zodiac

Chinese Zodiac Explained

What’s your spirit animal on the Chinese calendar? Find out what your horoscope signs mean — and who you’re compatible with.

In the Chinese zodiac, every year is paired with one of 12 animals that determine your personality traits and compatability in love

In the Chinese zodiac, every year is paired with one of 12 animals that determine your personality traits and compatability in love

I’ve always been skeptical of Chinese astrology. I have my doubts about Western astrology as well, but I find it easier to believe that people born within the same month share some overall characteristics than people within an entire year possessing similar traits.

Then again, maybe it’s just because I was born in the unflattering-sounding Year of the Rat. You can tell me how awesome it is to be a Rat, but I’ll never be convinced, when I could have been something rad like a Dragon or a Tiger.

The sign of your birth year shapes your destiny, including your personality and whom you should marry.

Despite my skepticism, Chinese astrology has been around in some form for 3,000 years, and many scholars think its roots trace back to antiquity.

 

Origins of the Chinese Zodiac

There are 12 animal signs, determined by what year you were born. According to legend, Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he left the Earth. Only 12 came to bid him farewell. He named a year after each creature in the order they arrived: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (also called Goat and sometimes Ram), Monkey, Rooster (aka Cock), Dog and Pig.

Another popular tale says that the Jade Emperor, a representation of the first Taoist god, held a race. The Rat won by riding on the back of the Ox and hopping off to cross the finish line first. The Pig, meanwhile, stopped to eat and came in last.

The sign of your birth year shapes your destiny, including your personality and whom you should marry.

As counterintuitive as it seems, you’re supposed to actually have bad luck when your year rolls around. The best way to prevent this is to wear something red — and because you should be doing so all year long, maybe try a bracelet.

The Chinese have a saying about their zodiac: “This is the animal that hides in your heart.” Guess I have to accept there’s a Rat in mine. –Wally

 

rat.jpg

THE RAT

“Wisdom without industriousness leads to triviality.”

Years include: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Characteristics: intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, charming, popular with the opposite sex, artistic, creative, generous, hard-working, perfectionists, highly judgmental, do well in business, easily angered, gossipy, thrifty with money

Compatible with: Dragon, Monkey and Ox

ox.jpg

THE OX

“Industriousness without wisdom leads to futility.”

Years include: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Characteristics: Loyal, reliable, thorough, strong, reasonable, determined, good leaders, bull-headed, eccentric, bigoted, fierce tempers, don’t speak much but eloquent when they do, easy-going, hate to fail or be opposed

Compatible with: Snake, Rooster and Rat

tiger.jpg

THE TIGER

“Valor without caution leads to recklessness.”

Years include: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Characteristics: Enthusiastic, courageous, ambitious, leaders, confident, charismatic, sensitive, tendency to go overboard, fight for causes they believe in, short-tempered, not good with authority, indecisive, suspicious

Compatible with: Horse, Dragon and Dog

rabbit.jpg

THE RABBIT

“Caution without valor leads to cowardice.”

Years include: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

Characteristics: Trustworthy, modest, diplomatic, sincere, sociable, caretakers, sensitive, sentimental, snugglers, articulate, talented, ambitious, virtuous, have excellent taste, admired, trusted, financially lucky, gossips but generally kind, seldom lose their temper, never back out of a contract, good gamblers (though they seldom do)

Compatible with: Sheep, Pig and Dog

dragon.jpg

THE DRAGON

“Strength without flexibility leads to fracture.”

Years include: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

Characteristics: Lucky, flexible, eccentric, imaginative, artistic, spiritual, larger than life, quick-witted, charming, fun, passionate, healthy, energetic, short-tempered, stubborn, honest, brave, inspire confidence and trust, compassionate — letting others take advantage of them

Compatible with: Rat, Snake, Monkey and Rooster

snake.png

THE SNAKE

“Flexibility without strength leads to compromise.”

Years include: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

Characteristics: Philosophical, organized, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive, decisive, psychic, want to give and receive unconditional love, say little, possess great wisdom, never need to worry about money, vain, selfish, stingy, self-reliant, calm on the surface but intense and passionate inside, good-looking, have marital problems because they’re fickle

Compatible with: Ox and Rooster

 Gong Kai (1222-1307?), Emaciated Horse, in [Yuan shidai no huihua].  Tokyo (Nara?): Yamato Bunkakan, 1998.  pl. 1, p. 26.  Collection of the [Daban shili meishuguan].



ink on paper, 29.9 x 56.9 cm.

THE HORSE

“Forging ahead without unity leads to abandonment.”

Years include: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Characteristics: Adaptable, loyal, courageous, ambitious, intelligent, adventurous, strong, independent, free spirits, great work ethic, natural leaders, popular, cheerful, good with money, perceptive, talk too much, have a weakness for the opposite sex, impatient, like entertainment and are OK with large crowds, rarely listen to advice

Compatible with: Tiger, Dog and Sheep

sheep.jpg

THE SHEEP/GOAT/RAM

“Unity without forging ahead leads to stagnation.”

Years include: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

Characteristics: Tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, calm, extremely gentle and loving, possess quiet strength, elegant, artistic, shy, pessimistic, confused, deeply religious, passionate, well off, wise

Compatible with: Rabbit, Pig and Horse

monkey.jpg

THE MONKEY

“Changeability without being constant leads to foolishness.”

Years include: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Characteristics: Quick-witted, charming, lucky, adaptable, bright, versatile, lively, confident, great sense of humor, skillful, flexible, inventive, too agreeable, impatient, often abandon projects partway through, look down on others, have excellent memories, strong-willed, their anger cools quickly

Compatible with: Dragon and Rat

cock.jpg

THE ROOSTER/Cock

“Being constant without changeability leads to woodenness.”

