Junishi (Twelve earthly signs of Chinese Zodiac)

What is Junishi?

It is said that the origin of Junishi (the twelve earthly signs / 十二支) derives from the fact that, in the Yin dynasty of China, Wang Chong (王充) had written the literature, assigning familiar animals in order to make it easier to remember the number of words that count the years.

In the Yin dynasty, there are already the ten numerals to count the sun, and they are called “jikkan” (the ten Heavenly Stems / 十干). Later, they came to be used in combination with Junishi.

Junishi and Jikkan

[Junishi (the twelve earthly signs / 十二支) ]
Rat (子/ ne), Cow (丑 / ushi), Tiger (寅 / tora), Rabbit (卯 / u), Dragon (辰 / tatsu), Snake (巳 / mi), Horse (午 / uma), Sheep (未 / hituji), Monkey (申 / saru), Rooster (酉 / tori), Dog (戌 / inu), Boar (亥 / i)

[Jikkan (the ten Heavenly Stems / 十干)]
Kou ( 甲 / Kinoe), Otsu (乙 / Kinoto), Hei (丙 / Hinoe), Tei (丁 / Hinoto) , Bo (戊 / Tsuchinoe), Ki (己 / Tsuchinoto), Kou (庚 / Kanoe), Shin (辛 / Kanoto), Jin (壬 / Mizunoe), Ki (癸 / Mizunoto)

Folklore

Junishi (the twelve earthly signs / 十二支) was transmitted to Japan around the 6th century, and spread to the people as folklore with easy-to-understand animals.

Asian countries, especially China, have folk tales about Junishi. In Tibet and Thailand, cats are in Junishi.

The following folklore has been transmitted to Japan.

Once upon a time, at the end of some unknown year, God issued a royal proclamation to the animals as follows.

“Come out for the New Year greetings on New Year’s Day. The first 12 different types of animals to arrive will take turns being the general for the year.”

The animals were waiting for the New Year, as they were the first and foremost. However, the cat forgot when to go to God, so the cat asked the rat. Intentionally the rat taught the cat a day that was one day later. The cat believed in what the rat said and returned home happily.

Well, on New Year’s Day, the cow started preparing in the middle of the night saying, “I am a slow walker, so I should leave early,” and left in the dark. The rat who was watching from the ceiling of the cowshed jumped onto the back of the cow.

Such a thing has never been known, and no one had yet come when the cow approached the palace of God. The gate opened while the cow was most happy to wait outside. Then the rat jumped from the back of the cow and ran through the gate to become the first of the animal generals.

Thus, the cow scored the second in line followed by the tiger, the rabbit, the dragon, the snake, the horse, the sheep, the monkey, the rooster, the dog, and the boar in that order.

Because the cat was late by one day, it could not become a Junishi general.
Therefore, to this day cats hate rats and still chase after them.

Anime of Junishi on YouTube

 

THE STORY OF THE ZODIAC (ENGLISH) Animation of Japanese Traditional Stories

Characteristics and the honzon (principal image of Buddha) of Junishi

Junishi animals have each honzon (principal image). The honson (principal image) protects Junishi. It is said that casting a shingon (mantra) will bring you benefits. The details will be introduced on the “Sanskrit & Buddha” page.

Twelve branches have their assigned time zone, direction, and month.
In the Edo period, Twelve branches was used to represent time, such as a “Ne no koku” (rat’s clock).

Also we introduce the five elements and Yin-Yang assigned to Twelve branches.
The five elements are the philosophical thought of ancient China that is the basis of the Feng Shui idea, and it is the idea that everything is made up of “wood” “fire” “earth” “metal” “water”.

RatCowTigerRabbitDragonSnakeHorseSheepMonkeyRoosterDogBoar

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the rat : Senju Kannon (Thousand-Armed Avalokiteshwara)
Source: Kyoto, Myohouin Sanjusangendo [National Treasure]

[子 / Ne (Rat / 鼠 Nezumi)] Energy & wealth
Rats have the meaning of prosperity of their offspring, since they will soon grow and grow.


Time, direction, moon: 23:00 – 1:00 / North / November
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Water, Yang (Positive / 陽)
Born year: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the cow : Kokuzo Bosatsu (Akasagarbha Bodhisattva)

Source: Gifu, Itoshirotaishido [Important Cultural Property]

[丑 / Ushi (Cow / 牛 Ushi)] Persistence & honesty
Meat is an important food, power is labor, bone is an important material for engraving letters, and supports society.

bonji-taraku-cow
Time, direction, moon: 1:00 – 3:00 / North-notheast / December
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Earth, Yin (Negative / 陰)
Born year: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the tiger : Kokuzo Bosatsu (Akasagarbha Bodhisattva)

Source: Gifu, Itoshirotaishido [Important Cultural Property]

[寅 / Tora (Tiger / 虎 Tora)] Decisiveness & wisdom
The tiger was considered to be a shining star in the night sky because of the beautiful pattern of the fur on the body.



Time, direction, moon: 3:00 – 5:00 / East-northeast January
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Wood, Yang (Positive / 陽)
Born year: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the rabbit : Monju Bosatsu (Budhisattva)

Source: Nara / Kofukuji Temple /
[National Treasure] sitting statue of Monju Bosatsu

[卯 / U (Rabbit / 兎 Usagi)] Warm & obedient
The calm appearance of the rabbit represents the peace of the house and the leap from the jumping figure.



