Michael Sternbach

Origin of the Chinese Zodiac

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There is an amazing theory regarding the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, presented over 100 years ago by the German historian Franz Boll in his classical work Sphaera.

 

http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/critical%20editions/Boll-Sphaera.pdf

 

(Yeah, I know, it's in German.)

 

In my opinion, Boll's theory deserves much more attention than it seems to have received so far.

 

But actually, "Chinese Zodiac" is somewhat of a misnomer here since, through history, it has spread to countries as diverse as Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Tibet, Turkestan, Eastern Turkey, and Persia.

 

Now, Boll calls to attention the ancient Dodekaoros, which was likewise a circle of twelve animals The earliest description we have of it is by Teucer the Babylonian (approximately 1st century AD).

 

The twelve animals of the Babylonians and Egyptians were sections either of the celestial equator or the ecliptic. It is unclear whether they were named after actual star constellations in their vicinity, but in any case, they were considered to be co-rising with the common twelve signs of the Zodiac. They were used to designate the twelve double hours of the day that were widely used in the ancient world. Just like the twelve animals in China historically!

 

It should also be mentioned that in  Chinese Astrology, the twelve branches (equivalents to the twelve animals) are indeed thought of as divisions of the ecliptic.

 

Boll gives the following correspondences between the familiar Occidental Zodiac, the Dodekaoros, and the Chinese Zodiac, including some alternative names depending on the country:

 

Aries                 Cat                   Dog

Taurus              Dog                  Rooster (Bird)

Gemini              Snake              Monkey

Cancer              Beetle              Sheep (Goat)

Leo                    Donkey            Horse

Virgo                  Lion                 Snake

Libra                  Buck                 Dragon (Crocodile)

Scorpio              Bull                   Rabbit

Sagittarius          Hawk                Tiger (Panther)

Capricorn           Monkey             Ox

Aquarius             Ibis                    Mouse

Pisces                 Crocodile          Pig

 

What is remarkable is the number of same or similar animals (despite their different order):

 

Monkey            -                Monkey

Crocodile          -                Dragon (Crocodile in Persia)

Dog                   -                Dog

Snake                -               Snake

Buck                  -                Sheep (Goat in Thailand)

Bull                     -               Ox

Lion                    -               Tiger (Panther in Mongolia)

Donkey               -               Horse

Ibis                      -               Rooster (Bird in Persia)

 

That's nine out of twelve - coincidence? Franz Boll didn't think so. And neither does...

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Sternbach
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Hi,

 

It's the yin profile of our presence on this planet and directly related to the Five Phases/Elements (yang would be defined by the Western astrological profile). There are 12 animals and they can be seen in the faces (like face shape, eyes, nose) of people born under the year ruled by a particular animal (you need to have your third eye fully opened to appreciate this) as well as the typical personality traits associated with the animal. In my experience, there are two animals in which the facial trait is not visible like the rest of the animals: ox and rooster.

 

Physiognomy is a ancient Taoist art. There is probably a manual of some sort out there in Chinese and not translated into a non-Chinese language that deals with the Wuxing and this subject with very specific details. Here's one that discusses this subject:

 

Chen Tuan on Physiognomy

 

Kind regards.

 

:)

Edited by Gerard
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I don’t think it is amazing if the animals do not align. They don’t align at all. What a mystery.

 

Does anyone know whether the ancient Chinese connected yijing symbols with the zodiac? They seem to have placed yijing on everything, so maybe this will help to clarify things?

 

 

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On 3/17/2015 at 5:07 AM, Gerard said:

Hi,

 

It's the yin profile of our presence on this planet and directly related to the Five Phases/Elements (yang would be defined by the Western astrological profile). There are 12 animals and they can be seen in the faces (like face shape, eyes, nose) of people born under the year ruled by a particular animal (you need to have your third eye fully opened to appreciate this) as well as the typical personality traits associated with the animal. In my experience, there are two animals in which the facial trait is not visible like the rest of the animals: ox and rooster.

 

Physiognomy is a ancient Taoist art. There is probably a manual of some sort out there in Chinese and not translated into a non-Chinese language that deals with the Wuxing and this subject with very specific details. Here's one that discusses this subject:

 

Chen Tuan on Physiognomy

 

Kind regards.

 

:)

 

What you're saying is amazing, I've had this feeling for a long time (regarding "animals and they can be seen in the faces (like face shape, eyes, nose)") but then why only 12 animals?

 

I see a rooster in President Trump and it seems I'm not the only one, just found this:

https://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/28/asia/donald-trump-rooster/index.html

 

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On 17/03/2015 at 11:09 AM, Michael Sternbach said:

There is an amazing theory regarding the origin of the Chinese Zodiac, presented over 100 years ago by the German historian Franz Boll in his classical work Sphaera.

