The ancient Chinese time system & correlation with the zodiac

Why each animal is paired with their respective two-hour time slot (moving clockwise):

– Rats are the most bold and have the highest degree of activity. Thus the zi (子) hour (2300 – 0100) is named for them. 

This marks the beginning of the day and is in the midnight location on the diagram. Hence this hour is also called midnight.

– Cows have grazed their full by the chou hour and can take their time chewing slowly, finely, and comfortably through everything they’ve eaten. 

This hour is known as the hungry chicken if a rooster crows before dawn. This is said to be a sign of impending war.

– Tigers are the most active and ferocious at the yin hour. This is also when most people are injured by attacks from the big cat. This is when night and morning begin to make their handoff.

– Rabbits are paired with the mao (卯) hour because the radiance from the moon has yet to fully fade away at this time. The moon is also given the moniker of the jade rabbit sometimes, and is the only animal in the Moon Palace.

Also named rising sun, the sun has just shone its face at this time. ^ We’re now at what would be 3 o’clock on a traditional clock.

Morning arrives at the chen hour, when the legends say that Dragons make it rain. Also known as the breakfast hour, this is when the first meal of the day should be taken.

– Snakes apparently don’t attack during the si hour, nor are they out and about. They mostly stay hidden in the bushes, so the hour belongs to the snake.

According to daoists, Horses are the only animals that remain standing during the wu hour. This is also when yang energy is at its peak, while yin energy begins to accumulate. Most animals nap when yang switches over to yin, except the horse.

– Sheeps apparently urinate the most during the mo hour, and it is said that a sheep’s pee can cure itself of certain convulsions.

Also known as the sunfall hour, as this is when the sun begins its descent to the west. ^ We’re now at what would be 6 o’clock on a traditional clock.

– Monkeys love kicking up a fuss the most during the shen hour. Their calls are the longest and loudest during this time.

– Roosters start making their way back into their cages and settle down for the night during the you hour. This is when night falls. 

Night has truly fallen during the xu hour. Dogs look after the home and are most alert at night. They have a particular sense of sight and hearing that makes them the most perceptive in the darkness.

– Pigs are fast asleep during the hai (亥) hour, and their snores the loudest. Their body shakes all over when they snore. Also known as the hour of stillness, or rest, when humans stop their activities and go to sleep.


FELLOW TRANSLATORS please feel free to reach out for a non-watermarked copy for personal use. I just didn’t want this to end up everywhere on the interwebz. More translator references are available through the resources tab!