The eastern zodiac is similar to the western one
in that is consists of a repeating cycle of 12 totems that correspond to personality types - the eastern ones are all animals, while the western ones are only partially so (e.g. Aries, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio). The number 12 is one of those numbers often given mythical significance
. While the western signs of the zodiac each represent a month, eastern ones each primarily represent a year, though they are also applied to both months and hours. With both types of zodiac, a popular activity is calculating the romantic compatibility between two people.
The 12 signs of the Chinese cycle, in order, are: the Rat, the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog, and the Boar/Pig. (The Cat missed out on the Chinese Zodiac alternately because the Rat purposely gave it the wrong meeting time, or because the Rat pushed it off the Ox into the river during their crossing.note
) They are governed by the 5 Eastern Elements
. Earth, being the central element, governs all the signs but chiefly the Dragon, Rat, and Ox.
The Tiger and the Dragon
are commonly regarded as the two most powerful signs, but since There Can Be Only One
, the two are Arch-Rivals
. Other rivalries and affinities also exist, however - for example, two Tigers rarely get along.
There are other methods to classify the signs, all of which can be used together. These include polarity (yin/yang), power and romance, and trine (four in total). Unlike the elements, these repeat through the 12 as yang/yin and first/second/third/fourth - the first sign, Rat, is a yang sign in the first trine, while the eighth sign, Sheep, is a yin sign in the fourth trine. In addition, each pair of consecutive years corresponds to a specific element, which also affects a personality reading - an Ox is typically seen as stern and inflexible, but a Water Ox (1973) or Wood Ox (1985) will be seen as more flexible than a Metal Ox (1961) according to a simple reading.
The above listed is the Chinese Zodiac, and this is the one most familiar to most Western and Eastern audiences alike, but other Eastern zodiacs exist. The Korean and Japanese are functionally identical to the Chinese Zodiac, with changes primarily in nomenclature. The Vietnamese zodiac, however, replaces the rabbit with the cat (a pity Kyo
wasn't born there), and the Thai zodiac replaces the dragon with the naga.
For a more in-depth look at the animals of the Zodiac, see The Analysis page.
See Also: Western Zodiac
, Fictional Zodiac
, Animal Motifs
, Tiger Versus Dragon
, Dragons Up the Yin Yang
Anime and Manga
- Fruits Basket has a family of characters each of whom transforms into an animal of the zodiac if hugged by a member of the opposite sex. The characters all have personalities supposed to be typical of that animal. There is also a character who transforms into a 13th animal, the cat, who plays the villain in a traditional eastern myth about the origin of the zodiac, and one member of the family embodies the God or Emperor who set the race in the first place. Unfortunately for the owner of the dragon spirit, a little wordplay means that instead of turning into an actual dragon (which would be badass), he turns into a "baby dragon", or seahorse. The tiger owner isn't very intimidating, either. The "true tale" of what really happened in the Zodiac legend (and why the cat was excluded) isn't revealed until the end of the manga.
- Digimon Tamers had a group of 12 enemies called Devas (Based on the Twelve Heavenly Generals), each Digimon representing an animal from the eastern zodiac. The rabbit Deva, Antylamon, became the partner of Henry's little sister after devolving into Lopmon.
- And if we take in account certain events, Impmon / Beelzemon could be considered the cat Deva, even if it wasn't mentioned officially, or even considered a proper Deva. Let's see... His appearance resembling a cat (sorta)? Check. Beelzemon's powers coming from a Deva? Check. He couldn't be detected at first by the Digivices? Check. The tamers confusing Beelzemon for a Deva the next time he appears after his debut? Check. As said before, that's just a possibility.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! GX portrayed Judai and Misawa as the Dragon/Tiger rivalry at first.
- The ring girls from the Tournament arc of Flame of Recca are dressed thematically after the zodiac animals.
- The main characters of Eto Rangers are a team of anthromorphic animals made up of the Zodiac who fight monsters to prevent the destruction of the Novel Worlds. The race plays a crucial part of the plot, as it led to the Cat becoming the main antagonist for most of the anime.
- There is a fanart combining this with Pokémon (its kind of a long stretch actually, due to Arcanine being a dog).
- Etotama revolves around personifications of the zodiac, focusing on Nyaa-tan (the cat) coming up with various ways to get herself into the group. Chuu-tan (the rat) is more or less played up as a sadistic villain by comparison.
- Birds of Prey once encountered a mercenary team of martial artists known as the 12 Brothers In Silk, who had been conceived specifically to be born under a specific zodiac sign by their father Huang, a legendary martial artist, for the sole purpose of taking his place once he was too old to fight. Any child born in the wrong sign or as a girl was immediately killed. Each brother is named after the sign he was born under and the group is led by the brother named Rabbit. Ironically, the group is eventually killed by their sole surviving sister, whom they had themselves trained, who goes under the name White Canary.
