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The Chinese zodiac signs explained: ShaoLan shares some tips for understanding the ancient tradition

TED2013. Long Beach, CA. February 25 - March 1, 2013. Photo: Ryan Lash

In a world full of misfortune and worry about our future, many people are focusing on becoming better human beings, and many are turning to traditional means to help them determine certain choices in life.

The Chinese Zodiac is one of the ways people are making meaning of their lives, their love and their paths in life.

ShaoLan Hsueh, a technology entrepreneur, explains in an upbeat TED talk about how millions of people — Chinese or otherwise — are influenced by the Chinese Zodiac calendar and how it can impact major decisions in your life.

It’s a powerful philosophy that offers something for everyone.

Watch ShaoLan’s TED talk here to understand it better:

For those of you who can’t watch the video, here it is in text:

ShaoLan Hsueh describes the differences between the Chinese Zodiac calendar and the more familiar Western astrological calendars that many people follow and subscribe to.

The Western calendar is based in Greek and Roman beliefs and is based on a 12-month calendar that we use around the world to track time. You may be more familiar with signs such as Sagittarius, Pisces, or Leo.

The Chinese Zodiac calendar, however, is based on animals, not stars, and follows a 12-year cycle instead of a one year trending cycle. This cycle is so powerful and meaningful to Chinese culture that expectant mothers will schedule c-sections to prevent a baby being born in years that are less desirable than others.

Like all things in life, there is hierarchy present in this calendar, and when the year of the dragon rolled around again in 2012, the birth rate jumped in China producing almost one million more babies than previous years.

Decisions like this don’t just impact China and the rest of the world today: one million more people is a lot to feed and house. But it also impacts those children born in 2012 into their adult years; ShaoLan describes the fact that these children will be fighting for less space, jobs, and relationships than their parents ever had to.

So whether you believe in your Zodiac sign or not, there are millions of people who do and that means that meeting someone who believes in the Zodiac sign brings about assessment and maybe a little bit of judgement too, because they are sizing you up based on whether you are a pig or a sheep or a goat…or a dragon.

The Chinese Zodiac can be a fun way to validate what you think you already know about yourself as well. If you’ve ever eaten in a Chinese restaurant that had images of the Zodiac on the wall or placements, you know that people love to read about what the universe sees them as. It’s a way of sizing ourselves up against a population of people and while many people don’t want to be a goat, according to Hsueh, there are just as many people out there that are perfectly happy with their goatish ways.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering…What Zodiac sign are you?

Here they are:

Rat: 1900 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020                                                                                 Element: Water
Partners well with: Dragon and Monkey
Characteristics: Intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, charming, artistic, sociable.

Ox: 1901 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021                                                                                                     Element: Earth
Partners well with: Snake and Rooster
Characteristics: Loyal, reliable, thorough, strong, reasonable, steady, determined

Tiger: 1902 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022

Rabbit: 1903 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023

Dragon: 1904 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024

Snake: 1905 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013 2025

Horse: 1906 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014 2026

Sheep/Goat: 1907 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015 2027

Monkey: 1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016 2028

Rooster: 1909 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017 2029

Dog: 1910 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018 2030

Boar/Pig: 1911 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019 2031

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