Chinese Zodiac Signs and Meanings in Astrology

Chinese Astrology: Legend of the Animals

history of chinese astrology

What is Chinese astrology?

Chinese astrology is an ancient study that dates back at least 350 years to the Ming Dynasty. It uses the time of birth (including the year, month, day and time) in order to assess the overall potential of the person, and predict what the future holds for that person.

I have often heard people argue that there is no such thing as destiny, or fate. Some people believe that our future is in our own two hands, and it is up to us to make things happen. My view is that our fortune is a combination of destiny and free-will. I can decide what to have for dinner under normal circumstances, but I cannot force my boss to give me a raise or a promotion, or make a distant father care for me.

The only debate is how much of our life is driven by destiny. To what extent are we led by the nose like an ox to live out the life that has been pre-programmed for us by some divine being, and to what extent can we choose and shape our future? Is it 50/50, or 80/20 as I believe it to be?

There is a Chinese saying that if you know your enemy as well as you know yourself, you will win every battle. My philosophy is that if you know your own strengths and weaknesses, keep a low profile during unfavourable times, and go for the gold when it is your day in the sun, you will do well.

History of chinese astrology

Legend has it that the cycle of the twelve animals to the semi-mythological, semi-historical Yellow Emperor who is supposed to have invented it in 2637BC. It was reported to be in use at the time of Confucius who lived in 5th Century BC.

“The Jade King, being bored, had requested that he would like to see the animals in down in earth. He was told that there were numerous animals, he said “I want to select the most interesting animals, and I will grade them according to their peculiarity”.

The advisor issued invitations to the chosen animals. The Rat was requested to invite his friend, the Cat. The Cat, who was very fond of his sleep, made the Rat promise to wake him up early the next morning. The Rat, afraid that the Cat would take the centre stage decided not to wake the Cat up the following morning.

Early next morning, the Jade King inspected the eleven animals and queried, “Why eleven animals?”. The advisor, who did not have any answer to this question, asked an assistant to go down to earth and grab any animal. The assistant reached a road and saw a man carrying a Pig. The assistant took the Pig to heaven.

The Rat, afraid that he was so small, that he would be missed, sat on the Ox and played the flute. Indeed the King did notice his presence and the Rat was given the first place. The Jade King then gave the second place to the Ox because of his kindness to the Rat. The third place went to the Tiger because of the appearance of courage. The Rabbit had the fourth place. The King thought that the Dragon looked like a snake on legs, so he was given the fifth place. The Snake was given sixth, the Horse seventh, the Ram eighth, the Monkey ninth, the Cock tenth (this was the only bird that the assistant could catch), and the Dog given the eleventh place. The king had no choice but to give him the Pig, the twelfth place.

After the ceremony, the Cat dashed into the palace and begged the King to give him a chance. “I am sorry,” said the King. “You are too late. I have arranged the twelve Animal Zodiac and I cannot go back on my choice”. When the Cat spotted the Rat, he chased the Rat with the intention of killing. That is why Cats cannot be friends with Rats.”

How is Chinese astrology different from the Western Zodiac?

I find the 12 signs of the Zodiac, from Aries to Pisces, to be a very powerful tool to understand personality. It is quite useful in predicting compatibility of relationships between lovers, parents and children, bosses and subordinates. However, it generalizes things too much by fitting everyone into 12 categories. I also do not find it very useful in predicting future events at a personal level.

The school of Chinese astrology that I study provides 150,000 combinations of charts whose interpretation requires a high level of skill and insight. It provides a structure for predicting the major tides in the whole life of a person. The level of detail cascades like a pyramid from the overall potential to each decade, year, month, day, right down to two hour blocks.

Using Chinese astrology, I have been able to see in my own chart the two times when my apartment was burglarized, when I would experience job stress, which year would be favourable for marriage, and other significant events in life. Knowing in advance when the good times will come and when the bad times will hit has helped me prepare for and enjoy life.

4 types of chinese astrology

Chinese Horoscope (Chinese Zodiac Animal)

The most popular Astrological system used today is the Zodiac Animal (link) that is symbolised by the 12 Animals sign. Each year has a different animal or Zodiac Animal Name. It is a general method that describes the characteristics of the person born in that particular year. The formula, which is based on compatibilities and incompatibilities, make it possible to make predictions of the coming years and the choice of partners. Other factors include the position of the Planet Jupiter and elements of the Purple Star Astrology System.

