The Vietnamese zodiac is sacred to every Vietnamese person as they believe it will dictate their personality and fate. Besides using the Christian calendar in modern times, the Lunar Calendar is still prevalent in Vietnamese life. The major holidays and festivals in Vietnam in general, and even important personal ventures follow the Lunar Calendar. The Vietnamese zodiac is no exception. 12 animals in the zodiac correspond with 12 hours in a day and 12 months in a year. Additionally, the concept of “giáp” means a cycle of 12 years, and each year is accompanied by an animal in the Vietnamese zodiac.
An Overview of the Vietnamese Zodiac
The Vietnamese zodiac includes 12 animals arranged in a specific order: Rat, Ox (Buffalo), Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each animal will take turns representing a year, and the cycle rotates every 12 years.
While some find the Vietnamese Zodiac similar to the one in other Asian countries, Vietnam bears certain distinctions. For example, the fourth animal (Cat in Vietnam but Rabbit in others) and the eighth animal (Goat in Vietnam and China but Sheep in Korea and Japan). This is because cats and goats are more familiar to the people in Vietnam, where the climate is more suitable for the habitat of these animals.
12 Animals in the Vietnamese Zodiac
See the table below to know which animal represents your year of birth and your beloveds’ years of birth (for the sake of exploring very intriguing superstitions further in this blog)
Origin and Meaning of the Vietnamese Zodiac
Origin of the Vietnamese Zodiac
Why are the animals arranged in such an order? The most famous legend behind this arrangement is a fascinating ancient story about competition.
Legend said that the Heaven King wanted to find a way to determine the time, so he organized a race with the participation of animals. The twelve animals that first crossed the river would stand in the zodiac, correspondingly with the finish order. The Rat woke up very early and started at sunrise. Then, it accidentally encountered the Horse, Tiger, and Ox on the way to the river.
The Rat was very small and did not swim well, so it asked other larger animals to help. But the Tiger and the Horse refused; only the Ox agreed to carry the Rat across the river. When they nearly reached the other shore, the Rat jumped off the Ox, which was on the first. Then the Ox came second, and the Tiger was in the third order. The Cat was too small to fight the swift-flowing river, so it jumped on the boulders and got to the final destination on the fourth.
The 5th place is the Dragon; although it was able to fly straight across the river, it stopped to help the other animals it met on the way. The next one is the Horse. It was swiftly crossing the river, but the Snake crawled over when it nearly got to the destination, startling the Horse. So the Snake replaced the horse’s 6th position, and the Horse came on the 7th.
The God looked at the river. He saw the Goat, Monkey, and Rooster were on a raft and pushed it together, crossing the water stream. When they reached the other shore, all three decided to give up 8th place for the goat, the gentlest one in the group. Then, the next positions were for the Monkey and Rooster. The 11th was the Dog, trying to crawl into the river. The Dog was a good swimmer, but he got to his destination ultimately because he was playing in the water. The last place belonged to the Pig because it was so hungry that it stopped eating and slept before crossing the river to finish.
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Vietnamese Zodiac Meanings
In the Vietnamese belief, each animal of the zodiac has its characteristics and meaning, which symbolizes the personality and qualities of each person:
Rat: the people born in the year of the Rat are straightforward, creative, and generous with their family and friends. They are also ambitious people in life. In difficult situations, they are able to keep calm and have an intuitive perception.
Ox (Buffalo): The Ox symbolizes diligence and patience. The people of this age have progressed steadily and have persistent strength. They are very determined but stubborn.
Tiger: The people born this year get angry easily, but they can be very flexible, good at leadership, and can adapt to situations quickly.
Cat: The cat represents the gentle, talented, and ambitious people who will succeed in their education. They have patience and always wait for opportunities before action.
Dragon: the people of this age are honest and energetic but very stubborn. They are symbols of power, wealth, prosperity, and royalty.
Snake: these people are very wise. They are calm, gentle, deep, and sympathetic, but sometimes easy to get angry. They are also determined and persistent.
Horse: These people are often considered pure, noble, and wise. They are appreciated for their intelligence, strength, and generosity.
Goat: The people born in this year are usually calm, kind, and humble. But they often feel shy and reserved.
Monkey: The people of this age are usually talented and skillful, especially in money transactions. They are also cheerful, intelligent, curious, and innovative, but their talkativeness is disadvantageous.
Rooster: It symbolizes industriousness and deep thinking. People of this age are also persistent and constant.
Dog: The Dog represents fidelity. The people born in this year are reliable, kind, and faithful.
Pig: The people of this age have many valuable qualities, such as being strong, courageous, patient, and trustworthy. In addition, they are honest, altruistic, humble, and friendly people. Therefore, they often have strong social relationships.
Superstitions Related to the Vietnamese Zodiac
Compatible animals, or compatible ages, are a big part of Vietnamese Zodiac theories. Age compatibility is the basis to explain the dynamics of relationships and consider whether it is worth investing in a romantic relationship, business partner, or friendship.
Fortune Predictions of the Zodiacs
Because the cycle of the Vietnamese Zodiac is 12 years, your animal year will repeat when you are at the age of 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, etc.
It is said that you will have bad luck in these years, according to ancient superstition. The advice for these years is that you should not do great things. The ways to avoid bad luck are usually doing charity, helping other people, and wearing something compatible with your age following Feng Shui.
In addition, fortune-tellers can give predictions based on your lunar hour and date of birth. The people born in the same year but have different dates of birth still have a different destiny.
How to Calculate Your Zodiac Age – Heavenly stems and Earthly branches in the Vietnamese zodiac
First, your age is calculated based on the lunar birth year (it can be one year earlier than the solar year if your birth month is January or February).
Second, suppose you and your nephew were born in an Ox year, 1985 and 1997, respectively, for example. Although you both are Ox, your corresponding complete zodiac ages will be different since a complete zodiac age would contain not only the Ox but also an element preceding it: “At” in the case of 1985 and “Dinh” in the case of 1997.
To explain this, concerning mankind’s age, ancient Vietnamese society used Can – Chi (Heavenly Stems – Earthly Branches) to name the years. The year 1985, for instance, is At Suu (At Ox) year.
The system of Heavenly Stems includes ten elements: Canh, Tan, Nham, Quy, Giap, At, Binh, Dinh, Mau, Ky. The Earthly Branches are also the 12 Zodiac animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Cat, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. They are combined into the Sexagenary cycle, which includes 60 years.
Summary of the Vietnamese Zodiac
The Vietnamese zodiac has been important in Vietnamese astrology and folk religion. The 12 animals in the Zodiac represent Vietnamese people’s different characteristics and qualities. If you are interested in the 12 zodiac signs in Vietnam, you can buy some related gifts, such as custom patches with their patterns. For more information on the Vietnamese Zodiac or other questions, don’t hesitate to ask us!