The foundation of Chinese Astrology is Yin/Yang, the 12 animals and the 5 elements.
Chinese Astrology is said by some scholars to be the oldest horoscope system in the world. However if you trace Western Astrology back to its Middle East roots, both types are likely to have been born in their current recognisable form around 3000 years BC, however they stem from entirely different beginnings as well as traditions and parts of the world.
There are similarities in that both recognise 12 types of character, (12 animals in this case), are cyclical in nature and incorporate a considerable degree of long observed wisdom. After those traits Chinese Astrology is rather different having its roots in classical Chinese philosophy and legend. Unlike Western Astrology, Chinese Astrology has nothing to do with Planets and their actions.
The 12 animals are further ‘flavoured’ by the pervading element of that particular year (elements also revolve as a seperate cycle). It is said that Bhudda is responsible for the 12 animals as they were the only ones who came to bid him farewell into the next life.
Which sign and element you are or that relates to a place or event is determined by the year that it came into being.
Chinese Astrology is concerned with nature and its traits, the signs progress year by year whereas Western Astrology cycles monthly.
The consideration of Yin and Yang is a very great influence upon this subject, Yin being passive, female and receptive while Yang is agressive, male and exploratory.
The various permutations of these 2 essential forces in nature, places, organisations, events and humanity and the quest to achieve balance so that both operate together in harmony rather than opposing or canceling each other out are an essentialy Oriental viewpoint and quest, they form the basis of many Far Eastern traditions and other influences in Chinese Society such as Feng Shui.
The 12 Animal Signs are : Rat, Ox, Tiger,Rabbit (or Cat), Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat (or Sheep), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The animal ruling year in which you were born has a profound influence on your life.
As the Chinese say, “This is the animal that hides in your heart”!
There are 5 elements : Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, each adding a nuance of almost tactile character to the animal sign.
Chinese Astrology is based on the Chinese calendar year of your birth or the year of an event. There are also many more nuances involving the month and day.