Chinese Japanese zodiac
In honor of New Year’s, here are all 12 zodiac signs in chart form! Yay! Japan uses the same 12 animals as China, one per year, and there are special kanji for when you use them as zodiac signs:
- 子（ね/ne） rat (short for ねずみ/nezumi “rat, mouse”)
- 丑（うし/ushi） ox
- 寅（とら/tora） tiger
- 卯（う/u） rabbit (short for うさぎ/usagi)
- 辰（たつ/tatsu） dragon
- 巳（み/mi） snake (conveniently looks like a snake)
- 午（うま/uma） horse
- 未（ひつじ/hitsuji） sheep
- 申（さる/saru） monkey
- 酉（とり/tori） bird, rooster
- 戌（いぬ/inu） dog
- 亥（い/i） pig, boar (short for いのしし/inoshishi)
Add the word for “year” 年（とし/toshi, sometimes changes to どし/doshi in compounds) to get the names of each type of year.
- 未年(ひつじどし/hitsujidoshi) Year of the Sheep
But that’s not all! In addition to being associated with years, the zodiac signs are also associated with directions and times of the day. This is only important if you read old-timey documents (or things that are trying to sound old-timey), but it’s still cool.
If you arrange the zodiac signs in a circle, going clockwise with the rat at the top, you basically get a compass rose. North is the direction of the rat, south is the horse, etc.
- うしとら/ushitora “northeast” (literally “ox-tiger”)
The circle is also a 24-hour clock–each sign gets a 2-hour period, starting with the rat at midnight.
- 子の刻（ねのこく/ne no koku） hour of the Rat, 11 pm-1 am, around midnight (刻 means “carve”, we carved the day into chunks and this is the one for the rat)
…I think this might be why the special zodiac kanji for horse 午 means “noon” in words like 午後（ごご/gogo) “afternoon”
I hope you guys have good 未年!