I have often been asked: “Hey Nicholas, I am born in late January, what is my zodiac (horoscope) ?”, “The Chinese calendar is a lunar calendar, right? “, “I am born after the Chinese Lunar New Year, my zodiac (horoscope) is ……?”, etc
Many people (especially those from the western culture) have mistakenly called the Chinese calendar a Lunar Calendar and assume that the Chinese Zodiac (Horoscope) is base on the lunar cycle.
The Chinese calendar is not a Lunar calendar, it is a Lunisolar calendar, which means it incorporate elements of a Lunar calendar with those of a Solar calendar.
This system is not exclusive to China but followed by many other Asian cultures (notably the Koreans, Japanese (before 1873), Hebrew, Hindu, Babylonian and Vietnamese). It is often called the Chinese calendar because it was first perfected by the Chinese around 500 BC
A lunar year is based on cycles of the moon phase. The only widely used purely Lunar calendar is the Islamic calendar or Hijri calendar, whose year always consists of 12 lunar months.
A solar year is the period between one Spring Equinox (pinyin: Li Chun) and the next Spring Equinox (pinyin: Li Chun) bases on the Xia calendar which has been in used for more than 4000 years.
The lunar year aspect is exclusively used for dates, whereas the solar year aspect is used to number the months and year using the Sexagenary Cycle (Stem-branch cycle).
The Chinese Sexagenary cycle (pinyin: Liu Shi Jia Zi), is also known as the Stems-Branches cycle (pinyin: Gan Zhi), is a cyclic numeral system of 60 combinations of the two basic cycles, the ten Heavenly Stems (pinyin: Tian Gan) and the twelve Earthly Branches (pinyin: Di Zhi, aka the 12 zodiac/horoscope).
The Sexagenary system is widely use in Chinese fortune-telling systems like Ba Zhi (4 pilliars), Chinese Zodiac (Chinese Horoscope), Feng Shui, Date Selection (Feng Shui Calendar, Feng Shui Almanac), Chinese Astrology, etc
The Sexagenary calendar system is calculated by combining the Ten Heavenly Stems (pinyin: Shi Tian Gan) and the Twelve Earthly Branches (pinyin: Shi Er Di Zhi; aka: the 12 horoscope/zodiac). These two sets of terms were used to count years (months) of the civil calendar. Combining the series form a greater cycle of 60 terms, as the least common multiple of 10 and 12 is 60. The first term is formed by adding the first stem to the first branch, then the second stem to the second branch, and so on. You start with Jia Zi (Wood Rat), and the 61st year would also be Jia Zi (Wood Rat) year again.
This counting system use things of nature (the Stems: the five elements) and animals (Branches, aka zodiac) creating many legends and myths, and the people of East Asia (China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, etc) today still analyze the good and bad luck of certain days and years using this system.
The 1st day of a new year in the Sexagenary cycle is the Spring Equinox (pinyin: Li Chun) which normally falls on the 4th or 5th of February every year, therefore the beginning of each zodiac year (horoscope year) should correspond to the first day of the Spring Equinox (pinyin: Li Chun), and not the lunar year.
You can check your correct zodiac (horoscope) from the pages below:
1. I have replace the Chinese text with the Pinyin (Phonic) equal because without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Chinese characters.