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The snake (蛇) is the sixth of the twelve-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The Year of the Snake is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 巳.
According to one legend, there is a reason for the order of the animals in the cycle. The story goes that a race was held to cross a great river, and the order of the animals in the cycle was based upon their order in finishing the race. In this story, the snake compensated for not being the best swimmer by hitching a hidden ride on the Horse's hoof, and when the horse was just about to cross the finish line, jumping out, scaring the horse, and thus edging it out for sixth place.
The same twelve animals are also used to symbolize the cycle of hours in the day, each being associated with a two-hour time period. The hour of the snake is 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the time when the Sun warms up the Earth, and snakes are said to slither out of their holes. The month of the snake is the 4th month of the Chinese lunar calendar and it usually falls within the months of May through June depending on the Chinese to Gregorian calendar conversion. Although the snake is the Eastern equivalent of the Virgo sign, the month of the snake may not always neatly correspond with the Virgo sign beginning and ending dates.
The reason the animal signs are referred to as zodiacal is that one's personality is said to be influenced by the animal signs ruling the time of birth, together with elemental aspects of the animal signs within the sexagenary cycle. Similarly, the year governed by a particular animal sign is supposed to be characterized by it, with the effects particularly strong for people who were born in any year governed by the same animal sign.
In Chinese symbology, snakes are regarded as intelligent, with a tendency to lack scruples.
Years and elements
People born within these date ranges can be said to have been born in the "Year of the Snake", while also bearing the following elemental sign:
|Start date||End date||Heavenly branch|
|10 February 1929||29 January 1930||Earth Snake|
|27 January 1941||14 February 1942||Metal Snake|
|14 February 1953||2 February 1954||Water Snake|
|2 February 1965||20 January 1966||Wood Snake|
|18 February 1977||6 February 1978||Fire Snake|
|6 February 1989||26 January 1990||Earth Snake|
|24 January 2001||11 February 2002||Metal Snake|
|10 February 2013||30 January 2014||Water Snake|
|29 January 2025||16 February 2026||Wood Snake|
|15 February 2037||3 February 2038||Fire Snake|
|2 February 2049||22 January 2050||Earth Snake|
|21 January 2061||8 February 2062||Metal Snake|
|7 February 2073||26 January 2074||Water Snake|
|26 January 2085||13 February 2086||Wood Snake|
|12 February 2097||31 January 2098||Fire Snake|
In Japan, the new sign of the zodiac starts on 1 January, while in China it starts, according to the traditional Chinese calendar, at the new moon that falls between 21 January and 20 February, so that persons born in January or February may have two different signs in the two countries.
Basic astrological associations
|Lucky numbers:||2, 8, 9|
|Lucky flowers:||Orchid, cactus|
|Lucky colors:||Red, light yellow, black; Avoid: white, golden, brown|
The snake is the sixth of the twelve signs and belongs to the second trine, with the ox (second sign, 牛, Earthly branch: 丑) and the rooster (tenth sign, 雞/鷄 [simplified Chinese: 鸡], Earthly branch: 酉), with which it is most compatible. The pig is the most incompatible.
Depictions of zodiacal snakes, alone or with the other eleven signs, show how they have been imagined in the calendrical context.
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