"There is a Chinese riddle that goes, "Each person has one, each family has several, and the whole world has only twelve." Many people are confused by this riddle; the answer being the twelve animals to represent a person's birth year, and each person belongs to one of the animal signs or shengxiao. These signs include the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the pig...The meaning of each sign serves as an analogy for the person born to that sign. This method of dividing time into birth years is characteristic of the Chinese, and is comparable to Western astrology's twelve signs of the zodiac. It demonstrates the aspirations of the Chinese ancients to become one with creation, pursuing the integration of man with the heavens and with the natural world."
Nguyen Van Nghi.