- A plot point in the Abrafaxe arc set in Meiji era Japan was that former Samurai Toru was more amenable to the idea of Westerner Heinrich von Himmelgut becoming his son-in-law because his daughter Toshiko was considered all but unmarriageable by Japanese because she was born in 1846, a Bingwu (Fire Horse) year.note
- There's a retelling of the Zodiac Race for children called something like "The Great Race," which describes the race as having been a contest of six teams of two — Rat was paired with Ox, and so on. Every participant was given a character that fit with their personality type, and many didn't finish the race at all (Snake and Horse, for example, were paired together, and Snake twined himself around Horse's neck to be the guide. However, Horse stubbornly elected to take the road that Snake advised against, leaving them trapped in an endless forest with Snake going "I Told You So"), and when Rat passed the finish line, the placement of the animals at that moment determined their place in the Zodiac. The cat wasn't there as the rat tricked him into thinking the race was a day later than it really was, so the cat showed up too late to get on the calendar. That's why cats hunt rats.
- The fact that Judge Dee was born under the sign of the Tiger comes up in one or two stories.
- There is a book called Chinese Astrology by Suzanne White. It goes through the 12 animals, describes their characteristics and their relationships with each other.
- Jane Lindskold's Breaking the Wall trilogy has thirteen family lines representing the Eastern Zodiac and the Cat. The characters subvert some of the details noted above, such as the current Tiger and Dragon being Childhood Friends. Pearl, the current Tiger, is initially hostile to a second Tiger when he appears, but she eventually warms up to him.
- The main characters in Broken Gate are a Rat youkai, a tiger youkai, a dragon youkai, and a horse youkai, the which serve as an allusion to this.
- Sufjan Stevens' album Enjoy Your Rabbit is labeled "Programmatic songs for the Chinese Zodiac". It's fourteen tracks of instrumental electronica, each named for an animal of the Zodiac, except the intro track (Year of the Asthmatic Kitty) and the epilogue (Year of Our Lord).
- Year of the Cat by Al Stewart.
- Year of the Rat by Badly Drawn Boy - also doubles as a Music Video of Heartwarming.
- Referenced in Hoyles Rules Of Dragon Poker, in which Dragons, usually defeated by St. Georges, beat the aforemention cards in the Year of the Dragon.
- The World Ends with You has each clothing brand based one of the 12 Animals, with the 13th (Gatito) being based on the Cat. Gatito is not available until the New Game+, because it represents the cat that was left out of most versions of the zodiac. It's also the only brand that plays a big part in the storyline.
- In Ōkami, the Celestial Brush Gods are represented by the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, as well as the Cat.
- Mega Man Star Force also does the Eastern Zodiac in addition to the Western Zodiac with the following symbols Ox (Taurus Fire), Sheep (Kung Foo Kid), Snake (Queen Ophiuca), Horse (Pegasus Magic), and Dragon (Dragon Sky).
- King's Quest V lampshades the rivalry between The Tiger (who becomes The Rabbit) and The Dragon during the final Wizards Duel.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney lampshades the Dragon/Tiger rivalry by having Phoenix (whose Japanese name, Ryuuichi, has part of its name meaning 'dragon') being impersonated by a guy named Furio Tigre who is the real killer, and of course Phoenix has to set him straight.
- Spyro: Year of the Dragon came out in 2000, the year of the dragon. It revolves around dragons being born every 12 years. This plot point was re-used in the Continuity Reboot The Legend of Spyro, but it isn't made clear how much time passes between each year of the dragon.
- Holy Beast Online Plays around with this. The six animal clans you get to choose from are based off of the Zodiac, but as the plot and other elements of the game reveal themselves, you learn that the developers decided to switch around some things, Dragons are associated with water and birds are associated with fire among some other things.
- In Ni no Kuni, the Zodiarch antagonists' masks are directly based off of the Chinese zodiac. Punny Name intentional.
- A very easily missed one but it seems the Fire starters of each successive Pokémon generation are each patterned after a different animal of the Chinese Zodiac. So far we have:
- Charmander: Dragon.
- Cyndaquil: Rat.
- Torchic: Rooster.
- Chimchar: Monkey.
- Tepig: Pig.
- Fennekin: Dog.
- Though it's not a starter, another sign included is the Horse (Rapidash).
- Reflec Beat colette added two crossover songs in January 2013 to celebrate the year of the snake: "Snake Stick" and "Kagachi" (Snake God).
- Puppeteer's Moon Bear King has twelve generals corresponding to all the signs working for him that function as the game's bosses.
- When Fire Emblem Awakening officially introduced the Deadlords to Western audiences, their former Theme Naming based on the first twelve German numbers was changed to Latin forms of the Eastern Zodiac.
- Given the feudal Japanese motif of the kingdom of Hoshido in Fire Emblem Fates, the scrolls its magic users wield are named after all the animals of the Eastern Zodiac barring the Dog and the Pig.
- In 8-Bit Theater, Fighter practices "Zodiackenshido", with his combat styles based on animals of the Eastern Zodiac.
- Used in The Order of the Stick as the Twelve Gods of the South, who rule over, among others, the Azurites.
- The story of Strings Of Fate (now offline) centred around the story of the Zodiac and the animal gods themselves, especially the Rat and his relationship with the Cat. The Dragon and the Tiger are also part of The Four Gods.
- Jackie Chan Adventures featured the Talismans — spirits of the Chinese Zodiac who were encapsuled via demonic magic. Each Talisman possessed a different power and granted it to the one holding it.
- In Legend Of The Dragon the heroes all had Power Bands based on the Chinese Zodiac, and the evil Zodiac Master was trying to seize the power. The most powerful is, of course, the titular Golden Dragon, but close behind him is Biengal the Tiger Guardian.