The Jade Emperor in Heaven held a race to determine the order of months when constructing the Chinese calendar. Thirteen different animals were invited, and 12 made it across the finish line. The Chinese calendar consists of 12 lunisolar years that are associated with these 12 different animals. A person born in a certain year holds the personality traits associated with one of these animals.
Rat & Ox
The Rat represents wisdom, while the Ox symbolizes diligence. If one has wisdom without diligence, he can only be smart in regard to little things. But if one works hard without using his brain, he is merely a fool. Thus, one must balance wisdom with diligence to achieve greatness.
Tiger & Rabbit
The Tiger represents bravery, while the rabbit signifies caution. If one is brave without being cautious, he creates chaos. If one is cautious without taking risks, he is a coward. A combined approach can lead informed action.
Dragon & Snake
The Dragon symbolizes strength, while the snake represents flexibility. A person who solely relies on strength will encounter self-destruction, while one too soft is easily influenced and controlled. To bring strength and softness together has always been a Chinese ancestral teaching.
Horse & Goat
The Horse represents steady pursuit of a goal, while the Goat represents getting along with others. If one dashes ahead without taking others into consideration, he is bound to face conflict and opposition. With opposition, reaching one’s goal becomes more difficult. This is why pursuing a goal while taking others into account is ideal. If, however, one is always catering to others, he could lose direction and might not reach his goal.
Monkey and Rooster
The Monkey symbolizes agility, while the Rooster represents stability for its habitual crow. Someone who is agile without being stable keeps changing his course of actions, which hinders success. One who is stable without being agile, however, is hindered by a rigidity that is detrimental in the ever-changing world we live in today.
Dog & Pig
The Dog represents loyalty, while the Pig represents an easy-going nature. If one is overly loyal without being easy-going and pleasant, he will shut out others and become isolated. Being too easy-going without the noble quality of loyalty, however, can make one lose his principles. That being said, no matter where loyalty lies, whether to a nation, a team, or one’s dream, an easy-going outlook cannot be lacking.
The Chinese Zodiac is one expression of traditional Chinese wisdom passed down through the ages. It uses animals to signify characteristics about ourselves. If we know what our personality traits happen to be according to our birth year animal, we can use the complimentary animal’s traits to find balance. In this way, we can use the yin-yang theory to holistically understand Chinese ourselves.