The Chinese Zodiac
The Chinese animal zodiac, or shengxiao, is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Traditionally these zodiac animals were used to date the years.
The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac
In order, the 12 animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. Each year is associated with a zodiac animal.
Chinese Zodiac Origins — Why 12 Animals
The 12 animals were chosen deliberately, after many revisions. The zodiac animals are either closely related to ancient Chinese people’s daily lives, or have lucky meanings.
The ox, horse, goat, rooster, pig, and dog are six of the main domestic animals raised by Chinese people. The other six animals: rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, and monkey are all loved by the Chinese people.
Why the 12 Zodiac Animals Are in That Order
The 12 Chinese Zodiac animals are in a fixed order according to Chinese Yin and Yang Theory and perceived attributes.
The yin or the yang of the animals is defined based on the odd or even number of their claws (or toes, hoofs). The animals are then arranged in an alternating (complementary) yin-yang sequence.
Usually an animal has is the same number of claws on its front and rear legs. However the rat has four toes on its fore legs and five on its hind legs. As the old saying goes, “a thing is valued in proportion to its rarity”, so the Rat ranks first of the 12 zodiac animals. It uniquely combines the attributes of odd (yang) and even (yin). 4+5=9, and yang is dominant, so the Rat is classified as odd (yang) overall.
|Zodiac Animal||Toes Per Limb||Odd/Even||Yin/Yang|
|Rat||4 front; 5 back||(even and) odd||(yin and) yang|
Each animal has symbolic meanings given to it by the ancient Chinese. These animal attributes comes in six contrasting pairs that must be harmonized, like yin and yang, and are the primary factor governing the order of the zodiac. (Presumably the attributes most valued by ancient Chinese are first and so on.) The strong yang attribute comes first, then the balancing yin attribute.
|Rat||Wisdom||Wisdom without industriousness leads to triviality.|
|Ox||Industriousness||Industriousness without wisdom leads to futility.|
|Tiger||Valor||Valor without caution leads to recklessness.|
|Rabbit||Caution||Caution without valor leads to cowardice.|
|Dragon||Strength||Strength without flexibility leads to fracture.|
|Snake||Flexibility||Flexibility without strength leads to compromise.|
|Horse||Forging ahead||Forging ahead without unity leads to abandonment.|
|Goat||Unity||Unity without forging ahead leads to stagnation.|
|Monkey||Changeability||Changeability without being constant leads to foolishness.|
|Rooster||Being constant||Being constant without changeability leads to woodenness.|
|Dog||Fidelity||Fidelity without amiability leads to rejection.|
|Pig||Amiability||Amiability without fidelity leads to immorality.|
Source: http://www.chinahighlights.com/travelguide/chinese-zodiac/ Much more information on the website!