The Chinese zodiac is also called Shēngxiào (生肖) in Mandarin. Identifying this scheme using the generic term "zodiac" reflects several superficial similarities to the Western zodiac: both have time cycles divided into 12 parts, each labels at least the majority of those parts with names of animals, and each is widely associated with a culture of ascribing a person's personality or events in his or her life to the supposed influence of the person's particular relationship to the cycle.
Nevertheless, there are major differences between the two: the animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations spanned by the ecliptic plane. The Chinese 12-part cycle corresponds to years, rather than months. The Chinese zodiac is represented by 12 animals, whereas some of the signs in the Western zodiac are not animals, despite the implication of the etymology of the word zodiac.
The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat. The following are the twelve zodiac signs (each with its associated Earthly Branch) in order and their characteristics. Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water as five nature elements.
Rat – 鼠 (子) (Yin, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water)
Ox – 牛 (丑) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Earth)
Tiger – 虎 (寅) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
Rabbit – 兔 (卯) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood)
Dragon – 龍 (辰) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Earth)
Snake – 蛇 (巳) (Yang, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
Horse – 馬 (午) (Yin, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire)
Goat – 羊 (未) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Earth)
Monkey – 猴 (申) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
Rooster – 雞 (酉) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal)
Dog – 狗 (戌) (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Earth)
Pig – 豬 (亥) (Yang, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water)