The Original Asian Zodiac 2: The Moon Calendar


(Continued from The Original Asian Zodiac)

In my previous post, The Original Asian Zodiac, I did promise that I would talk about the calendar system we Viets use, which is a sexagenary cycle that lasts 60 years.  Of course, since there were much more interesting things to talk about (ghosts and demons and such) I totally forgot to return to this subject.

Oh hell who am I kidding.  I haven’t touched this thing because it is so full of math that I knew it would take ages to write this in a way which would make sense.  The only reason why I’m digging into it now is because it is fascinating once you get past the nasty math parts.  So here goes.

Lunar Calendar

Calendars are ephemeral.  Just a flutter of a butterfly of time and any human-based calendric system dissipates into the haze of time, slowly forgotten until it has receded so far back into the recesses of human memory.

To the Vietnamese, the calendar is very important.  We base plantings and hunting, and fishing around the various dates of the year, so keeping accurate dates wasn’t just for fun.

Speaking of fun:  When I was young, I used to love going to Chinese restaurants to eat and to read my horoscope. I always thought it described me perfectly, and it was such a great way to get horoscopes while eating.

A typical Chinese restaurant placemat

You may have seen the animals on the paper placemats that are given to you when you eat at certain Chinese restaurants.  They will have all the animals listed, and it seems to signify that they only represent individual years.

It just never made sense to me that every single person born in the same year that I was, would have the exact same attributes, mannerisms, and luck (or lack thereof).


For example, let’s say you were born in the year of the monkey.   You would then read the horoscope for monkey, and whatever attributes it says on the placemat is supposed to be specifically yours–or someone twelve years older than you–or someone twelve years younger than you.

But wait, it gets better.  Since it’s based off the lunar calendar, the solar year you were born in may not even be the correct year that is shown on your place mat!  All of January and some of February is definitely from the prior year, and it depends on the year.

So take my advice.  Don’t base your horoscope reading on restaurant placemats.  Asian horoscopes may seem very simplistic, but that’s not true.  In fact, it’s fairly complicated.  You need to be looking at the time and date of your birth, and then applying it to the I Ching star chart, known as the Can Chi, also known as Thiên Can Địa Chi.

I will go into more detail about the Can Chi in a future posting because it involves the I Ching, which makes it quite interesting for me.

The twelve animals of the zodiac

The twelve animals are not just a yearly mascot, as is so often portrayed by media of all types.  They are used to represent the individual fingers on a hand, to be precise.  Here is what the numbering system is based off of.


If you think it looks strange, that’s because twelve fingers are relatively rare in humans.  There are some humans who have this feature (I have actually met one), but this trait is a fascinating subject, which I could discuss in future posts, if I remember to come back to this subject.

In any case, all you need to know is that the animals represent numbers.  The rat represents the number one, and so on and so forth until you get to the pig, which represents the number twelve.


The twelve animals that make up the twelve numbers and its characteristics are:

  1. Rat – Novemberwisdom
  2. Sửu Water Buffalo – Decemberdiligence
  3. Dần Tiger – Januaryvalor and vigor
  4. MẹoCat – Februaryprudence
  5. ThìnKronosaurus – Marchstrength and inflexibility
  6. TỵSnake – Aprilflexibility
  7. Ngọ Horse – Maypersistence and marching forward with indomitable will
  8. MùiGoat – Junepeace
  9. ThânMonkey – Julyflexibility
  10. DậuChicken – Augustconstancy
  11. Tuất Dog – September –  loyalty
  12. Hợi Pig – Octoberamiable

So, today is February 27, 2020, but according to the Vietnamese calendar, it is the fifth day (kronosaurus) of the second month (Cat), in the year (of the rat), 4718.

I do need to go into details about each of these animals, but it’s a fairly lengthy discussion, so I will leave it for the next posting.

(Continue to The Original Asian Zodiac 3: The Math…It’s Always the Math)

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