The Chinese Zodiac
The Western zodiac system divides each calendar year into 12 signs. In contrast the Chinese system allocates a zodiac animal to each lunar year. The 12 animals are :-

                    Rat
                    Ox
                    Tiger
                    Rabbit
                    Dragon
                    Snake
                    Horse
                    Goat
                    Monkey
                    Rooster
                    Dog
                    Pig

and they are always used in the same sequence.
Chinese astrology also assigns one of five  elements to each year, they follow the cycle, water, wood, fire, earth and metal. Therefore a complete rotation of all animals and all elements is 60 years.
Horse
Rat
Active and excitable
Quick witted and opportunistic
Ox Goat
Dependable and loyal Kind and popular
Finding ones governing animal is relatively simple, the most recent cycle of 12 began in 1996 with the year of the Rat. The only complication is for those born in January or February. In the recent past the Lunar New Year has begun as early as 21st January (1966) to as late as 20th February (1985).
Tiger
Monkey
Dynamic and generous
Energetic and intelligent
Different characteristics are assigned to each animal generally. However detailed horoscopes would modify this by taking into account many other factors, such as exact date of birth,the persons governing element, and the ruling animal and element of the year in question.
Rabbit
Rooster
Diplomatic and self-assured
Whilst from a Western viewpoint some of the zodiac animals may not appear to have useful traits, all are valued in Chinese astrology. The rat for example is respected for its quick mind and industrious nature.
Flamboyant and sociable
A persons animal sign will also influence who they are most compatible with. For example those born in the year of the pig will likely get along well with people from rabbit and goat years, whilst relations with "snakes" and other "pigs" will be more difficult.
Dragon
Hard working and generous
Dog
Loyal and intelligent
Superstitions abound as to what can be done to bring prosperity or ward off evil influences for each particular year. For the most dedicated to the practice of Chinese astrology a detailed horoscope would be drawn up and specific recommendations followed, but many people will simply carry a small talisman to balance the effect of the ruling animal of the year.
Pig
Snake
Sociable and popular
Mysterious and passionate
The Bookshelf
Journal Index Page New Work Guest Artist
Rock Corner