According to the records from Qin Bamboo Slips, the order of the ancient Chinese Zodiac was not precisely the same as the present, but there are also differences. The album came as the current one was appeared in the history book of the East Han Dynasty(B.C. 25-220). The twelve Chinese Zodiac finalized in the East Han Dynasty.
History record of Chinese Zodiac?
In the past, it was believed that the records of the twelve zodiac animals were first recorded in the book “LUN HENG“, written by Wang Chong( An Ancient Chinese Poet) of the Eastern Han Dynasty, which was mainly described as what animals did they used for marking an hour. But the order is not quite the same as today’s, but at least 12 Chinese Zodiac animals are complete.
However, when people were doing the archaeological activities in Yun Meng county of Hubei Province, Gansu Province, and Sui Zhou of Hubei Province. They found that the date of the 12 Zodiac animals’ appearance was pushed forward about 300 years after the successive excavation of the 3 “The Book of the Sun,” which were the reference book for judging whether the time was auspicious or not. But their order of the 12 Chinese Zodiac still differed from each other.
The three tombs were buried from the late Warring State Period (B.C. 475-221) to the Western Han Dynasty (B.C. 202-8). It can be seen that twelve zodiac signs appeared in the late Warring States period and matched with the twelve local branches.
Totem Theory of Chinese Zodiac origin
As for the Zodiac origin, some people also say that the Zodiac is corresponding to the stars. However, according to the ancient records, the Zodiac appearance was earlier than the combination of the stars and animals. Some researchers think that Chinese Zodiac may come from another country rather than China.
Because there are similar 12 zodiacs cultures in foreign countries as well. However, because of the unearthed records of Qin Bamboo Slips, this view has been overturned. Others believe that the existence of the Zodiac is derived from people’s awe and worship of animals, and is a symbol of the totem. Totem has been regarded as a kind of protection and symbol by people in primitive societies. It is usually a figure of some animal or natural phenomenon. This view is generally accepted.
Ranking Theory of Chinese Zodiac
There are many opinions on why the zodiac ranking as the present order. Every point of view seems reasonable, but it can not stand the scrutiny. There are even some widely known folklore in China. So one explanation was that some ancient Chinese used animal habits to record the twelve hours, which seems entirely rational. But after careful consideration, it was found that the twelve Branches of the earth are used to record the time of the day, while the twelve zodiac animals are used to record the whole year. In this way, the first explanation doesn’t make sense.
The second explanation was started from the Ming Dynasty(A.D. 1368-1644), it was suggested that the arrangement of twelve kinds of animals was based on the defects in animal forms, which was quickly overturned. It was reasonable to say that according to the five elements of Yin-Yang (two natural ingredients in Chinese Culture), the number of toes in the twelve zodiac animals can be distinguished. Some people combine the two relevant explanations and put forward as a theory, which is the most reasonable one.
The Present Status of Chinese Zodiac
The Chinese Zodiac has a special meaning for Chinese people. They have different myths and stories, which are endowed with cultural significance and even regarded as gods. In this way, the Zodiac is not rigid, there are only written things but fully integrated into the daily life of an impression, even a belief.
With the change of times and the development of science and technology, nowadays, the unreasonable folk custom about the twelve Zodiac has long been replaced. The concept has changed, and the legend is just a legend. However, these have not hindered the development of Chinese Zodiac culture. They are still the protagonists of the Spring Festival every year, and all kinds of Chinese Zodiac are even being popularized and discussed.
The zodiac culture did not decline instead of developing better, continually bringing new meanings with unique value and fortunes to Chinese people.