The Evolution And Origins of Eastern Astrology: Chinese Calendars, Zodiacs & More

In contemporary Asian cultures that follow the Chinese calendar, there tends to be a baby boom during the year of the dragon.

This is because those born in the year of the dragon are believed to have a destiny of wealth and success. Where did this belief come from? What do we know about Chinese zodiac history?

Many cultures throughout human history have found meaning in astronomical events. Ancient Chinese civilization created a complex and intricate system to interpret celestial events and predict earthly happenings (and interestingly the Maya, the Mesopotamians, and the Hindus did, too.)

The Chinese calendar can teach you about yourself and your place in the universe. Come with me and let’s learn more about this fascinating system of astrology.

What is the Chinese Zodiac?

While there may at first appear to be similarities between western astrology and Chinese astrology, they are mostly superficial. While both divide time into a twelve-part cycle and are used to determine a person’s personality traits and the impact of celestial bodies on the events in one’s life, the similarities largely end there.

Chinese astrology uses a twelve-year cycle as opposed to the twelve-month cycle in western astrology. All of the symbols within the Chinese zodiac (a word literally meaning “circle of little animals”) are animals, while some of those in western astrology are not animals. In western astrology, each sign is associated with a constellation in the ecliptic plane. This is not the case in the Chinese zodiac.

In the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, each of the twelve years is named after a different animal. In order, the twelve animals of the Chinese calendar are the rat, the buffalo (or the ox), the tiger, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the boar.

Each cycle is also assigned one of five planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. This means that there is a cycle that lasts 60 years before starting again from the beginning.

The animals each carry their own positive and negative characteristics, and each of the planets corresponds with a natural element. According to the Chinese zodiac, Mercury is associated with water, Venus with metal, Mars with fire, Jupiter with wood, and Saturn with earth.

Chinese Zodiac History From a Mythological Perspective

There are many different viewpoints regarding the history of eastern astrology, some of which stem from ancient mythology.

According to ancient Chinese legend, the origin of Chinese zodiacs resulted from the actions of the Jade King. The Jake King was an ancient Chinese god who existed long before Confuscious and the Buddha. After creating the whole earth, the Jade King became disenchanted with humans. He saw mankind as a negative influence on the rest of the world and creatures he had created and decided to set rules for man to live by.

When he searched mankind for a respectable person to enforce the Jade King’s rules, he only found self-interested humans unsuitable for the role.

The Jade King then invited the animals of his creation to participate in a race, the winners of which would hold a place in the Chinese zodiac.

While there are many different versions of the story, and the nature of the course of the race differ, they all consist of a river crossing at the end.

Surprisingly, out of all the animals, the rat finished first. This is because he hitched a ride on the ox across the river and then scurried across the finish line first.

The ox finished second, followed by the tiger and the rabbit.

Legend says that the dragon would have finished sooner but he kept stopping to help the other animals. The snake managed to get across the river by hiding in the horse’s hoof, and then startled the horse when they got to the shore to finish before it.

The goat, the monkey, and the rooster all worked together to cross the river and finished next in that order. The dog, the eleventh animal to finish, took the opportunity to take a bath in the river. And last but not least, the boar had to stop to eat a meal before crossing the river, and thus took the twelfth place in the Chinese zodiac calendar.

Another version of the Chinese zodiac animals story tells the tale of the Buddha’s placement of the animals in the zodiac rather than the Jade King. In this legend, on the brink of attaining the final nirvana, the Buddha called a meeting of all the animals to share his extensive wisdom and grant advice. Out of all the animals, only twelve showed up to the meeting, so the Buddha rewarded each of these animals with a place in the Chinese zodiac.

Chinese Zodiac History From an Archeological and Historical Perspective

It’s unclear exactly when to place the origin of Chinese zodiacs and the eastern astrology origin point, but it is certainly an ancient system going back at least a couple thousand years.

It’s known that the zodiac animals were popular during the Tang Dynasty, which took place from 618-907 AD because of pottery pieces found from that time period.

Some scholars believe that the animals of the zodiac arrived in China from India along the Silk Road. It is along this route that the ideas of the Buddha and Buddhism were transferred from India to China.

Others believe that the origin of the Chinese calendar can be traced back further than the existence of Buddhism. This claim is backed up by the reliance of the Chinese calendar on the 12-year rotation of Jupiter around the earth, which was a constant used in early Chinese astronomy.

Another possibility is that the Chinese calendar originated with ancient Chinese nomadic tribes. In this theory, it’s believed that ancient hunters and gatherers created a calendar based on the animals they hunted and encountered.

Chinese Astrology: An Ancient Way of Understanding

The Chinese zodiac history could (and does!) fill many volumes. This ancient practice has helped individuals understand themselves and their lives for many centuries if not millennia.

If you’re curious about gaining a better understanding of your self and your future through Chinese zodiac, check out the Chinese Astrology Chat to receive a personal live reading from a Chinese astrology expert. To find an astrologer or psychic that’s available right now, click here.

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