 

http://www.hellenisticastrology.com/critical%20editions/Boll-Sphaera.pdf

 

(Yeah, I know, it's in German.)

 

In my opinion, Boll's theory deserves much more attention than it seems to have received so far.

 

But actually, "Chinese Zodiac" is somewhat of a misnomer here since, through history, it has spread to countries as diverse as Mongolia, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Tibet, Turkestan, Eastern Turkey, and Persia.

 

Now, Boll calls to attention the ancient Dodekaoros, which was likewise a circle of twelve animals The earliest description we have of it is by Teucer the Babylonian (approximately 1st century AD).

 

The twelve animals of the Babylonians and Egyptians were sections either of the celestial equator or the ecliptic. It is unclear whether they were named after actual star constellations in their vicinity, but in any case, they were considered to be co-rising with the common twelve signs of the Zodiac. They were used to designate the twelve double hours of the day that were widely used in the ancient world. Just like the twelve animals in China historically!

 

It should also be mentioned that in  Chinese Astrology, the twelve branches (equivalents to the twelve animals) are indeed thought of as divisions of the ecliptic.

 

Boll gives the following correspondences between the familiar Occidental Zodiac, the Dodekaoros, and the Chinese Zodiac, including some alternative names depending on the country:

 

Aries                 Cat                   Dog

Taurus              Dog                  Rooster (Bird)

Gemini              Snake              Monkey

Cancer              Beetle              Sheep (Goat)

Leo                    Donkey            Horse

Virgo                  Lion                 Snake

Libra                  Buck                 Dragon (Crocodile)

Scorpio              Bull                   Rabbit

Sagittarius          Hawk                Tiger (Panther)

Capricorn           Monkey             Ox

Aquarius             Ibis                    Mouse

Pisces                 Crocodile          Pig

 

What is remarkable is the number of same or similar animals (despite their different order):

 

Monkey            -                Monkey

Crocodile          -                Dragon (Crocodile in Persia)

Dog                   -                Dog

Snake                -               Snake

Buck                  -                Sheep (Goat in Thailand)

Bull                     -               Ox

Lion                    -               Tiger (Panther in Mongolia)

Donkey               -               Horse

Ibis                      -               Rooster (Bird in Persia)

 

That's nine out of twelve - coincidence? Franz Boll didn't think so. And neither does...

 

Michael

 

What is the theory ? Did I miss it ?

 

Is it that Chinese astrology came from Babylon ?  :unsure:

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23 minutes ago, KuroShiro said:

 

What you're saying is amazing, I've had this feeling for a long time (regarding "animals and they can be seen in the faces (like face shape, eyes, nose)") but then why only 12 animals?

 

I see a rooster in President Trump and it seems I'm not the only one, just found this:

https://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/28/asia/donald-trump-rooster/index.html

 

 

Why 12 animals ,  12  houses ,  12 hours  ?       because   3  4s   make 12    :) 

 

hand-palm-260nw-201853660.jpg

 

and 12 is an 'easy' number to work with .

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9 hours ago, KuroShiro said:

 

What you're saying is amazing, I've had this feeling for a long time (regarding "animals and they can be seen in the faces (like face shape, eyes, nose)") but then why only 12 animals?

 

I see a rooster in President Trump and it seems I'm not the only one, just found this:

https://edition.cnn.com/2016/12/28/asia/donald-trump-rooster/index.html

 

 

The natural model for this may well have been the (generally) twelve conjunctions formed by the Sun and the Moon during the course of a year. This also lies at the origin of the twelve months.

 

But this division is also linked to the esoterically foundational numbers 3 and 4, and combinatorics based on them, to be sure. This pertains to the unfoldment of mandala structures.

 

Ancient archetypical systems in general correspond with that kind of 'sacred geometry'.

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9 hours ago, Nungali said:

 

What is the theory ? Did I miss it ?

 

Is it that Chinese astrology came from Babylon ?  :unsure:

 

According to Boll's theory, the parallels indeed suggest some kind of historical relation.

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17 hours ago, Michael Sternbach said:

 

According to Boll's theory, the parallels indeed suggest some kind of historical relation.

 

Its certainly interesting. For the first part, attributing animals to constellations, I think that started in many different places .  There is certainly a very old tradition of it with Australian Aboriginals .... but nothing like the animals given above ( which does seem to indicate a common or similar source) .

 

However  .....   

