Japanese American Traditions

Asian Zodiac: What Animal Are You?

The Asian Zodiac, based on the lunar year cycle, is shared by the Japanese, the Chinese, and other people worldwide. Like the Western Zodiac, the Asian Zodiac is based in part on the idea that people born in the same time period tend to share certain personality traits. While, the Western Zodiac assigns astrological signs based on the month in which a person was born, the Asian Zodiac assigns astrological signs based on the year in which a person was born. In the Asian Zodiac, each year has a corresponding animal sign that repeats in twelve-year cycles. The lunar year typically begins in late January or early February each year.

A Chinese folktale explains why the zodiac signs, or animals, are arranged in the order they appear:

Once upon a time, the Emperor called all the animals to him in a great race. The Emperor said he would name a year for the first twelve animals to reach him, in the order in which they arrived.

Early on the day of the race, the cat and rat (who were best friends at the time) decided to ask the ox to carry them across the wide river to the Emperor. The ox agreed to help them. Just after the three animals entered the river, however, the scheming rat pushed the cat into the water. The ox and rat crossed the river safely, but just as they reached the shore, the rat hopped off the ox and rushed ahead to be the first animal to reach the Emperor. The ox, then, was the second animal to reach the Emperor.

Meanwhile, the cat struggled to swim across the river. One by one, ten other animals reached the Emperor and had years named after them.

Finally, the tired, wet cat managed to cross the river and reach the Emperor...but it was too late. The Emperor had already named all twelve years for the animals who arrived before the cat. The cat was very disappointed—and utterly furious at her friend the rat for betraying her. Because of this, cats and rats remain enemies to this day.

Alternate versions of this story exist. In one version, it is Buddha or a god who calls the animals to him. In another version, the rat “forgets” to wake the cat on the day of the race and the lazy cat sleeps through the entire contest. In all versions the animals arrive in the same order, and the years are named accordingly.

What is your sign?
Find your birth year and sign in the chart below. Numerous websites can be found through online searches that will reveal the personality traits associated with your sign.

rat — 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008

ox — 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009

tiger — 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010

rabbit — 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011

dragon — 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012

snake — 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013

horse — 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014

ram/goat — 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015

monkey — 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016

rooster — 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1891 1993 2005 2017

dog — 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018

boar — 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019

December 2005



2013 is the Year of the Snake!

Check out our selection of snake-themed gifts to help you celebrate this special year. We also still have dragon gifts for 2012!








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