Updated: Sep 5
Astrology is like a time-traveling wizard that's been around for centuries. It's an ancient system of knowledge that's been passed down through the ages, with each culture adding their own flavour to the mix.
The earliest evidence of astrology can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, where astronomers were the OG sky-watchers, analysing the movements of the stars and planets. Western astrology and the Chinese zodiac are two of the most widely used and recognised systems of astrology in the world, with millions of people turning to them for insight and guidance. But do you know the differences between these two insanely popular systems?
The 12 zodiac signs in Western astrology and the Chinese zodiac
Aries (21 March - 19 April), Taurus (20 April – 20 May), Gemini (21 May – 20 June), Cancer (21 June – 22 July), Leo (23 July - 22 August), Virgo (23 August - 22 September), Libra (23 September - 22 October), Scorpio (23 October - 21 November), Sagittarius (22 November - 21 December), Capricorn (22 December - 19 January), Aquarius (20 January - 18 February), Pisces (19 February - 20 March).
Rat: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Tiger: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Hare: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Dragon: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Snake: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Horse: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Goat: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Monkey: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Rooster: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Dog: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Pig: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031
Origins of the zodiacs
The Chinese zodiac is based on the lunar calendar and can be traced back to the 14th century. The first Chinese emperor invented the Chinese lunar calendar, which follows the cycles of the moon.
According to legend, the Jade Emperor, ruler of all gods, summoned the animals to compete in a race to determine their order in the zodiac. The clever Rat hitched a ride on the Ox's back and won the race by jumping off at the last minute, while the slow-and-steady Ox came in second. The mighty Tiger roared into third place, followed by the nimble Hare, the majestic Dragon, and the wise Snake. The Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig rounded out the rest of the zodiac, each earning their place based on their performance in the race.
The origins of the Western zodiac can be traced back to ancient Babylon, where astronomers divided the sky into twelve sections and assigned each one a constellation based on its position during the year. These constellations were then associated with different gods and goddesses, who were said to influence the lives of mortals below. Over time, the Greeks and Romans adopted the Babylonian system and gave each constellation a name and mythology of its own. From the fiery Aries to the dreamy Pisces, each zodiac sign was born out of a rich tapestry of myth and legend, and continues to offer insight and guidance to those who seek it.
The Elements in Western and Chinese astrology
In Western astrology there are four elements:
Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius)
Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn)
Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius)
Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces)
Metal (if your birth year ends in 0, 1)
Water (if your birth year ends in 2, 3)
Wood (if your birth year ends in 4, 5)
Fire (if your birth year ends in 6, 7)
Earth (if your birth year ends in 8, 9)
Months vs Years
One of the key differences between the Chinese zodiac and the Western zodiac is the way they measure time. While the Western zodiac is based on the twelve months of the year, with each zodiac sign lasting roughly a month, the Chinese zodiac uses a twelve-year cycle, with each animal sign representing a year.
This means that your Chinese zodiac sign is determined by the year you were born, rather than the month. For example, if you were born in 1990, you would be a Horse according to the Chinese zodiac, while your Western zodiac sign would be determined by your birthdate within the year. For example, if your birthday falls on the 15th April, you'd be an Aries.
The equivalents in Chinese astrology and the Western zodiac
In Western and Chinese astrology, each zodiac sign mirrors another sign. Each zodiac sign has a twin where they share similar traits, characteristics and qualities: