The twelve Shēngxiào生肖, aka 12 Symbolic Animals, they’re visualized presents of the 12 Dizhi(地支): 子(zǐ)、丑（chǒu）、寅（yín）、卯（mǎo）、辰（chén）、巳（sì）、午（wǔ）、未（wèi）、申（shēn）、酉（yǒu）、戌（xū）、亥（hài). The 12 Dizhi are symbols of ancient Chinese way for counting the years. Each Dizhi has its own meaning of explaining how nature world loops. It can be used in Year, Month and 12 Hour in one day. It belongs to the system Tiangan-dizhi天干地支,briefly called Ganzhi干支, ancient Chinese calender, which is really complicated even some Chinese are confused themselves. Therefore that English translation Chinese zodiac is actually wrong. Dizhi is irrelevant to the zodiac, and totally unrelated to western astrology. I feel it’s kind of inappropriate to call 12 Shengxiao the chinese zodiac for it sounds like shengxiao derives from zodiac(that’s what the idiot wiki said). So next time when someone says Chinese zodiac, please correct them it’s called 12 Shengxiao. The lovely illustrations are by chinese artist 萨菲珥safeier.