The Chinese horoscope years are named after the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, which include the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, monkey and dragon. Other animals included in the Chinese Zodiac are the snake, horse, ram, chicken, dog and pig. The Chinese horoscope years are associated with a myth wherein all of the animals associated with the year were invited to a banquet by the Jade Emperor, who is the mythical ruler of earth and heaven.
The myth states that all 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac attended the banquet where an impressed Jade Emperor decided to name years after each animal in the order of their arrival. The myth also includes the cat who missed out on the banquet and was therefore excluded from the Chinese Zodiac cycle. People born under specific Chinese Zodiac years are generally assigned characteristics that are derived from the system's origin myth.
The Chinese Zodiac cycle operates over 12 years and follows the Chinese lunar calendar. According to this calendar, the beginning of the year is generally considered to be the day of the second new moon that comes after the winter solstice. The Chinese New Year day also marks the transition between one Chinese zodiac year and the next.