The Chinese Zodiac and the Western Zodiac share many similarities yet their differences are quite substantial.
The similarities with The Western Zodiac begin with the signs, both being made up of tweleve. The Chinese Astrology signs are the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. There are variations in the names. Some people, for example, use Buffalo for Ox or Boar for Pig. The Western signs are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Saggittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces. Each Chinese Zodiac sign has a Western counterpart, for example the Chinese Zodiac sign Tiger has similar characteristics to the Western Zodiac sign Aquarius. What you will find is that some of the signs are much more similar than others. For example, the Chinese Zodiac sign Pig is actually quite diffent than it's Western counterpart Scorpio.
The reason behind the differences in Zodiac signs is based on how the astrologers make their calculations. It is important to understand them to avoid confusion.
Chinese astrologers base their calculations on the moon and its cycles, that is, on the lunar year. Western astrologers base theirs on the solar year. Thus, Western signs are called sun signs. In Western astrology the month sign, for example, Leo, is the primary influence, while in Chinese astrology it is the year sign. Chinese astrology also has month signs. Chinese months are not named (just numbered) and use the same names as year signs. So, there is such a thing as a Wood Sheep year and a Wood Sheep month.
Western signs are usually designated by one word, for example, Aquarius, and change from month to month. Chinese signs are designated by two Chinese characters and change from year to year. One character designates the year’s element and the other its animal sign, for example, Earth Tiger.
The Chinese have used both decimal based calendars as in the West as well as a twelve year based calendar. The two are both used simultaneously by Chinese astrologers, thus resulting in the compound signs.
Actually, Chinese astrology has four signs, one for the year, the month, the day and the hour of birth. In texts these are often referred to as “the four pillars.” This may sound different, but even here there is a similarity with Western astrology. That system, for example, uses hour signs as well, calling them “ascendants.
Stay tuned as we explore the differences between the Chinese Zodiac and the Western Zodiac.