The Chinese zodiac is a classification scheme that assigns an animal and its reputed attributes to each year in a repeating 12-year cycle. The 12-year cycle is an approximation to the 11.85-year orbital period of Jupiter, the largest planet of the Solar System. It and its variations remain popular in many Asian countries including China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand.
The Chinese zodiac is called Shengxiao in Mandarin. Identifying this scheme using the generic term "zodiac" reflects several superficial similarities to the Western zodiac: both have time cycles divided into 12 parts, each labels at least the majority of those parts with names of animals, and each is widely associated with a culture of ascribing a person's personality or events in his or her life to the supposed influence of the person's particular relationship to the cycle.
Nevertheless, there are major differences between the two: the animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations spanned by the ecliptic plane. The Chinese 12-part cycle corresponds to years, rather than months. The Chinese zodiac is represented by 12 animals, whereas some of the signs in the Western zodiac are not animals, despite the implication of the etymology of the word zodiac.
The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat. The following are the twelve zodiac signs (each with its associated Earthly Branch) in order and their characteristics. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water as five nature elements:
1. Rat (mouse) – Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water: Direct, tenacious, intense, meticulous, charismatic, sensual, intellectual, hardworking, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic and insightful. It can be manipulative, vindictive, prone to self-destruction, envious, deceitful, venal, stubborn, critical, super-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant intriguer.
2. Ox (water bull in Vietnam) – Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Earth: Reliable, ambitious, calm, methodical, natural leader, patient, hardworking, ordinary, steady, modest, logical, decisive, persistent. It can be stubborn, dogmatic, hot-tempered, narrow-minded, materialistic, tough, demanding.
3. Tiger – Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood: Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, courageous, energetic, stimulating, sincere, tender, humane, generous. It can be restless, reckless, stubborn, selfish, aggressive, self-reliant, controlled and moody.
4. Rabbit (cat in Vietnam) – Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood: Gracious, good friend, kind, sensual, quiet, amiable, elegant, discreet, cautious, artistic, careful, tender, self-confident, shy, insightful, compassionate, lucky, flexible. It can be capricious, selfish, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic and stubborn.
5. Dragon – Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Earth: Generous, stately, energetic, strong, confident, proud, noble, direct, dignified, eccentric, intelligent, fiery, passionate, resolute, innovative, artistic, generous, loyal, wise, modest, domineering, visionary, demanding, intolerant, peaceful, impetuous, understanding and rude.
6. Snake – Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire: Deep thinker, wise, mystical, graceful, quiet, sensual, creative, calculating, intelligent, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, persistent, purposeful. It can be a loner, a poor interlocutor, attractive, hedonistic, dubious, suspicious, deceitful, stuffy and cold.
7. Horse – Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire: Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, mundane, receptive, talkative, agile, attracting, intelligent, insightful, flexible, open. It can be impermanent, arrogant, infantile, restless, rude, trusting and stubborn.
8. Sheep (goat) – Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Earth: Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, meek, shy, artistic, motherly caring, peaceful, generous, in need of security. It may be indecisive, overly passive, restless, pessimistic, overly sensitive, complainant and weak-willed.
9. Monkey – Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal: Inventor, motivator, improviser, resourceful, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, confident, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, fond of facts, intellectual. It can be selfish, vainly arrogant, selfish, reckless, pretentious, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous and suspicious.
10. Rooster – Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal: Acute, accurate, pedantic, organized, self-confident, resolute, conservative, critical, perfectionist, cautioning, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. May be too zealous and critical, puritanical, selfish, rude, proud, self-confident, speaking empty bravado.
11. Dog – Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Earth: Honest, smart, simple, loyal, with a sense of justice and fair play, attractive, friendly, unpretentious, sociable, open, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, calm. It can be cynical, lazy, cold, subjectively evaluating, pessimistic, restless, stubborn, absurd.
12. Pig (boar in Japan and elephant in northern Thailand) – Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water: Honest, gallant, strong, sociable, peaceful, patient, faithful, hardworking, trustful, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. It can be naive, overly dependent, self-indulgent, trusting, fatalistic, materialistic.
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