Chinese Almanac (Tung Shu or Book of Auspicious Days)

Chinese Astrology is part of the Chinese way of life. Everyday, they use the Tung Shu (The Chinese Almanac). The Tung Shu lists Astrological and Astronomical data of each day of the Year. On the basis that certain days will be auspicious and some not so lucky, very few Chinese will be starting a new business or moving house on a day which the Tung Shu has declared to be unlucky. The Tung Shu is now available in English and is commonly known as the Chinese Almanac (link). A personalised service (for auspicious dates for weddings, moving homes, starting business) is also available.

Four Pillars of Destiny (Ba Zi)

Professional astrologers use this formula because of the high accuracy and precision of the interpretations. The main concept of the Four Pillars is balance and harmony of the 5 elements. The pillars (time, day, month and year of your birth) is converted to the 5 elements using the Ten Thousand Year Chinese Calendar. The time period that is being studied can be related to a combination of these 5 elements. The interpretations are therefore based on the interaction of these elements of that time period.

The expert can describe, with a high level of accuracy, a person’s character, behaviour, family and social relationships, potentials, health, potential achievements and failures, marriage, life etc for that period of time. The boundaries of this technique are yet to be determined.

Purple Star Astrology (Zi Wei Dou Shu)

A very much simpler system where, once the Natal Chart is prepared, anybody can read and consult it at any time of their life. The Purple Star Astrology was documented in the Sung Dynasty (980 to 1280AD) and probably prepared by Ch’en T’u Nan. This formula centres on the Chinese concept of Ming (life or fate). It attempts to explain why one person’s Ming is so different from another’s. Why do some people have good fortune, social position, riches or long life, while some others are unlucky, suffer tragedies, are poor or die young? The Ming is controlled by your horoscope. Your Natal Chart comes with you at your birth (the time of your birth date).

How can Chinese astrology be of use to you?

Your life consists of a series of 10 year blocks, called decades. The stars in each decade direct the rise and fall of events in your life within the period. Within each decade, each year consists of both a lunar calendar year (Rat, Ox, Tiger, etc.) and your age, which runs from the start of your birthday for one whole year.

The date, time, and place of your birth and your sex are the key factors in constructing a life chart. The time of birth is particularly important as it is essential to determine in which of the twelve two hour intervals you were born. The place of birth helps determine whether any special factors need to be considered. Your sex is important, as the cosmic flow of events work in different directions (clockwise or counter clockwise) for males and females depending on the year you were born.

Based on the above information,An Astrologer will construct your life chart which consists of 12 houses clockwise in the following order:

  1. life potential
  2. parents
  3. fortune *
  4. real estate and properties
  5. career
  6. friends and hired help
  7. mobility
  8. health
  9. wealth
  10. children
  11. lovers and spouse(s)
  12. siblings

* Fortune is a Chinese concept with no direct translation in English. It reflects the mental well-being of a person.

Once the life chart is constructed, they can provide an overall indication of your life pertaining to each of the 12 houses.

Some Observations of the Chinese Horoscopes (Animal Zodiac)

1. The year of a particular “animal” will have certain characteristics.

Example: Years of Tigers are volatile marked by events of conflicts and natural disasters.

2. It is also commonly known that those born in the year of a particular animal have certain traits in common.

Example: People born in the year of the Rabbit are generally popular and easygoing. They are also sensible, wise and full of good humour.

3. Each person will have good and bad years during the twelve-year cycle

Example: For persons born in the year of the Dragon.

In the Year of the Tiger, the “Dragon” person encounters conflict. It is a worrying and rough time.

In the Year of the Rabbit, the “Dragon” person enjoys a fairly calm period characterised with few problems or difficulties.

In the year of the Dragon, the “Dragon” person enjoys excellent and auspicious good fortune. Success comes easily and effortlessly!

In the Analysis, the following Luck Aspects are considered. * Overview * Career * Wealth * Relationships * Health

Different experiences are predicted for people born under different “animal” sign. As each aspect of person year can be predicted, “lucky charms” are used to enhance the positive or suppress the negative.



Chinese Zodiac Years









































































Any year before 1960, just subtract the number of birth years to find out what you are. example would be 1950 you would be Tiger.

Check your Chinese Zodiac Sign Below for more information:


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Melissa Martinez

Melissa Martinez

Melissa Martinez currently has 10+ years of experience helping people navigate life with the use of astrology. When not working on the website she is busy writing her first book on love and astrology.

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