The Snake (蛇) is one of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac and related to the Chinese calendar, as well as in related East Asian zodiacal or calendrical systems. The Year of the Snake is associated with the Earthly Branch symbol 巳.
According to one mythical legend, there is a reason for the order of the 12 animals in the 12-year cycle. The story goes that a race was held to cross a great river, and the order of the animals in the cycle was based upon their order in finishing the race. In this story, the Snake compensated for not being the best swimmer by hitching a hidden ride on the Horse's hoof, and when the Horse was just about to cross the finish line, jumping out, scaring the Horse, and thus edging it out for sixth place.
The same 12 animals are also used to symbolize the cycle of hours in the day, each being associated with a two-hour time period. The "hour" of the Snake is 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the time when the sun warms up the earth, and Snakes are said to slither out of their holes.
The reason the animal signs are referred to as "zodiacal" is that one's personality is said to be influenced by the animal sign(s) ruling the time of birth, together with elemental aspects of the animal signs within the sexegenary (60 year) cycle. Similarly, the year governed by a particular animal sign is supposed to be characterized by it, with the effects particularly strong for people who were born in a year governed by the same animal sign.
In Chinese symbology, Snakes are regarded as intelligent, but with a tendency to be somewhat unscrupulous.
List of lunar years of the Snake
- 4 February 1905 – 24 January 1906: Wood Snake
- 23 January 1917 – 10 February 1918: Fire Snake
- 10 February 1929 – 29 January 1930: Earth Snake
- 27 January 1941 – 14 February 1942: Metal Snake
- 14 February 1953 – 2 February 1954: Water Snake
- 2 February 1965 – 20 January 1966: Wood Snake
- 18 February 1977 – 6 February 1978: Fire Snake
- 6 February 1989 – 26 January 1990: Earth Snake
- 24 January 2001 – 11 February 2002: Metal Snake
- 10 February 2013 – 30 January 2014: Water Snake
- 29 January 2025 – 16 February 2026: Wood Snake
- 15 February 2037 – 3 February 2038: Fire Snake
Depictions of zodiacal Snakes either solo or in group context with the other eleven zodiacal creatures shows how they have been imagined in the calendrical context.
Terracotta zodiacal Snake from the Sui Dynasty (581-618).
- Retrieved 28 August 2012.
- Eberhard, sub "Snake (She)", p. 268
- Eberhard, Wolfram (2003 [1986 (German version 1983)]), A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought. London, New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-00228-1