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Art, Astrology & Zodiac Animals

April 11, 2019 3 min read

Adapted from my talk on the subject

Tibetan astrology borrows from Hindu constructs as well as Chinese constructs.

Through artworks, let us explore the Chinese astrological model with its 12 Zodiac animals that was introduced by Emperor Huang in 2637 BC and adopted extensively in Tibet & other Buddhist regions like Mongolia.

In this model, a complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of 5 smaller cycles of 12 years each. Each of these years in the 12 year cycle is associated with a unique zodiac animal.

According to a legend Lord buddha summoned all the animals when he was ready to depart from the earth.

Antique Tibetan Zodiac Manuscript

Wovensouls Collection – Asset #1376

Only 12 came to bid him farewell. As a reward he named a year after each of these animals in the order of their arrival.

According to this model, the animal that rules the year in which an individual is born, exercises a profound influence on the life of the individual.

Click to view slideshow.

The zodiac animals are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog & boar.

Antique Buddhist Manuscript of Zodiac Animals

But we have to be careful not to transfer our English-language associations with the animals in the Tibetan zodiac. Calling someone a pig in English is not exactly flattering but in the Tibetan zodiac the associations are completely different.

As per Chinese astrology the year of my birth is he year of the Snake.

Click to view slideshow.

Had I been born the following year I would have been born in the year of the horse. And if I were born 12 years later in 1977, I’d be a snake again.

So how does this matter?

Is it all just nomenclature?

Not in this system

In this model, the birth year is a predictor of the characteristics of the individual.

And in my personal experience these predictions are so astonishingly accurate that even a cynic like myself is forced to acknowledge the beauty of the model.

Take a look at this chart – that tells you your zodiac animal.


Once we know the animal we can look into the character description for each animal that is also offered by the model. Further, this calendar also predicts the relationships that the individual will have with people born in other animal-zodiac years.  And the birth year zodiac has unique fortunes in the each of the other years in the cycle. So the snake’s fortunes in a the year of the dog are different from his fortunes in the year of the pig.

So, for those of us who wonder what there is to celebrate in the onset of the new year on Jan 1st of any year this astrological model offers a a detailed forecast of the change of fortune to be expected in every new year!

The first edition of the book by Theodora Lau on this subject is easily the best there is – but for starters there is enough on the internet to whet the appetite!

This model has given us many hours of interesting conversations – so do explore it!

See also the note on ‘Thai Zodiac Calendars’ showing prints from Jim Thompson’s personal collection.



April 2019


* The colored calendar is a Sidpaho Thangka – Asset 1228  and the manuscript is Asset 1376



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