The Chinese Zodiac

52 Posts, and we have been posting for over a year now. How time flies.

The 12 animals. Image via

This week I will write a little bit about the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

In Shin Ho Kwan at the Black Belt level we learn (3 per rank) forms that are named after and based on the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

Each person’s Zodiac animal is based on the year in which she/ he was born; however, the beginning of the year is marked by the Chinese New Year rather than January 1st, so if your birthday is in January or February and you want to know which animal relates to you based on this system, you will need to look up the date of the Chinese New Year in the year you were born as your animal may be the one commonly referenced to the year before you were born.

The animals in order are:

Rat, Ox/ Buffalo, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat/ Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Here are the descriptions of each animal as it relates to its form in Shin Ho Kwan, including its transliteration that we use from Korean, and its qualities in general:

Rat (Ja):

Energetic, ambitious, honest, charming, quick to anger, stingy, and persevering.

As it is portrayed by Eastern tradition, the rat is a good worker.   He is capable and self-confidant.  Cunning and diligent, the rat can be seen moving quickly, darting in and out of tight spaces.   Clever, creative, and adaptable, the rat can stop on a dime and change directions in order to reach his goal.

Ox (Chook):

Patient and easygoing with a gift for inspiring confidence, often narrow-minded and stubborn, a terror when angered but strong and dexterous, the quiet powerful type.

The Ox, according to Eastern tradition, is quiet, patient, prudent, methodical and realistic. He is unhurried and moves slowly which may appear to others as if he is inefficient. Yet, like the practitioners of the Chinese art of Tai Chi, whose slow motions are equally formidable, if not more so when executed quickly, so too is the ox, when incited.

Tiger (In):

Friendly, courageous, deep sensitive thinkers but poor decision makers.  Male tigers are straightforward and sincere, through female are stubborn and obstinate.

According to Eastern tradition, the tiger is one of the bravest and most rebellious predators of the animal kingdom. Unpredictable and violent, the tiger is a ferocious fighter, giving him a dominant upper hand in combat.  His self-confidence and willingness to take risks helps earn him a reputation that keeps many others out of his path.

Rabbit (Myo):

A born gambler, easy to make friends with, quick to show affection, placid and virtuous, talented but not showy, not a self-starter, lacks curiosity.

According to Eastern tradition, the rabbit is a happy creature: gifted and virtuous. He prefers the quiet life to excitement, and is satisfied by maintaining the status quo. Despite his passivity, he doesn’t like anything that threatens his security and will defend himself.   Though he is of small stature, his powerful hind legs both give him great speed and support his upright body in combat.  The rabbit is cautious and considerate and his instinct will always lead him to the most careful plan of attack.

Dragon (Jin):

A born leader, honest, sensitive, fastidious and verbose, short-tempered.

According to Eastern tradition, the dragon is the luckiest of all the animals. They are healthy, full of vitality and successful at just about everything they try. They can be highly intelligent and talented, and are open and direct in all their dealings.  The dragon, with regards to fighting style, has speed on his side.   He is aggressive and isn’t afraid to attack with fiery breath.   Yet, for all his hostility and destructive power, the dragon is also one of the most graceful fighters.   He appears to move with little motion, gliding and whirling in his attack.

Snake (Sa):

Attractive, intelligent, conceited and selfish, passionate, determined and sometimes antagonistic.

According to Eastern tradition, the snake is, above all things, seen as being wise. They are thinkers rather than talkers, and have calm, stable personalities.  For this reason, as a fighter, the snake will often wait for his enemy to come to him, or move slowly with little detectable motion and strikes when it is too late for his enemy to flee.   Like the rat, snakes are very capable of adapting to their surroundings which makes him a well rounded and flexible fighter.

Horse (Ohr):

Hot-tempered, quick, able to use money well, can flatter and get what one wants, well-dressed and showy, always seems to be a winner, cheerful, popular, and stubborn.

According to Eastern tradition, the horse is characterized by its independence, its zest for life and its straightforward behavior.   The horse is quick and clever.  He is elegant and light on his feet when he fights, and his showmanship often takes precedence over practical strategy.

