In contrast to western astrologers’ fancy celestial zodiac model, the ancient Chinese used twelve simple animal signs to represent the zodiac. It may seem ordinary or mundane, but these simple signs contain rich and living wisdom. The twelve signs comprise six pairs. Each pair has one yin and one yang animal sign. It is the balance of this yin and yang that is the fundamental element of philosophy in Chinese culture.
First pair: Rat (yang) and Ox (yin)
Rat represents intelligence; Ox represents diligence. There should be a balance between intelligence and diligence. Those who have intelligence but are not hard-working will not accomplish much in their lives. Those who are hard-working, but do not use their brain, are foolish. One needs to work both hard and smart. The ancient Chinese regarded intelligence and diligence to be the most important qualities for a successful life.
Second Pair: Tiger (yang) and Rabbit (yin)
Tiger represents power and daring; Rabbit represents caution and prudence. When a person is full of valor and vigor, but not cautious, he can became crude and brash. If he has too much caution without vigor, he becomes timid. There needs to be a balance of daring and prudence to balance and complement each other; an individual needs to have both to draw on in order to meet what life presents to him at different times.
Third Pair: Dragon (yang) and Snake (yin)
Dragon represents strength and determination; Snake represents softness and flexibility. Too much hardness becomes brittle and easy to break. If one is too soft, he cannot hold onto his own ideas and thoughts. Therefore, there should always be a balance between strength and flexibility.
Fourth Pair: Horse (yang) and Sheep (yin)
Horse represents marching forward courageously, advance bravely; Sheep represents gentleness and peacefulness. If a person just plods straight forward without considering his surroundings, he may get some surprising bumps to the left or right, and not be able to reach his goal. If he is too gentle and yielding, he may lose his own direction and, thus, his goal. Therefore, be brave, moving forward courageously but with gentleness.
Fifth Pair: Monkey (yang) and Rooster
Monkey represents agility and quick-wittedness; Rooster represents dependability, as it can be depended on to wake people up on time. Quick thinking without dependable behavior may not accomplish your intended goals. However, overly stressing reliability could slow things down so much they cannot move forward. Each person should have a harmonious combination of agility and dependability.
Sixth Pair: Dog (yang) and Pig (yin)
Dog represents loyalty; Pig represents sociability and amicability. If a person is too loyal to an ideology or anything else, he can become very stubborn, excluding and rejecting of others. On the other hand, if he is too amiable and socially-dependent, he may lose the dedication to stand firm on his principles and beliefs. One’s loyal, whether to country, to an organization, to oneself, or to an idea, needs to be tempered with amicability towards all. In that way, you have a smooth outside while remaining square inside; yin and yang is balanced.
Keeping the Balance
Whatever sign you were born under, always look for the opposite aspect in order to be a balanced person. If you were born under the sign of the horse, you are brave in charging forward, but pay attention to the qualities of gentleness and smoothness. If you are of the sheep sign, gentleness and smoothness come naturally to you; you need to cultivate bravery and courage in order to charge forward with your life!
Intelligence and diligence, daring and caution, strength and flexibility, bravery and gentleness, agility and dependability, loyalty and sociability, these are all qualities one should have to create a happy and successful life. Ancient China passes on to the generations this wisdom in its twelve zodiac signs.