There is something about Eastern practices that get Americans all riled up. Zen Buddhism, acupuncture, martial arts—something about all of these things seems foreign, interesting, and mystical. It should come as no surprise then that the Chinese horoscopes are becoming increasingly popular in the West. So for the beginners out there looking to get their feet wet with the basics of this Eastern tradition, you’ve come to the right place.
(Author’s note: The subject of Chinese astrology and horoscopes is very complex. As such, many aspects, such as the four pillars and the corresponding dates/times will not be detailed here.)
The Animal Signs
The most recognizable feature in Chinese astrology is the inclusion of signs. Much like Western horoscopes are derived from twelve monthly zodiac signs, Chinese horoscopes are ascertained from 12 signs as well. These signs change annually instead of monthly, and are represented by a parade of animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. There is much speculation as to how each of signs came to be named after each specific animal, but nothing is conclusive. One legend states that each of these 12 animals appeared at the Buddha’s deathbed to bid him farewell before he passed. In gratitude for their company, the Buddha gave each of them a year as a gift. He also gave each of them a month of the year and a two-hour period in the day, which allows Chinese astrologers to create readings that are extremely in depth. Most Westerners ignore the more finite readings for the annual ones, however.
The Five Elements
Besides the 12 year round of signs, Chinese astrology observes five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. This is very similar to Western astrology, which recognizes fire, earth, air, and water. Chinese horoscopes don’t explicitly recognize air as an element because air is essentially the breath that provides life, also known as “chi” or “qi”. Each element is observed for two years, creating a ten-year cycle of five elements.
Yin and Yang
The Chinese horoscopes don’t take into account traditional negative and positive energies, though they do follow a year-to-year switch between the energies of yin and yang. Because there are an even number of signs and the yin and yang years alternate, the same signs will correlate with either yin or yang every time. The rat, tiger, dragon, horse, monkey, and dog are yang signs. The ox, rabbit, snake, goat, rooster, and pig are yin signs.
What Does Each Sign Mean?
Rat: Rats are clever, have a shrewd charm, and are not easily turned away. They must be wary that they don’t use these traits for ill, as rats can be manipulative greed-machines.
Ox: The ox is calm, cool, and collected. They stay grounded, steady, and, at times, are stubborn. Because they stand so firmly for their goals and for themselves, they can tend to alienate themselves from others and feel lonely at heart. Staying social is an ox’s best bet to balancing out his/her introvertive nature.
Tiger: Tigers are beings that live to extremes. They tend to be restless, pacing for something to do—but when they are content, they show it by lounging extravagantly or purring their praise. Tigers are honest creatures as well. They must be careful that their extreme nature doesn’t lead them to overextend themselves or to do something dangerous without thinking it through first.
Rabbit: Rabbits are lucky, soft-spoken, graceful and pristine creatures. They are generally well-liked, but are also at high risk of being taken advantage of. If you are a rabbit, stay away from types that would do you harm and you should be alright.
Dragon: Much like the tiger, dragons tend to be very animated. Unlike the tiger, who tends to be more self-serving, the dragon is a great leader and has a knack for managing others. They can also be dictatorial if they stray down the wrong path.
Snake: The snake is wise, good with money, and generally has an air of mystery about him. His downfall is that he can be cold and frugal to the point that he pushes companions away. If you are a snake, don’t push your companions away.
Horse: Horses are hard workers, and tend to be physically and/or mentally fit, amiable, and popular. Of course, they run the risk of either looking like they work too much, trying to outshine their peers, or of actually working themselves to fatigue.
Goat: Peaceful, loving, and artistic, goats love to be outdoors just as much as they love to be at home with their families. It is no fault of the goat’s that he needs to be loved-on to a large extent. As long as he is around the people he cares for, the goat will do fine.
Monkey: Monkeys like to tinker with things and tend to get wrapped up in the minute details. They are brainiacs that have a bad knack for always having to be right, though their intelligence is generally praised. Monkeys are generally smart and good at repairs, so it’s always good to have one in your life.
Rooster: Roosters don’t strut in the conventional sense that a narcissist does, but they always appear neat, organized, and put-together. They have an eye for almost everything, being natural observers, and many times are silent, instead of crowing like the animal conventionally does. It is easy for a rooster to lose connection with reality, getting lost inside their own thoughts and observations, but as long as this is avoided, roosters make great people to be around.
Dog: It should come as no surprise that dogs are of the most loyal and faithful in the Chinese zodiac. They represent order, justice, and honesty. While dogs are great companions, they run the risk of neglecting themselves over others. This can be avoided by looking inward and tending to personal needs as well as the needs of others.
Pig: Pigs are patient, sincere, and honorable beings. They tend to be the people in life that everybody strives to be. Like the dog, they are always there in times of need, and as such, they need to be careful that, like the rabbit, they don’t get taken advantage of. If you know a pig, treat them with the utmost respect—if you are a pig, remember that reciprocity goes both ways!
These descriptions only scratch the surface of the world of Chinese astrology.Chinese horoscopes are just as, if not more, complex than the Western horoscopes that many are used to, and there’s a sea of information on the subject out there–what are you waiting for? Dive in!
If you’re looking for an Art Nouveau Tarot reading, or Western Zodiac horoscope, then author and Druidic practitioner Erik Oakenshield is the man for the job. A true modern renaissance man, Erik has more than a decade of experience under his belt. He has also done horoscope writing and was featured on Oranum.