Chinese astrology (中國 占星 術) has developed parallel to traditional astronomy since the 11th century B.C. in China and is based on a lunisolar calendar and some traditional time units. Chinese astrology is closely linked to Chinese philosophy, from which it borrows (among others) the concepts of yin and yang, the five elements, the ten celestial trunks and the twelve earthly branches.
There are several legends that tell the origin of Chinese astrology and zodiac, which is formed in the order of Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. According to one of these legends, the Buddha who was about to leave the Earth, called all the animals of the earth together, but only 12 came to say goodbye. As a reward, the Buddha decided to call each year of the lunar cycle with the name of each of the 12 animals that came.
The mouse, smart and fast by nature, arrived first. The diligent ox came second, followed by the intrepid tiger and the peaceful rabbit. The dragon came fifth followed by his younger brother, the snake. The athletic horse was seventh and the elegant goat eighth, soon after came the cunning monkey, and then again the colorful rooster, the faithful dog and then ending with the lucky pig who arrived just in time to greet the Buddha. This legend probably derives from the encounter between Buddhism and Chinese traditions.
Another cycle on which Chinese astrology is based is the ten years cycle, where each couple of years corresponds to one element:
Chia (hardwood) – masculine
Yi (soft wood) – feminine
Ping (sun) – masculine
Ting (hearth) – feminine
Wu (rock) – masculine
Chi (sand) – feminine
Keng (raw metal) – masculine
Hsin (refined metal) – feminine
Jen (sea) – masculine
Kuei (rain) – feminine
Last but not least, Chinese astrology is also based on the alternation of the Yin and Yang: this is a two years cycle. The years of rat, tiger, dragon, horse, monkey and dog are Yang’s while ox, rabbit, snake, goat, rooster and pig are Ying’s.
Combining the different cycles of Chinese astrology we obtain an astrological calendar, also cyclical, which is completed in 60 years.
In Chinese, your zodiac year is called 本命年 (ben ming nian).