The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, calculated on the movements of the Moon and Sun. Each year is named after an animal. There are 12 animals that cycle through the years. Every 12 years, the cycle repeats itself. The Chinese believed that depending on the year an individual is born, their personality takes on the characteristics of that animal.
The Chinese Calendar Signs
The Chinese calendar zodiac signs feature two components, the celestial stem, and the earthy terrestrial branch. The celestial stem represents the quality of elemental force. The terrestrial branch represents the way this is expressed.
Celestial Stem - Yin Yang and the Five Elements
The celestial stem relates to the Yin Yang of the Chinese element that is naturally fixed to each animal sign. Yin energy is inward, feminine, still, dark, and negative. While yang energy is outward, masculine, hot, bright, and positive. There are two Water, Wood, Fire, and Metal Chinese animal signs, one is Yin, and the other is Yang. There are four Earth signs, two are Yin, and two are Yang. Four of the elements represent a season: Wood/Spring, Fire/Summer, Metal/Autumn, Water/Winter. The Earth element marks seasonal change and is associated with the end month of each season.
The ten Celestial Stems:
- Jia - Yang Wood is growing wood (Thrusting)
- Yi - Yin wood is cut timber (Freshness)
- Bing - Yang Fire is an active fire (Expansion)
- Ding - Yin Fire is contained fire (Strength)
- Wu - Yang Earth is earth (Flourishing)
- Ji - Yin Earth is earthenware (Ripeness)
- Geng - Yang Metal is raw metal (Transformation)
- Xin - Yin Metal is shaped metal (Withdrawing)
- Ren - Yang Water is running water (Potentiality)
- Gui - Yin Water is standing water (Regeneration)
Terrestrial Branch - The 12 Chinese Zodiac Animals
The terrestrial branch features the names of the animals in the Chinese zodiac. Each year, in the repeating zodiac cycle of 12 years, is represented by a zodiac animal, each with its own attributes.
- Zi (Rat) - The Rat is Yang Water. Rats are smart, charming, fluid, and imaginative. More negatively, they can be grouchy, gossipy, and secretive.
- Chou (Ox) - The Ox is Yin Earth. An Ox is generous, patient, grounded, and determined. More negatively, they can be gloomy, stubborn, and boring.
- Yin (Tiger) - The Tiger is Yang Wood. Tigers are daring, lucky, courageous, and adventurous. More negatively, they can be dramatic, selfish, and cocky.
- Mao (Rabbit) - The Rabbit is Yin Wood. Rabbits are intelligent, kind, sensitive, and intuitive. More negatively, they can be touchy, superficial, and foolish.
- Chen (Dragon) - The Dragon is Yang Earth. Dragons are warm-hearted, successful, and exciting. More negatively, they can be gullible and have a short fuse.
- Si (Snake) - The Snake is Yin Fire. Snakes are curious, wise, and graceful. More negatively, they can be jealous, suspicious, and greedy.
- Wu (Horse) - The Horse is Yang Fire. Horses are charismatic, generous, and heroic. More negatively, they can be impatient, vain, and hypocritical.
- Wei (Goat) - The Goat is Yin Earth. Goats are easy-going, compassionate, and creative. More negatively, they can be naïve, worrisome, and irresponsible.
- Shen (Monkey) - The Monkey is Yang Metal. Monkeys are funny, lively, and social. More negatively, they can be devilish, phony, and thoughtless.
- You (Rooster) - The Rooster is Yin Metal. Roosters are brave, kindhearted, and entertaining. More negatively, they can be pushy, elitist, and insecure.
- Xu (Dog) - The Dog is Yang Earth. Dogs are playful, giving, and fearless. More negatively, they can be skeptical, negative, and unsatisfied.
- Hai (Pig) - The Pig is Yin Water. Pigs are loving and persuasive. More negatively, they can be fearful and gluttonous.
Finding Your Chinese Zodiac Animal
The Chinese New Year falls on a different day each year. It begins on the second New Moon, following the Winter Solstice. So, if you were born near the beginning of the Chinese year, you'll need to check the exact date of the new year during the year you were born to be sure of which Chinese animal sign you fall under.
Your Birth Year Element
Not only does each animal have a fixed element, each year is also assigned one of the five elements. The element assigned to the year you were born into influences you and should be considered along with your earthly terrestrial branch animal sign.
How to Determine the Element of Your Birth Year
To determine the element of your birth year, use the last digit of your birth year.
Last Digit of Birth Year
Last Digit of Birth Year
The 60-Year Cycle
The Rat is ranked first in the 60-year Chinese zodiac animal and element cycle. Each of the 12 Chinese zodiac animal years repeats every 12 years. Each time the animal repeats, it is influenced by one of the five different elements that rule that specific year. This means that the same animal and element combinations only reoccur every 60 years.
The Four Pillars
Almost everyone is familiar with the Chinese animal for the year of their birth. However, most don't know an animal is also connected to their birth month, day, and hour. Taken together, they create the "Four Pillars" system of Chinese astrology. The Four Pillars all follow the sixty-year cycle. By calculating your "Four Pillars," you'll learn even more about your characteristics, personality, and destiny.