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The Wisdom of the Chinese Zodiac

The wisdom of the Chinese zodiac. (Image:  Felix Andrews via  wkimedia  CC BY-SA 3.0)
The wisdom of the Chinese zodiac. (Image: Felix Andrews via wkimedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

When ancient Chinese astronomers examined the cycles of the Sun, Earth, and Moon, they decided that the resulting calendar would feature a cyclical dating method that repeats every 60 years.

The Chinese calendar is based on two cycles that interact with each other — the Chinese zodiac, which is divided into 12 parts, and the five elements. The five elements are metal, water, wood, fire, and earth.

Each year of the Chinese Zodiac is represented by a different animal: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

The five elements are assigned to the 12 animals (years), giving different characteristics to each animal (year). Assigning each of the five elements to the 12 years creates 60 different combinations, which results in a 60-year cycle.

Each year of the Chinese Zodiac is represented by a different animal. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Each year of the Chinese Zodiac is represented by a different animal. (Image: pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Horoscopes were developed around animal signs to predict personality traits and destiny. Each animal is known to have certain characteristics that a person born under the sign would demonstrate. The year a person is born determines their animal sign.

However, the Chinese zodiac has a deeper meaning in addition to the time element, and when we pair up the zodiac animals, some interesting personality combinations emerge.

Rat and ox

Rats may not be liked by most people, but they are cleaver, charming, and generous. They also have a tendency to be quick-tempered and overly critical. The ox is the opposite of the rat in many ways, as it is down to earth, practical, and hard working.

The rat and ox are an interesting pair. Where the rat is clever and social, the ox is serious and rigid. But therein may lie their connection; if one is clever, but not willing to work hard, they are not intelligent; if one only works hard and does not exercise their intelligence, they are foolish. Many successful people posses both traits and this is what our ancestors require of us, as it is the most important combination of individual qualities.

Horoscopes were developed around animal signs to predict personality traits and destiny. (Image: Cameron Norman via flicker CC BY 2.0 )

Horoscopes were developed around animal signs to predict personality traits and destiny. (Image: Cameron Norman via flicker CC BY 2.0 )

Tiger and rabbit

Tigers are born brave. They are powerful and intelligent, and do well in life. They can be agile and are very loyal. Rabbit represent caution, but they are also friendly, outgoing, and prefer the company of others. They also prefer to avoid conflict.

The tiger’s self-possessed, courageous, bold and free spirit must be linked with the far more timid rabbit. If one is brave, but throws caution to the wind, they are reckless. Conversely, one who is cautious, but not brave, is timid. This is the second most important combination of qualities.

Dragon and snake

The dragon is the most vital and powerful of any in the Chinese zodiac, although with an infamous reputation for being a hothead. Snakes are flexible and unassuming; they prefer to work by themselves and are more often in the spotlight for their real and lasting accomplishments than for outward attempts at garnering attention.

The snake and dragon are complete opposites, just like the sun and the moon, yin and yang, day and night, and winter and summer. The dragon’s magnetism is more brash and energetic than the snake’s, whose appeal lies on a more subtle plane, and the resulting opposite elements become very important in this world.

Horse and sheep

Horses prefer to work by themselves and exhibit extraordinary levels of energy and concentration on the task at hand. They can often be seen happily losing themselves in their task. A symbol of peace, sheep are not the most practical, and they often go through life without clearly defined goals.

Although they are different in nature, the differences between a horse and sheep are often complementary. A person who moves forward without concerns about anything else eventually becomes frustrated and fails. Conversely, a person with no goal is living aimlessly and will probably achieve little in life. Here, the traits of a clear focus and an easy going temperament become important when striving for a goal.

The year a person is born determines their animal sign. For example, a person's animal sign is a rat if they were born in the year of the rat. (Image: Cameron Norman via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

The year a person is born determines their animal sign. For example, a person’s animal sign is a rat if they are born in the year of the rat. (Image: Cameron Norman
via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

Monkey and rooster

Charming, charismatic, and extremely inventive, monkeys are most noted for their intelligence and creativity in working out difficult problems for themselves and others. Loyal and trustworthy, roosters are stable, and very accomplished.

The monkey and rooster have different sensibilities and must be together. Both insist on being in control, but in quite different ways. If one is only creative, but lacks stability, no matter how good they are, they will not reach their potential. On the other hand, if one is stable and rigid, they will have difficulty achieving a breakthrough. One can only move forward when they realize a harmonious combination of the two traits.

Dog and pig

Loyal, faithful, and true, dogs make the best of friends. As such, they often inspire confidence in others and are always willing to help those in need. Intellectually curious, honest, and easy going, pigs can also be be relied upon for their loyalty, and they often make true friends for life.

The dog and pig make a good match due to their mutually sunny demeanors and good intentions. The dog is loyal, but the pig is an affable sign that generally tries to let others live as they please. In both cases, loyalty is vital, and without it, one is not fit to be a human being. Also, loyalty toward others, and toward one’s ideas and belief, are equally important.

The dragon is the most vital and powerful of any in the Chinese zodiac, although with an infamous reputation for being a hothead and possessing a sharp tongue. (Image: Cameron Norman via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

The dragon is the most vital and powerful of any in the Chinese zodiac, although with an infamous reputation for being a hothead and possessing a sharp tongue. (Image: Cameron Norman via flicker / CC BY 2.0 )

Why the Chinese zodiac

You may gain some insight about Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism after reading about the Chinese zodiac and the compatibility of the different animals. While Buddhism and Taoism focus upon cultivation outside of ordinary society, Confucianism is concerned with the cultivation of one’s character among ordinary people, with an emphasis on moderation. Confucianism teaches us that no matter how good the situation may appear to be, you should never go to extremes.

The character of each animal is different, and each trait is good in some regard. In order to be successful in life, our ancestors wanted to make us aware of our good traits, and conveyed their expectations and teachings to us through the zodiac.

Translated by Yi Ming

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