Japanese Zodiac WheelJapanese Zodiac Wheel


Steps-To-Japanese-Traditional-Dance      There are primarily two types of Japanese traditional dance forms and they are Odori, which originated in the Edo period, and Mai, which originated in the western part of Japan. Odori has grown out of Kabuki drama and concentrates on male sentiments while Mai is performed in rooms and not on the stage. More..


Japanese Zodiac Wheel


The Japanese Zodiac wheel is a system that uses 12 animal signs to represent each year. These animals are known as the Earthly Branches or Heavenly Stems, which was used by the Chinese as a numbering system from the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC - 1046 BC). Each animal has its unique set of qualities and depending on the year an individual is born in they are thought to possess those qualitites. The Japanese zodiac is based on the Chinese zodiac and linked to representing the personalities of an individual and used as a Chinese agricultural calendar by farmers during planting and harvesting. The zodiac combined elements of Chinese astronomy, calendars, and philosophies. The Zodiac is used as a method of tracking each lunar year as opposed to solar year and the hours of the day. When you look at the wheel you want to start with the first animal of the first year which is the rat and when you follow it clockwise you will look at the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep (ram), monkey, rooster, dog, and big (boar). Although the western world has largely adopted the Gregorian calendar it is still widely used in East Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea. Even in western culture there is a a different Zodiac used. It is based on 12 symbols, but it does not use animals and are based on Greek symbols and tied to constellations spanning the sky. Also the Western Zodiac is based on months and not years like the Japanese Zodiac.

The development of the Japanese Zodiac is based on astronomy which was popularized during the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 AD). By incorporating astronomy into the Zodiac people say it can predict a person's life using the positioning of the planets, sun, birthdate, birth time, and Zodiac sign. The 12 animal signs of the Zodiac is associated to a year and was aligned with the orbit of Jupiter around our sun. Jupiter has an orbital period of 11.85920 yr. Chinese astronomers rounded that value to 12 years and divided the Zodiac wheel into 12 sections representing an animal. There are frankly far too many stories and tales to how the 12 animal signs were selected to be forever embodied in the Zodiac symbol. One story talks about the Jade Emperor, who is associated with Taoism and is the ruler of Heaven requested his servant the rat to plan a banquet and invite the remaining 11 animals. The is supposed to be a cat involved, but the cunning and intelligent rat tricked the cat into thinking the banquet was the following day. The cat misses the banquet and the Jade Emperor does not honor it by granting a place on the Zodiac. From that day forth the cat vows to remain the enemy of the rat. Another story that comes from Buddhism says that Bodhidharma asks all the animals of the world to come wish him well before he ascends into the heavens as a God. On that day only 12 animals came and Bodhidharma displayed his gratitude for their committment and assigned a year to each of the animals in the order in which they arrived.

The animals did not become part of the Zodiac cycle until late in the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD). Others assert that the animal symbols came about even as early as the Qin dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC) when information was exchanged by Indian Buddhist pilgrims on the Silk from India. Road During this century is when Japan adopted a lot from Chinese culture and the Japanese Zodiac was used as a calendar. It was not until Buddhism was officially introduced to Japan in 552 AD did Japan also adopt the Zodiac wheel. The opening of the Silk Road in 200 BC helped to bridge culture and trade exchange between Central Asia and Asia. The Sotra Clan was a significant player in spreading the Zodiac wheel throuhout Japan. The Zodiac calendar was given a new name of Kanshi and the 12 animal symbols from the Zodiac were called Jūni Shi. The animal symbols were assocaited to protective deities and as you visit the many Buddhist temples throughout Japan you will notice these dieties positioned in guard posts around the temple perimeter. Make sure you stop by the temple souvenir shops as proceeds will go to supporting the temple operations and support the Buddhist monks.

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Japanese Zodiac Wheel

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