Saturday, October 17, 2009

Memorising the Chinese horoscope

According to Chinese tradition, 2009 is the Year of the Ox. The City of Sydney as well as any city with a large Chinese population celebrates Chinese New Year with a big festival.

The Chinese Zodiac has a cycle of 12 years with each year having an assigned animal. Each sign represents a different personality. The Zodiac traditionally begins with the Rat, so here is the sequence starting with the rat and the corresponding years.

2008  Rat       
2009  Ox        
2010  Tiger     
2011  Rabbit    

2012  Dragon    
2013  Snake     
2014  Horse     
2015  Goat      

2016  Monkey    
2017  Rooster   
2018  Dog       
2019  Pig       

To work out your animal based on your birth year, take your birth year and continue to add 12 until the number is between 2008 and 2019.  For example if you were born in 1972, keep adding 12 and you will get 1984, 1996, then 2008. Therefore you were born in the Year of the Rat.

Asking someone for their animal sign is a useful method for deducing a person's age (to the nearest multiple of 12).  Chinese people often ask others for their animal sign to deduce who is the older among friends and acquaintances.

How to Memorise?

I wanted to memorise these twelve signs and their associated years using the memory techniques I have described in earlier articles.   First of all, what needs to be memorised?  There are two sets of information - the twelve animals in sequence, and their corresponding years.

A story could be created linking the animals together, starting in 2008. In Chinese culture, 8 is a lucky number so maybe a large pot of gold could be associated with the Rat, Dragon and Monkey since their years are multiples of 12. Converting a year to an animal would require recalling the sequence and counting the steps to find the year.

Can you devise a story starting with the Rat in the year 2008?  Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Post your story in the comments and I will write a followup article next week.

Using the Peg System

I decided to use my Peg words for the numbers 8 to 19 and associate the peg word to the animal. I have included a link at the end of  this article if you are not familar with this system. Here is the list of years and my peg word.

2008  Rat        ivy
2009  Ox         bee
2010  Tiger      toes
2011  Rabbit     tot (baby)

2012  Dragon     ton
2013  Snake      dam
2014  Horse      tyre
2015  Goat       towel

2016  Monkey     tissue
2017  Rooster    tack
2018  Dog        dove
2019  Pig        tap

Since all of the years are in the 21st century I only need to use the last two digits of the year to create a peg word.

The number 8 is lucky in Chinese tradition and a good way to remember the start year for the animal sequence. Because the information being memorised is Chinese I have added the colour red to the imagery of my associations.

2008 ivy  Rat - a rat is climbing up a red ivy plant. The ivy is entwined in the rat' stail.
2009 bee - Ox - a giant red bee is swooping down on to the ox and stinging him on the behind.
2010 toes - Tiger - large red toes are walking quietly in the jungle. The toes belong to a tiger.
2011 tot - Rabbit - a red baby is cuddling a large soft toy rabbit
2012 ton - Dragon - a red one ton weight is being blasted by the flames from a dragon's mouth
2013 dam - Snake - a giant red snake is slithering up a river valley towards the dam
2014 tyre - Horse - a large red tyre is hanging around the horse's neck
2015 towel - Goat - a red goat is chewing a large red towel, ripping it to shreds
2016 tissue - Monkey - a monkey is blowing his nose with a large red tissue
2017 tack - Rooster - a rooster has large red tacks instead of claws, as well as a red tack protruding from his beak.
2018 dove - Dog - a dog is chasing a flock of red doves, and attempting to catch one of the birds.
2019 tap -Pig - a large red tap has been turned on and a thick sludge comes out into a trough for a pig.

Let's see the system in action for someone born in 1988. What is her Chinese sign? Adding 12 gives 2000. Adding 12 again gives 2012. This is greater than 2008, and the key image is a red TON, which is being blasted by a dragon.  This person was born in the Year of the Dragon.

More information:


  1. How do Chinese people learn this information? Maybe it is just rote learning, or starting by remembering your own Animal sign?

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  2. Here's my own verion of memorizing the zodiac.

    I'll use a simple link system.

    I am born in the year of the rat. That's my starting point, 1984 to find the next rat year just add 12.

    I imagine a rat wanting to charge an ox, but instead hit the tiger who growled scaring all the bunnies (rabit) until the noise woke a grumpy dragon. The dragon coiled itself like a snake on a horses leg which neighed noisily and woke all the lambs and made them crazy, therefore they acted like a monkey, crowed like a rooster and eventually barked like a dog, until a large pig oinked at them to keep quiet. :3

    1984 + 1 1985 - year of the ox. if you memorize the zodiac in order, you'll know the year by adding or subtracting based on your own zodiac sign. :3

    Hope this helps. P.s. comment on my comment.

  3. Kris .. I like your story as it is very concise. I tend to make my stories more elaborate to make the key images more memorable. I would be a bit concerned I would jumble the sequence near the end of your story.

    Thanks for your comment.

  4. Honestly I memorize that I can recite it all without looking.

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  5. This is what I was looking for from last week. Great work done. :)

    chinese zodiac


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