|In the Chinese zodiac, twelve animals are used
to denote the year of a person's birth: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit,
dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. This
is called a person's shengxiao (sheng means
the year of birth, xiao means resemblance) or shuxiang.
Since ancient times, Chinese have denominated years using combinations
of 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches to form sixty-year
cycles. The 10 Heavenly Stems are: Jia, Yi,
Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geng,
Xin, Ren and Gui. The 12 Earthly
Branches are: Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao,
Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen,
You, Xu and Hai. This year, February
9 is the first day of Yiyou, which is the twenty-second year
of the sixty-year cycle.
As well as being associated with each year, the same twelve
animals and Earthly Branches are assigned to each month and
to a two-hour period of the day. Their origin is variously explained
by a number of stories and theories...