Goat/ Sheep (Mi):

Charitable, elegant in action and appearance, passionate in everything, stimulated easily to pity, good in the arts.

According to Eastern tradition, the sheep generally has an artistic personality, and can be quite eccentric. He has great patience, which is probably the single most important quality in his fighting technique.

Monkey (Shin):

Clever, inventive, flexible, talented, passionate, self-discipline, a good politician, but moving constantly.

According to Eastern tradition, the monkey is intelligent, quick- minded, full of ideas, and has a knack for problem solving.  His constant, energetic movement makes him difficult to corner and unpredictable in a fight.

Rooster (Yoo):

Proud, honest, strong sense of duty, ambitious but lacks foresight, self-confident, impatient, liked to show off.

According to Eastern tradition, the rooster is proud, disciplined and has a strong sense of duty. He is both brave and vicious when cornered, using his talons to lash out at any perceived threat.

Dog (Sool):

Diligent, clever, loyal and faithful, but stubborn, not a good talker and often a faultfinder.

According to Eastern tradition, the dog is loyal and faithful, diligent, clever, and energetic.   He is tenacious to the point of obstinacy and uses this to his advantage in a fight, latching on with his and persistently maintaining his grip (it’s no wonder a synonym for stubborn is “dogged.”)

Pig (Hae):

Straightforward, shy but short-tempered, affectionate, dedicated and honest but sometimes impulsive.

According to Eastern tradition, the pig is naive, straightforward and honest. He is aggressive and full of ambition, but completely lacking in guile.  What the pig lacks in cunning he more than makes up in courage.  As a fighter, his weight, tusks, and self-confidence are on his side, though his main problem is lack of adaptability, and he therefore has trouble adjusting when circumstances change.

The selection of the animals and the reasons behind the order in which they progress is often told in a story; here is a version of the story that I found at:

“An unlikely gathering

The most well-known of the Chinese zodiac legends states that Buddha invited the animals to participate in a race. The prize was a coveted position on the Chinese Zodiac calendar. The first 12 animals to cross the river would appear on the Chinese Zodiac calendar in the order in which they completed the race.

The first animal to make it across the finish line according to Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology was the rat. It seems unlikely that such a small animal could win such a strenuous race, especially when one considers all the contenders.

Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology explains that the rat used his brain rather than his brawn. It hitched a ride on what it perceived was the mightiest swimmer. Just before the buffalo reached the shore, the rat jumped off the buffalo’s back and crossed the finish line before the buffalo, putting the rat in first place.

The buffalo came in second and as promised in the legends and mythology, was the second animal listed on the Chinese Zodiac. The tiger, also being strong, came in third, followed by the rabbit that jumped his way across and was helped during the last stretch by the dragon. A snake hid in the hoof of the horse which is how it managed to make it across the river. At the last minute the snake jumped out and scared the horse into seventh place.”

The sheep, monkey and rooster helped one another across and earned their spots on the calendar as well. The dog made it too, but decided a bath was more important than the position which is why it came in eleventh. Finally, the pig appeared and is listed last. According to Chinese Zodiac legends and mythology, the pig feasted and rested half-way through the race, but made it across guaranteeing its position.”

Image via

The other thing I would like to note about the Chinese Zodiac is that it is not just a cycle of 12 years that repeats: each animal year also relates to one of the Chinese Five Elements, Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth, making a total of a 60 year cycle. For example, this year 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. It is also the year of the Water Dragon. Each year is also assigned as a Yin or Yang year (I have written many previous posts about Yin and Yang- especially #38, also #22 and 42.) There is a comprehensive chart at the Wikipedia page for the Chinese Zodiac:

We also have a form for each of the Five Elements in Shin Ho Kwan. I have written about them in more detail in my Weekly Posts numbered #19, 21 and 34.


  1. Miss Doll,
    I have always been a big fan of astrology however I have to say I am a goat taurus and I am anything but patient. Are there other factures that go into one’s birth sign like birth order perhaps? Great post as always.

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