Years include: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Characteristics: Honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, confident, extravagant, attention-seekers, progressive, talented, loners, don’t take failure well, have difficult relationships, outspoken, they think they’re right — though they usually are, seem adventurous but are timid, selfish, emotions and fortunes swing from high to low

Compatible with: Ox, Snake and Dragon

dog.jpg

THE DOG

“Fidelity without amiability leads to rejection.”

Years include: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Characteristics: Loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable, smart, trustworthy, protect those they love, put others’ needs above their own, can keep secrets, stubborn, care little for money but somehow always have it, cold-hearted, distant, sharp-tongued, good leaders

Compatible with: Horse, Tiger and Rabbit

pig.jpg

THE PIG

“Amiability without fidelity leads to immorality.”

Years include: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Characteristics: Honorable, determined, optimistic, sincere, sociable, altruistic, humanitarians, studious, stick to goals, quiet, well-informed, have few friends, kind, intuitive

Compatible with: Rabbit and Sheep


Sources: Building Beautiful Souls, China Highlights, Goway Travel, Whats-Your-Sign.com

The Thai Zodiac and Songkran, the Thai New Year

How the Thai calendar differs from the Gregorian, what Thai fortune-tellers do and the Thailand water festival that’s all wet.

Thai stamps honor the signs of their zodiac, inspired by the animals of the Chinese zodiac

Thai stamps honor the signs of their zodiac, inspired by the animals of the Chinese zodiac

Those of us who follow the Gregorian calendar ring in the the New Year at midnight on January 1, hitting the reset button and making year-end resolutions we’ll definitely, maybe follow. While we only have ourselves to blame for our overindulgent last hurrah, Wally and I venture out to console ourselves with pho ga at our favorite local Vietnamese restaurant, which does seem to help.

The Gregorian calendar, consisting of 365 days, is off kilter with the Earth’s trip around the sun and is adjusted every four years in February with a leap day. Meanwhile, other cultures, such as Thailand, have their own complex system that aligns with the lunisolar Buddhist calendar of 354 days, which have dates that indicate the moon phase and the time of the solar year.

April 13 marks the beginning of the Thai New Year, when they partake in Songkran, the world’s largest water fight.
The spring festival of Songkran marks the Thai New Year

The spring festival of Songkran marks the Thai New Year

Songkran: Making It Rain

April 13 marks the beginning of the Thai New Year. This is when they partake in the world’s largest water fight, known as Songkran. The festival celebrates the end of the dry season to welcome the rain needed for a successful rice harvest. The communal holiday takes place over a period of three days or more and is when the year assumes the next animal in the rotating zodiac of 12 animals.

The etymology of Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word sankranti, or the passage of the sun from one side of the zodiac to the other, and is symbolic of transformation and change. The tradition may have originated from the Hindu harvest festival Makar Sankranti, which welcomes the onset of spring with colorful soaring kites.

Songkran has always been associated with water, and according to Thai custom, a small bowl of scented water is sufficient to wash away the previous year’s troubles and start anew.

This holiday is also the time for villagers to honor their elders, give offerings of food to monks, ignite firecrackers to scare away evil spirits and ritually bathe household Buddha images.

Songkran has turned into the world’s largest water fight

Songkran has turned into the world’s largest water fight

Over time, this tradition has evolved into water being thrown less ceremoniously, as men, women and children armed with Super Soaker water guns and buckets of dirty moat water await unsuspecting friends and tourists alike.

Although our friends David and Arnie insisted that this is fun time to visit Chiang Mai, Wally and I decided to wait until the festivities had passed. For the most part, I consider us adventurous, but the thought of experiencing this firsthand and getting drenched (not to mention having our phones and cameras ruined) while exploring the Old City was not high on either of our lists.

Phrommachat manuscripts determine the compatabilty of Thai couples

Phrommachat manuscripts determine the compatabilty of Thai couples

Hey, Baby, What’s Your Sign?

The 12 animals of the Thai zodiac were borrowed from the Chinese zodiac, with a decidedly Thai twist and include naga iconography on the snake and dragon. Each animal has a predominant natural element that rules over them: earth, wood, fire, iron or water. For Thai people, the completion of each 12-year cycle brings them back to their birth-year animal. It should be noted that the Thai adaptation shifts by about 23 days compared to the Gregorian calendar.

Those born in the year of the monkey are sociable but selfish

Those born in the year of the monkey are sociable but selfish

An important part of the decision-making process in traditional Thai culture is to consult a divination specialist, known as a mor doo, on the uncertainties of love and everyday challenges. These fortune-telling specialists consult divination manuscripts, known as phrommachat, matching the horoscopes of prospective couples. The mor doo possesses knowledge hidden from ordinary people, particularly on the perceived influences of stars, planets, numbers, plants, animals of the zodiac and divinities on the lives of humans.

According to the Thai zodiac, people born in the year of the snake are deep thinkers, though they can be vain about their good looks

According to the Thai zodiac, people born in the year of the snake are deep thinkers, though they can be vain about their good looks

Phrommachat manuscripts include texts and illustrations of unlucky constellations for prospective couples, taking into consideration their character traits as well as their horoscopes. The pages are richly illustrated with four images of each of the 12 animals of the zodiac, combined with alternating male and female avatars, the material appearance or incarnation of a deity on earth, and a symbolic plant in which the khwan, multiple souls or life forces, resides.

A mor doo, or Thai fortune-teller, lets you know if you’re a good match with the one you love

A mor doo, or Thai fortune-teller, lets you know if you’re a good match with the one you love

Personally, the closest I ever came to this type of divination manual was reading the paper placemats with animal signs of the Chinese zodiac when my family would stop in Fort Erie, Canada on our way back from visiting Toronto. –Duke