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Sheng in Chinese is 'birth' and Xiao is 'resemblance'.
To discuss about the Sheng Xiao of Chinese, it is better to say something
about the chronological years recorded by Stems and Branches in the Chinese
lunar calendar. As we know, the lunar calendar was already perfect over 3000
years ago during Xia Dynasty, so it was also called "Xia Calendar". In Xia Calendar,
the chronological years were recorded on the basis of Stems and Branches, that is
on combining in succession one Heavenly Stem and one Earthly Branch. The Heavenly
Stems are 10, namely: Jia, Yi, Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geng, Xin, Ren and Gui. The
Earthly Branches are 12, that is: Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You,
Xu and Hai.
Combining one Heavenly Stem with one Earthly Branch in succession will give Jia Zi,
Yi Chou, Bing Yin... and so on to the sixtieth one - Gui Hai to make up a set, which
is generally known as "Sixty Jia Zi". These are then matched to the chronological years,
with 60 years as a cycle, and similar to years, months and days all have their own Stems
and Branches, so the records in the calendar on this basis would be very clear and in a
The Chinese ancestors emphasized the unity of heaven and man. Human beings and all life
in the nature were thought to be naturally associated, the universe was co-existing with us,
and everything around was combined with us as unity. Hence, 12 animals were used to match
12 Earthly Branches, such as Zi is Mouse, Chou is Ox... In calculating years, for example,
any year with "Chen", such as Jia Chen, Bing Chen and so on, will be called the dragon year,
and those born in the dragon years will belong to the Dragon. Later, the year one is born
is thought to be related to his behavior, which will resemble that of the animal of the
Earthly Branches. For example, those born in dragon years will resemble dragon...
The 12 Sheng Xiao are then Zi Mouse, Chou Ox, Yin Tiger, Mao Rabbit, Chen Dragon, Si Snake,
Wu Horse, Wei Goat, Shen Monkey, You Rooster, Xu Dog and Hai Boar.
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