Chinese astrology has been around for over 5,000 years and is one of the oldest metaphysical traditions in the world. It differs from Western astrology significantly, though it does share some similarities.
The same combination appears every 60 years
The Chinese zodiac cycle repeats every 60 years. Within this timeframe, there are five periods that consist of twelve years each. Each year of the smaller, 12-year cycle is affiliated with a single zodiac animal, which repeat in the following order: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
For each year, the zodiac sign is paired with a primordial element: Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth. Each element has both positive and negative qualities.
Depending on the year of birth, a person might be a Metal Monkey, Wood Monkey, Water Pig, Earth Pig and so on. The same combination of zodiac animal and element is only possible every 60 years.
The ascendant is determined by the hour of birth
Further distinction can be made based on the place and time of birth to generate the ascendant sign, which complements the individual's zodiac sign and element. The ascendant sign does not refer to the constellation that rises on the eastern horizon at the time of someone's birth, as it functions differently in Chinese astrology. Each zodiac animal sign rules about 2 hours of each day. For example, the Rat rules from 11 pm to 1 am - so in the case of a midnight birth, the individual would have a Rat ascendant sign, whose characteristics determine their personality type.
Notice that Chinese astrology does not account for the zodiac sign constellations like Western astrology does, though some similarities can be found in the heavenly stems and earthly branches, otherwise known as the lunar calendar.
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