The Chinese lunar calendar dates back to the second millennium BC. Unlike our
calendar, which numbers the years progressively from a given time (the birth of
Christ), the Chinese calendar is cyclical. Each cycle is made up of 12 years; after
the 12th year, the cycle is repeated. The Chinese associate each year of a 12-
year cycle with an animal, and they refer to the years as "the year of the dragon,"
"the year of the ox," and so forth. The 12 animals and the years associated with
them are often represented on a circular chart, and for this reason they are
known as animals of the zodiac.

The use of the animal names in the calendar led to the development of Chinese
astrology. Astrology can be defined as a pseudo-science linking human destinies
to charts associated with heavenly bodies or the recording of time. The Chinese
believed the characteristics of a given zodiac animal influenced the personality
of every person born in that year. They used this information to create
horoscopes, daily predictions based upon the year of one's birth. Although the
reading of horoscopes is popular in modern Chinese culture, few people take the
predictions seriously.

In these lesson plans, learners will learn about the 12 animals of the Chinese
zodiac. They will see how animals are often used as symbols. In another lesson,
they will hear one of several versions of how the 12 animals were chosen. They
will then focus upon a few of the animals in the story and see how they can be
used as symbols of certain human characteristics. In yet another lesson, they will
be introduced to the other animals of the zodiac, and they will be given a chart
on which they will assign traits to each animal. Then they will consult a number of
websites to find the traits traditionally associated with the animals, which they
will add to their list. Then, they will come up with a number of ways to compare
and contrast the animals in the list. In these lessons, they will focus upon the
animal associated with the year of their birth, learning about its traits and
discussing whether or not these apply to themselves and their peers. Finally, each
student will make an acrostic, combining the letters of his or her first name with
adjectives that relate to his or her zodiac sign.

Chinese zodiac signs represent twelve different types of personalities. The zodiac
traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the
origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so (see below). The
following are the twelve zodiac signs in order and their characteristics.
  1. Rat (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water): Forthright, tenacious,
    systematic, meticulous, charismatic, compassionate, hardworking,
    industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, shrewd. Can be manipulative,
    vindictive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious,
    ruthless, intolerant, scheming.
  2. Ox (Water buffalo in Vietnam) (Yin, 2nd Trine, and Fixed Element Water):
    Dependable, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking,
    ambitious, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, and tenacious.
    Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.
  3. Tiger (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Unpredictable, rebellious,
    colourful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating,
    sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be restless, reckless,
    impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, selfish, aggressive, and
  4. Rabbit (Cat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Gracious,
    good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved,
    cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, astute, compassionate,
    flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, and
  5. Dragon (Snail in Kazakhstan) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood):
    Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct,
    dignified, zealous, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive,
    pioneering, ambitious, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant,
    imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent,
    impetuous, and brash.
  6. Snake (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Deep thinker, wise, mystic,
    graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, ambitious,
    elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. Can be
    loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful,
    mendacious, suffocating, and cold.
  7. Horse (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Cheerful, popular, quick-witted,
    changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile - mentally and physically,
    magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. Can be fickle,
    arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, and stubborn.
  8. Ram (Goat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Righteous,
    sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle,
    compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful,
    generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier,
    pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.
  9. Monkey (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Inventor, motivator,
    improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver,
    self-assured, sociable, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual,
    intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish,
    deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, and suspicious.
  10. Rooster (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Acute, neat, meticulous,
    organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist,
    alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. Can be over zealous and
    critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated, given to empty
  11. Dog (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Honest, intelligent,
    straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable,
    unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical,
    affectionate. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier,
    stubborn, quarrelsome.
  12. Pig (Wild boar in Japan and Elephant in Northern Thailand) (Yin, 4th Trine,
    Fixed Element Water): Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving,
    patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding,
    thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naive, over-reliant,
    self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, and materialistic.

In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent what others
perceive you as being or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception
that the animals assigned by year are the only signs, and many western
descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are
also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals) and hours of the day
(called secret animals).

To sum it up, while a person might appear to be a dragon because they were
born in the year of the dragon, they might also be a snake internally and an ox
secretively. In total, this makes for 8,640 possible combinations (five elements x
12 animals in the 60 year cycle (12 x 5 = 60) , 12 months, 12 times of day) that a
person might be. These are all considered critical for the proper use of Chinese
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Chinese Zodiac
Our Solar System
This comprehensive book
contains information on all
major planets, major star
constellations, space
exploration and our solar
system. Included are fact
sheets, fast facts,
wordsearches, crossword
puzzles, Q's & A's, Student
Activity Sheets,
Teacher/parent resources
and tips, lesson plans and
crafts and activities.  
Preview entire book 208
The Chinese lunar calendar
dates back to the second
millennium BC. The Chinese
calendar is cyclical. Each
cycle is made up of 12 years;
after the 12th year, the cycle is
This book contains
comprehensive teacher/parent
resources, lesson plans and
activities relating both to the
Chinese Zodiac and to the
Chinese New Year. A Fun
interactive learning
experience for Gr K-5  with a
particular focus on adjectives,  
characteristics and traits.  
Preview the entire book here