The Chinese Lunar Cycle
12 Years - 12 Animal Symbols
As most people know, the Chinese Lunar cycle is not based on 12 linear months, as in the Western or Gregorian calendar, but on a 12 year repeating cycle. Each astrological animal symbol represents not a month, but a year. And again, unlike the Western calendar that is based upon the movements of the sun, the Chinese astrological calendar has its deep and ancient roots in the movement of the moon.
There are many myths and legends about how the 12 animals representing the 12 years in a lunar cycle came into being. One of the most popular is that the Lord Buddha called all the animals to come to him before departing this earth. Only 12 animals came, and as a reward he named a lunar year after each according to the order in which it arrived. The Rat was the first to get there, crossing the final river on the back of the Ox and jumping down in front. Following them were the Tiger, Rabbit (Hare), Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (Ram), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig (Boar).
Yin and yang, the cosmic forces that are believed to balance the universe and all human nature, are also important elements in the lunar calendar, with each of the 12 animals symbolizing either yin or yang.