Chinese Zodiac Sign
The Chinese zodiac
The origin of the twelve signs of the chinese zodiac
The twelve animals in the cycle of the Chinese Zodiac derive from a legend about Buddha who invited all the animals to join him for New Year's Day. Only twelve animals went to see Buddha. As a reward he promised to name a year for each one in order of their arrival, these were the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog and boar.
Actually the ox would have been the first to arrive but the rat sat on his back and jumped off just before they arrived and therefore was first. This also explains why e.g. the dragon appears only in the fifth place. Another legend has it that Buddha invited the animals on the day he was to leave the earth and only 12 animals showed up.
The doctrine of the twelve signs of the zodiac emerged during the Han dynasty which makes it more than 2000 years old. The signs of the chinese zodiac are also widespread in China's neighbouring countries.
Some remarks concerning the year dates of the chinese calendar
The Chinese lunar year doesn't match the solar year.
The Chinese New Year's Eve is usually celebrated at the end of January or in February. According to the Chinese lunar calendar a person who was born in January 1974 wasn't born in the year of the tiger but in the year of the ox. The Chinese horoscope isn't used for fortunetelling but provides information about a person's character, talents or biases.