More than 3,000 years ago, Chinese people invented the 10 Heavenly Stems and 12 Earthly Branches for chronological purposes. These signs are used to designate the hours, days, months and years. However, since most people at that time were illiterate, the signs were difficult to use. Later, to make things easier to memorize, people used animals to symbolize the12 Earthly Branches. The animals in order are the mouse, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
Many Chinese people strongly believe that the time of a person's birth is the primary factor in determining that person's personality. Many fortune-tellers, when telling your fortune, say what they need to know is your exact time of birth. Then, whether you are successful in your life and career, or whether you will be happy is clear to the fortune-tellers.
According to one legend, during a Chinese New Year celebration, Buddha invited all the animals to his kingdom, but unfortunately, for reasons only known to the animals, a total of 12 turned up. The mouse was naturally the first, followed by the ox, then the tiger, the rabbit and so on and finally the pig.
Out of gratitude, Buddha decided to name the year after each of the animals in their order of arrival, and people born of that year would inherit of the personality traits of that particular animal. These animals are also supposed to have some influence over the period of time they were named after.
It is essential in China that every person knows which animal sign he is born under. That is because it has been implicitly agreed upon that no important steps of life should be taken without consulting first the Chinese Zodiac. Some Chinese consider this superstition, but many truly believe that the signs reveal the hidden secrets of a person's character.
Photo Gallery of Chinese Zodiac