While the astrology and horoscopes of the west look at the time of a person's birth in any given year, Chinese astrology places significance on the year itself. The Chinese zodiac is a 60 year cycle, containing five sub-cycles of twelve years, in which each consecutive year has its own animal symbol and horoscope.
People are often referred to by their zodiac animals, so babies born this year will be Rats and expected to have personalities to match.
Legend has it that it was originally Buddha who gave the sequence of years to the dozen animals who attended the farewell meeting he called before he left the earth.
In each of its years, the animals of the Chinese zodiac have an association with one of the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire or earth. Once they have all gone through these five elements, the 60 year cycle is complete, and starts again. The elements also affect the individuals born in their years. But their basic personality traits of the animals remain the same. Here is a run down of the twelve zodiac animals and their characteristics.
From all this, you can see that Chinese Zodiac is not a predictive art as it is for western practitioners. Instead it is an art that is interpretive and philosophical. It is perhaps a way to help us understand ourselves, our partners, and all the other people in both our work and social lives.
Western Astrology is very different from Chinese astrology. Chinese Zodiac is arguably the most developed and the most followed branch of astrology in the world. The portion of Chinese astrology that the Western world is most familiar with is the Chinese Horoscopes.