Chinese Zodiac Animals
Chinese use 12 Chinese zodiac animals to represent every lunar year. So every 12 years is a cycle. The 12 animals are: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Why is it 12 animals? Not 11, or 13? This is because it is related to the calendar.
Now we all use the Christian calendar to represent each year, but in the ancient China people used Chinese words to represent each year. We call it “Chinese Era” (天干地支), a combination of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches. They follow a certain sequence.
No one knows for sure why the ancient people used animals to represent each year. Many historians believe that the names were difficult to memorize. This is why they decided to use 12 animals. The newest evidence the archaeologists had found can prove that it was 2200 years ago. But many ancient bamboo books indicate it was earlier than 2200 years ago. It could date back to over 4000 years ago.
It is interesting that many countries have almost identical animals to represent each year, like India, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. This practice came from China. But other countries, for instance, Myanmar, Egypt and Greece, follow a different practice. However we continue using 12 animals to represent each year.