What’s your sign?
I mean your Zodiac sign, well in western astrology, it’s a constellation determined by when your birthday falls on the calendar. But according to the Chinese Zodiac, it’s your animal assign to your birth year.
But why animal, you may ask. Well, as the story goes, Jade Emperor Aka Ruler of the Heavens, wanted to devise a way to measure time, so he organized a race. The first twelve animals to make it across the river would earn a spot on the zodiac calendar in the order they arrived.
The story goes like this:
The Rat rose with the sun to get an early start, but on the way to the river, he met the Horse, The Tiger, and the ox. Because the Rat was small and couldn’t swim very well, he asked the bigger animals for help.
While the tiger and horse refused, the Kind-Hearted Ox agreed to carry the rat across, but the moment they reached across the rat jumped off the ox’s head and secure the first position.
What an Ass, right.
The Ox came second with the powerful tiger right behind him. The rabbit, too small to battle the current, nimbly hopped across stones and logs to come in fourth.
Next came the Dragon, who could have flown directly across, but stopped to help some creatures she had encountered on the way.
After Dragon, came the horse galloping across the river, but just as she got across the snake slithered by, the shocked horse reared back, letting the snake finish sixth.
The Jade Emperor looked out at the river and spotted the sheep, the monkey, and the rooster all atop a raft, working together to cross the river. When they made it across, they agreed to give the eight place to the sheep, who was the most comforting and harmonious of them, followed by the monkey and the rooster.
Next came the dog, though he was a great swimmer, once into the water he forgot all about the race and spent the entire day enjoying himself. He managed to get the eleventh position.
The final spot was claimed by the pig, who took a snack and a nap break in the middle of the race.
And so, each year is associated with one of the animals in this order, with the cycle starting over every 60 years.
What 60? what about 12?
Well, the traditional Chinese calendar is made up of two overlapping systems. The animals of the zodiac known as “The Twelve Earthly Branches” and secondly “The Ten Heavenly Stems”.
The Ten Heavenly Stems are nothing but the five classical elements metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Every element is assigned a Yin and a Yang.
When the 12 Earthly Branches combined with the 10 Heavenly Stems it creates 60 years of different combinations, known as a sexagenarian cycle.
Please note the above-mentioned cycle has nothing to do with SEX.
So, someone born in 1980 would be Yang Metal Monkey, whereas someone born in 2007 would be Yin Fire Pig. Apart from this, you are also assigned an inner animal based on your birth month, True animal based on your birth date, and a secret animal based on your birth hour.
Man, those old Chinese, sure loved a lot of animals.
With time this system spread across Asia, and other societies made changes to reflect their communities. For example, if you consult the Vietnamese Zodiac, you may discover that you are a cat, not a rabbit. And in Thailand, the mystical Naga replaced the legendary Dragon.
So, whether or not you place stock in what zodiac says about you as an individual, it certainly reveals much about the culture it came from.