Time, direction, moon: 5:00 – 7:00 / East / February
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Wood, Yin (Negative / 陰)
Born year: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the dragon : Fugen Bosatsu (Budhisattva)

Source: Tokyo, Okura Shukokan / [National Treasure] statue of Fugen Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) riding on an elephant

[辰 / Tatsu (Dragon / 龍 Tatsu)] Sense of justice & trust
Dragon, a legendary creature, is said to be the good omen, and since ancient times in China it has been regarded as a symbol of power.


Time, direction, moon: 7:00 – 9:00 / East-southeast / March
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Earth, Yang (Positive / 陽)
Born year: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the dragon : Fugen Bosatsu (Budhisattva)

Source: Tokyo, Okura Shukokan / [National Treasure] statue of Fugen Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) riding on an elephant

[巳 / Mi (Snake / 蛇 Hebi)] Inquiring mind & passion
It is said that the snake is obstinate, but it is said that the snake will give back to those who helped.


Time, direction, moon: 9:00 – 11:00 / South-southeast / April
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Fire, Yin (Negative / 陰)
Born year: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the horse : Seishi Bosatsu (Seishi Bodhisattva)

Source: Osaka, Ai Dainenji

[午 / Uma (Horse / 馬 Uma) ] Cheerful & flashy
Horses are old animals that have a long relationship with people. It was helpful for people, and humans also treated horses carefully.


Time, direction, moon: 11:00 -13:00 / South / May
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Fire, Yang (Positive / 陽)
Born year: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966 , 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the sheep : Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana)

Source: Aomori, Seiryuji Temple / Wikipedia / Showa Daibutsu

[未 / Hitsuji (Sheep / 羊 Hitsuji)] Calm & humanly
The flocking sheep show the security of the family and mean to live in peace forever.


Time, direction, moon: 13時 ~ 15時/南西微南/6月
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Earth, Yin (Negative / 陰)
Born year: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

Patron deity deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the monkey : Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana)

Source: Aomori, Seiryuji Temple / Wikipedia / Showa Daibutsu

[申 / Saru (Monkey / 猿 Saru)] Skillful & flexible
The monkey was a wise animal in the mountain and believed to be a messenger of Yamagami (mountain god). It is a familiar animal even as a target of faith.


Time, direction, moon: 15:00 -17:00 / West-southwest /July
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Metal, Yang (Positive / 陽)
Born year: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the Rooster : Fudo Myoo (Acala – one of the five Kings of Wisdom)

Source: Tokyo, Takabatasan Kongouji Temple

[酉 / Tori (Roosker / 鶏 Tori)] Kind & caring
“Tori” is said to be “tori-komu (take-in)”, and is considered to be good for business.


Time, direction, moon: 17:00 -19:00 / West / August
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Metal, Yin (Negative / 陰)
Born year: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005,2017, 2029

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the dog : Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)

Source: Kotokuin, Kamakura Daibutsu / [National Treasure] bronze sitting statue of Amida Nyorai

[戌 / Inu (Dog / 犬 Inu)] Diligence & hardworking
Dogs are social and faithful. Dogs are old and friendly animals that are associated with people.


Time, direction, moon: 19:00 – 21:00 / West-northwest / September
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Metal, Yang (Positive / 陽)
Born year: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030

Patron deity of People Born in Zodiac Year of the boar : Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata)

Source: Kotokuin, Kamakura Daibutsu / [National Treasure] bronze sitting statue of Amida Nyorai

[亥 / I (Boar / 猪 Inoshishi)] Courage & adventure
Boar meat is said to prevent all disease and is considered to be a symbol of disease-free disease.


Time, direction, moon: 21:00 – 23:00 / North-northwest / October
Yin-Yang (the cosmic dual forces), the five element: Water, Yin (Negative / 陰)
Born year: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Eto and “Toshi-otoko” “Toshi-onna”

Pat
Pat

Once in 12 years, the zodiac year of my birth comes around. Is there anything good that year?

Yuko
Yuko

It is said that the year of the same zodiac as the year of birth is a lucky year in which the blessing of the patron deity is given.

Pat
Pat

Great, the year of the zodiac in own birth is lucky! Is there related with the terms “Toshi-otoko” and “Toshi-onna” that we often hear during New Year?

Yuko
Yuko

Men or women born in the year current under the twelve-year cycle of the Oriental zodiac are called “Toshi-otoko”for men and “Toshi-onnna” for women. A chance to get great luck once in 12 years may come!

Pat
Pat

So, are “Toshi-otoko” and “Toshi-onna” in 2021 men and women born in the year of the cow?

Yuko
Yuko

Yes! Eto of 2021 is “Kanoto (辛) no ushi (丑 = cow)”, the year of the cow. By the way, in the year of the cow, the blessing of Kokuzo Bosatsu (Akasagarbha Bodhisattva) as the patron is given.

Pat
Pat

In 2021, it would be nice to visit the temple where Kokuzo Bosatsu  (Akasagarbha Bodhisattva) is enshrined!

Mukai eto (Opposite signs)

The sign that is seven years ahead of your sign is called “Mukai eto (opposition sign).” From the Edo period in Japan, there is a legend that good luck comes when you collect items from the opposite sign.

In addition, in human relations, it is said that affinity with the opposite sign is good.

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