 

" The Pleiades also figures in the Dreamings of several language groups. For example, in the central desert region, they are said to be seven sisters fleeing from the unwelcome attentions of a man represented by some of the stars in Orion. The close resemblance of this to Greek mythology is believed to be coincidental¬†‚ÄĒ there is no evidence of any cultural connection.[6]

 

The Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation explain them in the Karatgurk story. Another story involves seven sisters, the Maya-Mayi who were so beautiful that a warrior, Warrumma, kidnaps two of them. They eventually escape by climbing a pine tree that continually grows up into the sky where they join their other sisters.[7]

 

However, stars were commonly used to measure time and the seasons and to regulate daily activities before written culture, and long after in some cultures. The myths of the Australian Aboriginal people are, as around the world, to do with moral lessons and various reminders such as when to eat certain types of food, which is itself a cultural connection in the general form of the stories. Therefore, the study of the stars is probably the oldest knowledge on earth, such that it remains an intriguing possibility that aboriginal star knowledge does contain some fragments of a much older original culture. Aboriginal people came to Australia from Asia 50,000¬†years ago (well before Greek culture formed 3,000‚Äď4,000¬†years ago), and presumably the Aboriginal people originally came from Africa. While there is no hard evidence of a cultural connection, the possibility should not be written off, and the door is open to research to construct models of older human cultures, through the tracing of these narratives and other means such as linguistics "

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Aboriginal_astronomy

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Because the chinese observed the skys and combined the lunar most accurate calendar with the solar calendar. The chinese system has been correct for over 8000 years > remember the western solar calendar has never been right even after the romans change of julius and augustus (July and  August) bringing the modern western calendar a bit closer with 12 months of the year but this does not account for actual planet movement that fluctuates every year ,meaning the new year does not fall on January 1st every year.

 

The twelve year animal zodiac is a simplified version of the 60 year cycle and it is meant to be fun and easy to read. The reason the rat is first is because the ox and the rat had a disagreement on who would be first. The rat suggested he was bigger than the ox. The challenge was to decide  who was bigger by walking through town and to let the people decide who was bigger. The ox was average size but the rat was actually big for a rat. The people decided the rat was indeed bigger compared to the average size ox.

 

The feng shui calendar (60 year cycle) is the most accurate calendar known to man. Modern astronomy is based on the chinese system of antiquity. In the west it was believed that Gods moved the planets as opposed to simple observation. 

 

The mention of the pre christian systems as in Australia, eastern and western traditions the polar complete system of knowledge was well known. 2500 years ago the west split from the worldview with greek philosophy puting opposites into hostile opposing arrangement and rational mind as knower of all. ..... a major fail to understand or simple observe nature ...oh well shit happens.

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On 4/28/2018 at 2:44 PM, Nungali said:

 

Why 12 animals ,  12  houses ,  12 hours  ?       because   3  4s   make 12    :) 

 

hand-palm-260nw-201853660.jpg

 

and 12 is an 'easy' number to work with .

I thought because 10 has limited possibilities while 12 has more prime numbers to work on it. The duodecimal systems seems to be more efficient than the decimal system. Any thoughts from mathematicians?

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It's been a while but as I remember it the animal names of the "Chinese Zodiac" were a relatively late addition to an already established Chinese system called the Earthly Branches and not only based on Sun/Moon Conjunctions, but more fundamentally, on a twelve year cycle of Jupiter's stations in its retrograde/direct cycle.  Thus in Chinese Astrology Jupiter is the Year Star and the fundamental sign is ones year sign.  This was then combined with a Solar cycle of the Twelve Earthly branches which is 180 degrees out of phase with its Western counterpart.  In other words the Chinese Solar Earthly Branches begin in the middle of the Western Zodiac signs.  For example the "Solar Rat" begins at fifteen degrees of Sagitarius, which makes a direct correlation between the Western and Chinese yearly cycle impossible, which further undermines any attempt to make the Chinese system dependent on the Western one.

 

To my mind there is no good reason to believe that the Chinese system has a Western origin, but instead bases itself on observations of different planetary cycles, in particular the importance of the Ten Heavenly Stems cannot be underestimated.  While I have never read about their possible origin in the Sun/Venus cycle, I think this is a highly likely, but apparently undocumented, possibility.  For those not familiar with the Sun/Venus cycle it consists of the alternation of Venus being the Morning and Evening Stars, where basically as the Morning star, Venus is ahead of the Sun in the zodiac and rises before the Sun, while in the case of Evening Star, Venus is later in the Zodiac than the Sun and sets after it.  Going around the Zodiac this creates a cycle of five Morning Stars and Five Evening stars, or Ten events which alternate like yin and yang and trace out a five sided or pointed figure in the Zodiac.  The Ten Heavenly Stems are just such a cycle of the five elements through Five Yin/Yang cycles for a total of Ten divisions, and seems to link fundamentally with Five Element theory.  The Ten Heavenly Stems and the Twelve Earthly Branches then creates the Sexagenary, or Sixty year Cycle of the combinations of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches, the "Jiazi", named after its first member "jia" the first Earthly Branch and "zi", the first Heavenly Stem.  This sixty year cycle then ties in with three conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn, which form a triangle in the sky, and this in turn is related to the cycles of the Nine Stars, all of which I don't want to get into, but my understanding is that this was all well in place and had been for centuries, by the time that the Twelve Animals were introduced and associated with the Earthly Branches.

