What does each sign in the Chinese zodiac mean?

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In Chinese astrology, each individual personality is associated with an animal sign that represents it. It is a common misconception that there are only the singular animals assigned by year. Many western descriptions of Chinese astrology descriptions draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month and hours of the day.

The animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. The full 60 year cycle is a combination of the 12 animals with each of five possible elements, which distinctively vary the base animal's personality (12 x 5 = 60). The inner animal speaks directly to what motivates a person and is assigned by the month of birth. Since this dictates your love life and inner persona it is critical to a proper understanding of your compatibility with other signs. The secret animal is assigned by the hour of birth and so it is important to know the exact time of birth to determine it correctly. It is your own true sign which your personality is based on. It is important to compensate for daylight saving time or any clock adjustment performed by your country in determining this sign, as it is mapped according to the sun's location and not the local time.

To sum it up, while a person might appear to be a dragon they might actually be a snake internally and an ox secretively. Combined with the five elements, this makes for 8 640 possible combinations (five elements, 12 animals, 12 months, 12 times of day) that a person might be. These are all are critical for the proper use of Chinese astrology. Many Western displays of the Chinese zodiac omit these, as well as the elements, for easier consumption and understanding.

The 12 zodiac animals
The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order. é¼ (shu3) Rat
�(niu2) Ox
� (hu3) Tiger
� (tu4) Rabbit
�(long2) Dragon
� (se2) Snake
马 (ma3) Horse
� (yang2) Sheep
� (hou2) Monkey
鸡 (ji1) Rooster
� (gou3) Dog
� (zhu1) Pig
Legend describes the order of the zodiac was determined through a race, in which the rat cheated by standing on the ox's head and jumping ahead of him when they reached the finish line. A link is provided to the Wikipedia article on Chinese astrology.
The following animal sign descriptions are provided by gypsystop.com: Rat

Yang, water, hard work, self-discipline, charm, social, industrious, loyal to family and friends, sophisticated, underworld, selfish, cruel, critical, ruthless and over ambitious.


Ox

Yin, water, dependable, calm, steady, methodical, conventional, modest, logical, stubborn, materialistic, easy on everyone else, hard on themselves.

Tiger

Yang, wood, unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, passionate, brave, impulsive, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, giving, restless, reckless, impatient, hot tempered, selfish.

Rabbit

Yin, wood, kind, gracious, sensitive, soft, cautious, artistic, musical, tender, compassionate, flexible, moody, detached, self indulgent, self involved, lazy.

Dragon

Yang, wood, magnificent, self-assured, strong, leader, full of life, proud, direct, eager, firey, pioneering, generous, loyal, arrogant, tyrannical, eccentric, impetuous, brash.

Snake

Yin, fire, deep, wise, mystical, soft, sensual, creative, shrewd, cautious, responsible, calm, constant, purposeful. can be a bad communicator, possessive, a loner, doubtful, distrustful.

Horse

Yang, fire, popular, cheerful, changeable, talkative, perceptive, agile, magnetic, intelligent, open minded, fickle, rude, gullible, anxious, lacks stability and diligence.

Sheep

Yin, Fire, righteous, shy, sincere, compassionate, artistic, creative, gentle, motherly, determined, peaceful, longs for security, moody, indecisive, passive, sensitive.

Monkey

Yang, medal, inventive, improviser, motivating, witty, inquisitive, flexible, confident, problem solving, dignified, social, objective, competitive, egotistic, vein, jealous, suspicious, cunning.

Rooster

Yin, medal, self assured, organized, meticulous, conservative, decisive, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, responsible, judgmental, abrasive, opinionated, cocky.

Dog

Yang, medal, honest, intelligent, loyal, just, fair, attractive, social, open minded, moral, idealistic, affectionate, cynical, loves home, quarrelsome, worrisome, pessimistic.

Pig

Yin, water, simple, sturdy, honest, courageous, social, peaceful, patient, loyal, trusting, sincere, thoughtful, passionate, naive, over reliant, self indulgent, gullible, materialistic, fatalistic.
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