pig so it
could be presented to the Emperor. The farmer was pleased his Pig was to be
shown to the Emperor and gave the pig to the Advisor.
Ox being hard-working and reliable was there much before time. The other
animals stood in line. The rat in the meantime came along and seeing all the
beautiful animals decided that he had to do something different to attract the
Emperor’s attention. He jumped on the Ox’s back and began to play the
flute. The Emperor was so impressed by the rat that he decided to give him
first place. The Ox came next as he was second in line. Then came the Tiger
because he looked courageous. The rabbit next because of his fine white fur.
The dragon was next because he looked powerful and then came the curvaceous
snake. The horse was next because of his elegant stature and the Goat because
of his lean and strong horns. The monkey was ninth because of his agility and
intelligence, the rooster next because of his fine feathers and finally the
dog for being watchful and protective.
The pig stood at the end of the line and got the twelfth
spot because he happened to be there.
Meantime the cat woke up and came running to the palace. By
this time the ceremony
was over and the animals were all honoured by naming a year for them. The cat
begged with the Emperor to consider him but it was too late. The animals were
chosen. The cat saw to rat standing right in the front of the line and decided
he as going to kill him. That is why even after all these years the rat and
the cat are sworn enemies.
The animal years work in a continuous cycle, beginning with
the rat and ending with the pig. Each animal rules once every twelve year and
has its own particular characteristic and can influence the nature of your
the Year 2003 is the Year of the Goat or Sheep and last year was the year of
the Horse. From here I am sure you can find your own Year of Birth.
More stories on the animals will follow in my next segment.
If you have any questions feel free to write to
Now that you know your animal sign here is a brief table to
the Animal associations.
Bear in mind that the Chinese Astrology is based on the lunar calendar that
defines the lunar month as the first day of the appearance of the moon. In
China people worked with moon phases and the Chinese New Year always begins
slightly later than the Western year. You can find your animal sign by
referring to the table below and working our your own animal year by the order
in which the animals appear. But if your were born in January or February you
may belong to the previous animal year depending on the lunar
If you have any questions feel free to Email