 

So the fundamental patterns and cycles from which Chinese Astrology arises are very different than those of Western Astrology and the Western Zodiac and the animal names have been documented as a late addition to an already existing system.  This is mostly based on my reading years ago of the books of Derek Walters, and others even earlier than his works, though his were the most comprehensive of the popular books.

 

ZYD

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4 hours ago, Zhongyongdaoist said:

 

To my mind there is no good reason to believe that the Chinese system has a Western origin, 

I recently read an article where the authors had analyzed the chinese and indian systems, and they came to the conclusion that the chinese model had a better fit to how the stars and planets moved, which would lead to their idea that India incorporated a chinese model. 

I might be able to dig that article up if anyone is interested. 

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Just now, Mudfoot said:

I recently read an article where the authors had analyzed the chinese and indian systems, and they came to the conclusion that the chinese model had a better fit to how the stars and planets moved, which would lead to their idea that India incorporated a chinese model. 

I might be able to dig that article up if anyone is interested. 

 

I would appreciate it. :)

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Just went through the pile of articles on my desk. 

Sorry, I have lost it. 

 

...... 

A couple of hours later... ūüėĀ¬†

 

The origin of Twenty-eight Mansions in Astronomy. 

Coching Chu

Popular Astronomy vol 55, p 62-77.

Edited by Mudfoot
Found it

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7 hours ago, Mudfoot said:

Just went through the pile of articles on my desk. 

Sorry, I have lost it. 

 

...... 

A couple of hours later... ūüėĀ¬†

 

The origin of Twenty-eight Mansions in Astronomy. 

Coching Chu

Popular Astronomy vol 55, p 62-77.

 

Thanks!

 

I found that article online:

 

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1947PA.....55...62C

 

Most of it is about the supposedly Chinese origin of the 27 to 28 nakshatras or Lunar Mansions in Indian Astrology. Later, the Arabs  inherited their respective system from India. However, as the article mentions, a Babylonian origin of the nakshatras still can't be ruled out.

 

The Indian zodiac per se is identical with the "Western" one, except it doesn't start from the vernal point, but deviates from it by the length of roughly one sign (the exact difference or ayanamsa depends on the particular school of Astrology you are looking at), in an attempt to be somewhat more in tune with the actual sidereal constellations. It is therefore called 'sidereal' (as opposed to the 'tropical' zodiac, i.e. season-based zodiac of Occidental Astrology), however, it was clearly adapted from Hellenistic Astrology, so it is of Babylonian origin as well. It is still in use today in contemporary Indian Astrology (also called Vedic Astrology and Jyotish).

 

That said, the article also discusses the origin of the Chinese system of the twelve years (a.k.a. the cycle of Jupiter, the twelve animals, the Chinese zodiac) and concludes  that it came from India:

 

t2png.thumb.gif.34e8be6994cf82427ded78cb84a88878.gif

 

5afc3a01c7df3_t2png(1).thumb.gif.894770433d9cfbe894302f3ab981aaac.gif

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Way out of mine line of study. I was just looking at some info about Altair. ūüėĀ¬†

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9 hours ago, Mudfoot said:

Just went through the pile of articles on my desk. 

Sorry, I have lost it. 

 

...... 

A couple of hours later... ūüėĀ¬†

 

The origin of Twenty-eight Mansions in Astronomy. 

Coching Chu

Popular Astronomy vol 55, p 62-77.

Edited 6 hours ago by Mudfoot

 

58 minutes ago, Michael Sternbach said:

I found that article online:

 

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1947PA.....55...62C

 

Thank you Mudfoot and Michael, I have quickly scanned the article and it seems well reasoned and very strong in its arguments about the Jupiter cycle.

 

Though it was written in the late forties, I am not sure how influential it was.  Walters bases his discussion primarily on Han Dynasty sources which are considered canonical, and if I were interested in going back to do scholarly work on the subject I would be interested to review Needham to see his discussion.

 

The one thing that cannot be doubted about the Chinese adaptation of this material whatever its source, is the richness, creativity and the way in which, while being different, it in many ways seems to compliment its Western counterpart as if some larger pattern were being realized in the development of the two structures.

 

ZYD

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