Chinese Zodiac Animals Circle Back Every 12 Years

The Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao is based on a twelve-year cycle, where each year within that cycle relates to a specific animal. The 12 animals break down as such: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. If you want to find the Lunar Calendar Animal for the year of your birth, you can use this Chinese Zodiac calculator.

Significance of the Number 12?

The number twelve is significant because one year has 12 months, one day is split up into two parts, each having 12 hour time periods. There is also 12 full moons each year.

Cheng Xiao literally means “born resembling.” While that thought might be a little hard to digest, particularly if you were born in the year of “Rat,” Chinese legend eases the stigma. As the story that’s been handed down over the ages goes, the Jade Emperor of the Ming Dynasty [circa 16th Century] declared that animals would become intrinsic to the annual calendar.

There are several myths as to how the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac were deemed the most appropriate. In one, the Jade Emperor having ruled Heaven and Earth justly and wisely, never seemed to have the time to actually visit the third planet from the sun. Over time, he grew curious as to what the creatures looked like. Thus, he asked all animals to come and visit him in heaven.

The Cat, being the most handsome of all animals, asked his friend the Rat to wake him on the day they needed to travel to Heaven, so he wouldn't oversleep. The Rat, however, was concerned that he would seem ugly in comparison to the cat, so he didn't follow through. He never woke the cat. Consequently, the Cat missed the meeting with the Jade Emperor and was replaced by the Pig. The Jade Emperor was so delighted with the 12 animals that showed up, he decided to divide the years up amongst them.

When the cat learned of what had happened, he was furious with the Rat and that, according to this tale is why cats and rats are enemies to this day.

Zodiac Animals also run like a clock . . .

The animals were separated into two categories - yin and yang - depending on whether they have an odd or even number of claws, toes or hooves.

It's a little known fact that the zodiac animals can also be used to tell time. Here's how the Chinese clock works:

Zodiac Clock

2017 Celebrates the Rooster

2017 Rooster

So now you know, every 12 years the same animals will circle back for a repeat performance. This year the Rooster takes center stage when the Chinese New Year arrives on January 28, 2017. The "Year of the Rooster" always follows the Monkey year and comes just before a Dog year.

Those born in these years are called “Roosters” and are described as hardworking, resourceful, deep thinkers, courageous and talented. Nothing can match the Rooster's resilience in life and its ability to bounce back from adversity. However, on the negative side of things, they can become cocky [perhaps the reason for the nickname 'cock'], bossy and blunt. They don't care much for subtleties and if they occupy seats of authority, they will exhibit tyrannical qualities. [No my dear readers, Donald Trump is not a Rooster. He's a Dog!]

The following famous Roosters are a real mix bag: Justin Timberlake, Groucho Marx, Donny Osmond, Martin Luther King III, Stephen Fry, Hans Zimmer, Dolph Lundgren, Yoko Ono, Eleanor Roosevelt and Britney Spears.

The next Rooster Year will be 2029. What's your Chinese Zodiac animal?