ART & CULTURE > ASTROLOGY > West versus East: the zodiac Date posted: 7th February 2013

West versus East:
the zodiac

Tracing the similarities and differences between the Western and Eastern Zodiacs

On the 10th February the Asian world celebrates the end of the year of the Dragon and the beginning of the one of the Snake. But what does all this mean and how does it reflect on us?

When it comes to Chinese Astrology most of us know 2 things: their New Year starts after ours, and their signs are symbolized by 12 animals and not constellations. Now lets find out a little more.

The number 12 represents the number of signes in the astrological year for both the Chinese and Western Horoscope.  In the West these are linked to constellations named after Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces, while in the Chinese horoscope they are animals Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Like in Western astrology, the Chinese signs are also associated to elements, (4, while in the West there are 5), and also trines, grouping of sings which are most compatible with each other. In Chinese astrology, there are 144 possible personality types.

The-western-zodiac-versus-the-eastern-one-chinese-new-year-2013The Western Astrological Chart

And now we delve into the think of things. Though the pure number of personality types possible in the Chinese Zodiac is mind boggling, like many other figures that emerge from the country at the moment, there is more.

The origins of the Western zodiac, dating to 2500 in Mesopotamia and later Egypt are scientific, and maybe a little boring. The Chinese zodiac however has a much more interesting origin steeped in myth and Confucian pragmatism.

According to legend, when the Jade King was developing a calendar, he summoned all the creatures on Earth to participate in a race. The first twelve species to cross the finish line were awarded signs in the Chinese zodiac. The Rat got first place through cunning and strategy, (swimming across the river on the Ox’s back and throwing into the water right at the end the other passenger, the Cat who doesn’t make the list of 12 finalists) while the Pig came in last as he stopped for food and had a nap before continuing the race. 

The-western-zodiac-versus-the-eastern-one-chinese-new-year-2013-eastThe Eastern Astrological Chart

There are very little similarities between the character traits of the Chinese signs and Western signs, for example, the Tiger has similar characteristics to Aquarius, but the Pig is actually quite different from his counterpart Scorpio.

But as well as the differences in sign names there are more fundamental things to look at especially the way the horoscope is calculated. Chinese astrologers base their calculations on the moon and its cycles, that is, on the lunar year. Western astrologers base theirs on the solar year. Thus, Western signs are called sun signs. In Western astrology the month sign, for example, Leo, is the primary influence, while in Chinese astrology it is the year sign.

Here we see a reflection of the character traits of the cultures, as well as the zodiac. Almost as though working out the signs associated with the cultures, we can’t but help reading into all of this. The fast paced, almost greedy monthly changes lead by the solar western calendar is a stark contrast to the slower, more methodical lunar year Chinese Horoscope.

Astrology shows us that we may be as different as the sun and the moon, but as we all know we couldn’t exist without both.


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