What’s Your Animal?

The Chinese Zodiac consists of a 12-year cycle; each year of the cycle is named after a different animal that gives different and distinct characteristics to its year. These twelve animals were the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

In the United States, the years are dated from the birth of Jesus Christ. This represents a linear perception of time, with time proceeding in a straight line from the past to the present and the future. While in traditional China, dating methods were cyclical, meaning something that is repeated time after time according to a pattern. 

Although the Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year. Many Chinese calendars will print both the solar dates and the Chinese lunar dates.

Chinese animal sign, then, is a popular folk method which reflects this cyclical method of recording years. Every year is assigned an animal name or "sign" according to a repeating cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar. The animal signs for one another in an established order, and are repeated every twelve years.

Much like monthly horoscopes in the West have been developed for the different moon signs, there is also a cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore. These horoscopes are amusing, but not regarded seriously by the Chinese people.

The animal signs also serve a useful social function for finding out people’s ages. Instead of asking directly how old a person is, people often ask what his or her animal sign is. This would place that person’s age within a cycle of 12 years, and with a bit of common sense, people can deduce the exact age.

Last in the cycle, 2007 is the year of The Pig. The Pig is a fun and enlightening personality blessed with patience and understanding. People born under the sign of the Pig enjoy life and all it has to offer, including family and friends. They are honest and thoughtful and expect the same of other people. Pigs can be perceived as oblivious or gullible because they do care about others so much that they will do just about anything for a friend in need.