Chinese Birth Symbols

Interested in knowing about the history and origins of Chinese birth symbols? Find out how the animals took the place of birth symbols in the Chinese culture.

Ancient Chinese civilizations used to count their years with ten celestial stems along with twelve terrestrial branches. There was a solid scientific grounding behind this system but the illiterate masses was unable to memorize it or calculate it. As an easy alternative the Chinese people came up with the animal system in order to symbolize the terrestrial branches.

From then onwards it was this collection of twelve animals that took the form of Chinese birth symbols. The twelve animals that make up the collection of Chinese birth symbols in order of their appearance are: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

The legend that surrounds Chinese birth symbols

Of course there has to be some sort of a story behind the symbols, after all it’s the Chinese culture and what would the Chinese culture be without its legendary tales. This one however is one of the more popular ones that many people have come to learn about in recent years.

The Chinese were a people who believed that their existed multiple deities. Basically they had a god for everything. The selection of these twelve animals was done by the gods who chose these animals and set up a race for them. The order of the birth symbol was set up in the order that the animals finished.

You must have noticed that the rat happens to be the first one in the list. Well the twisting tale tells us that the rat rode on the ox’s back who was leading the race. Just as the ox was about to make it the rat made a leap and managed to come out on top. Apparently the cat had a deal with the mouse which he betrayed which is why cats eat mice today. This is how it is according to the Chinese legend.

The origins of the Chinese birth symbols were laid down during the Han Dynasty that lasted from 206-220. It was during this time that the day was divided into twelve periods with each animal performing some sort of activity in its assigned time slot. For example it was believed that the dragons brought rain from seven to nine in the morning and monkeys became lively from three to five in the afternoon.

Animalistic characteristics in man

The Chinese people observed the traits of these animals and drew out character sketches of each of the 12 zodiac signs. Then they drew similarities between human nature and the natural instincts of the 12 animals that were being taken as Chinese birth symbols.

Over time the birth symbols gained popularity and people would seriously associate themselves with the animal sign of the year in which they were born. They would try and incorporate the use of their particular birth symbol in their lives in some way or the other.

The range of art work representing Chinese birth symbols is diverse and extensive. From paper cut works to pottery and pictures to bronze etchings Chinese birth symbols can be found in many different mediums.

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