The Chinese animal zodiac, or shengxiao (born resembling), is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Traditionally these zodiac animals were used to date the years.
It is said Buddha (the ultimate Emperor for the whole universe in Chinese legend) once called together all the animals on the earth for an important meeting. Only twelve animals turned up: the rat, the ox, the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog and the pig. The rat, being the smartest, jumped on top of the ox to be the first one to arrive.
As a reward, the Buddha gave each animal a year in the cycle and declared that anyone born in that year would resemble the animal in some way. In addition, each two hours of the day is also governed by one animal. The hours of 11pm to 1:00 am is by Rat, from 1 am to 3 am by Ox and so on.
The Zodiac is Only One of China’s Fortune Prediction Methods
To make a relatively correct Chinese fortune prediction, people take many methods into consideration, such as face characteristics, palmistry, and more involved Chinese astrology including birth month, day, and hour, gender, etc.
Zodiac fortune prediction by birth year is only one of these methods. So you may only take Chinese zodiac birth sign horoscopes as a general reference.