Chinese and Western Concepts of Time: the Chinese Animal Birthday Signs
The Chinese animal birthday signs have often been termed the Chinese zodiac, but there is almost no relation between the Western zodiac and the Chinese birthday signs. The Western zodiac describes a ring of constellations that lines the ecliptic, which is the apparent path of the sun across the sky over the course of the year. The zodiac is a celestial coordinate system. The observation of the heavens along these lines dates back to Hellenistic and Babylonian astronomy.
The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time. The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February. The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, but 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.
The twelve Chinese signs are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, pig. Many Chinese do believe that fortune will follow behavior associated with the dominant features of an anmal sign.