The Chinese zodiac is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes.

In order, the 12 Chinese zodiac animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. 2022 is a year of the Tiger.

What is the Chinese Zodiac?

The general consensus is that the zodiacs originally had something to do with the worship of animals. A zodiac system has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago.

Over time the zodiacs became more and more integrated into everyday life, with different meanings and characteristics being assigned to each animal. This in turn gave rise to various compatibilities and incompatibilities between each zodiac. They can be used to determine your fortune, play a major role in marriage and career decisions, fortune-telling and more.

Your Zodiac Year

You’d think your zodiac year will be lucky. It’s your year after all. However, it’s the total opposite.

It’s seen as a hurdle you have jump over. The way to protect yourself from evil spirits and bad fortune is to wear red underwear every day for the entire year. Even in modern times, it’s still treated as a real concern.

Legend of the Zodiac

One legend says that the Jade Emperor needed to choose 12 animals as palace guards. The Cat asked his neighbor Rat to help him sign up. Rat forgot, which is why they became mortal enemies.

At the palace, Ox was first in line. But Rat wanted to be first so he secretly climbed onto Ox’s back and jumped in front of him. Tiger and Dragon thought it was unfair, but they could only settle behind Ox. Rabbit thought it was unfair too. Rabbit challenged Dragon to a race and won. Rabbit moved up closer to the front of the line.

This made Dog mad, who bit Rabbit in a fit of anger. He was sent to the back of the line as punishment. Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, and Rooster fought amongst themselves as well. Pig came late, after everything was finally settled. That’s why Pig is last.

Of course, this is only a story. Cats didn’t even exist in China when zodiac animals first came about.

The Science Behind It All

How do Chinese astrologers know each zodiac’s personality, fortune and compatibility with others?

Here is some technical information you might be interested in:

Earthly Branches, were the original terms used for the years. These branches are also assigned to the hours of the day, based on solar time.

The animals were later added as mnemonics and categorized as either yīn or yang.

Introduction of the Animals

As mentioned before, the Earthly Branches were also assigned to the hours of the day. The animals, depending on what they did, became associated with certain times of day. This is another explanation for the ordering of the animals.

Here is a website if you would like to read more, see the charts and information about each zodiac animal.