An Introduction to the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac, also known as Chinese astrology, is one of the most ancient systems of customs and beliefs that many followers believe began in China numerous centuries ago.

Based on the Chinese calendar, the Chinese Zodiac predicts your future with combined guidance and support of Chinese astronomy and philosophy. Experts of the practice believe the system can help you make more appropriate choices in all aspects of your life – from career choices and love life choices to compatibility with others and specific personality traits.

While similar, but much more complicated than typical Western Astrology, Chinese astrology is based on years – and animals that change once each year. Also, Chinese astrology goes deeper than Western astrology as its system further divides a typical year into months, days and hours.

So why are so many people interested in the Chinese Zodiac system? The Chinese believe that the zodiac can provide significant details about an individual, including their personalities, origins and more. This information is then used to determine job compatibility, potential partnerships, work colleagues and much more.

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What’s Your Sign?

The 12 animal signs in the Chinese Zodiac are fixed on the order based of “the 12 earthly branches”: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig in this exact order. Each animal’s traits are specific to the animal; therefore, specific to individuals born in the corresponding year. Additionally, the scenario is further compounded by the effect of Yin and Yang and the earth branch under which you were born (which consists of earth, fire, water, metal or wood).

Your astrological year represents details about your family background and environment during your upbringing, along with your relationship with your grandparents.

To further break it down, those individuals born within a specific year are believed to inherit particular traits from their animal. For example, if you were born in the year of the monkey, you are considered to be witty and clever. Or, if you were born in the year of the tiger, you are thought to be brave and lucky.

Here’s a quick glimpse at some of the common characteristics shared by your Chinese Zodiac animal:


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  • Lively
  • Good leader
  • Motivated by status and money
  • Positive traits: Charming, smart and confident
  • Negative traits: Selfish, ruthless and jealous


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  • Strong character
  • Motivated
  • Has a heart of gold
  • A planner
  • Patient with others
  • Positive traits: Kind-hearted and hardworking
  • Negative traits: Vain, critical and petty


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  • Competitive
  • Feels the need to be loved by others
  • Protective of loved ones
  • Positive traits: Loyal, independent and productive
  • Negative traits: Moody, anxious and stubborn


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  • Excellent communicator
  • Calm-natured
  • Good leader
  • Positive traits: Caring, sensible and well-mannered
  • Negative traits: Pessimistic, insecure and cunning


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  • Free-spirited
  • Energetic
  • Great leader
  • Positive traits: Smart, confident and charming
  • Negative traits: Selfish and jealous


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  • Organized planner
  • Successful businessperson
  • Positive traits: Hardworking and loyal
  • Negative traits: Vain, critical and petty


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  • Funny and quick-witted
  • Feels the need to be loved
  • Often starts tasks, but rarely completes them
  • Positive traits: Loyal and independent
  • Negative traits: Moody, anxious and stubborn


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  • Peaceful, calm demeanor
  • Artistic
  • Great leaders
  • Positive traits: Sensible and caring
  • Negative traits: Sly, insecure and pessimistic


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  • Curious and fun-loving
  • Imaginative
  • Good leader
  • Positive traits: Smart, confident and charming
  • Negative traits: Selfish, jealous and ruthless


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  • Trustworthy
  • Extroverted and likes to be heard
  • Organized planner
  • Positive traits: Loyal, patient and kind-hearted
  • Negative traits: Vain, critical and petty


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  • Great listener
  • Always completes tasks
  • Need to be loved
  • Positive traits: Productive, loyal and independent
  • Negative traits: Anxious, moody and often stubborn


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  • Understanding and patient
  • Honest
  • Calm-natured
  • Positive traits: Caring and sensible
  • Negative traits: Pessimistic and insecure


Chinese Zodiac Origins and Astrological Year

According to historical writings, the 12 animals in China used today – including the animal selection and their orders – originated in the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). The order of the animals is traditionally explained with a folktale about how the animals “were summoned to heaven by the Jade Emperor, who ruled the heavens of China.”

Because there are 12 Chinese Zodiac signs, the signs repeat every 12 years. However, the Chinese year doesn’t always fall on the same date every Western year. Why?

The Chinese year is based on precise astronomical observations relating to the longitude of the sun and moon phases. A typical Chinese year has 12 months, for example, while a leap year has 13 months. Also, a Chinese year has either 353, 354 or 355 days – and a Chinese leap year has 383, 384 or 385 days.

On a more granular level, the months in a calendar year denote your “inner animal;” the days signify your “true animal;” and, the hour within which you were born symbolizes your “secret animal.” This detailed level of examination provides much more complex interactions and personalities when compared to Western astrology. Ultimately, to get the best understanding of your Chinese Zodiac class, it’s essential to know the date and time of your actual birth to determine who you are.


The Importance of the Chinese Zodiac System

Why is the Chinese Zodiac system so fascinating and vital today?

An important element of traditional Chinese culture, the Chinese Zodiac system has long been recognized and intertwined into the daily lives of its people. Each person, from his or her date of birth, has a unique animal sign accompanying them for life, offering symbolic meaning for their traits, behaviors, characters and destiny.

Keep in mind that such predictions should be taken with a grain of salt as the future is not always “set in stone.” At the end of the day, only you can determine and set the course for your fortune.

With this said, if the Chinese Zodiac traits fit and you recognize some of these traits in your personality, I suggest using this information as part of your overall self-discovery journey, and to help you improve your chances of balance and success.

Jennifer Marcenelle BSN, RN, HNB-BC
Jennifer Marcenelle is a board-certified and registered nurse with over 30 years of experience in the medical industry. She currently holds degrees in nursing and holistic healing, with a specialization in burnouts.

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