For those who do not celebrate it, this is the year of the rabbit. The Chinese Zodiac, or Sheng Xiao (生肖) comes in a 12 year cycle, each year representing a different animal. Apart from the mythical Dragon, all others are actual animals that most people will be familiar with.
I am not one to believe in Zodiac, but did you know that the Chinese zodiac is also used to label times of day, with each animal corresponding to a Chinese unit of time called Shi Chen (時辰)? There are 12 Shi Chen in a day, making each Shi Chen a 2 hour slot.
23:00 ~ 1:00 is called Zishi and belongs to the first zodiac, the Rat. This is the time when Rats are most active in seeking food.
01:00 ~ 03:00, named Choushi belongs to the Ox. This is the time when Oxen begin to crush their food, regurgitating them to the mouth slowly.
03:00 ~ 05:00 is Yinshi, and this belongs to the Tiger. This is the time when Tigers hurt their prey more and show their ferocity.
05:00 ~ 07:00 named Maoshi, belongs to the Rabbit. This is the time when rabbits come out to eat tender, dewy grass. According to Chinese legend, this is also the time when the Jade Rabbit is busy pounding herbal medicine on the Moon.
07:00 ~ 09:00 named Chenshi is this is the time when Dragons are hovering in the sky to give rain.
09:00 ~ 11:00, or Sishi belongs to the Snake. This is the time when Snakes are leaving their caves.
11:00 ~ 13:00, or Wushi is most familar to most of us. This is the time when the sun is high above and other animals are lying down for a rest, while the Horses are still standing. Hence this hour belongs to the Horse. Some also say that this is the time
13:00 ~ 15:00 named Weishi, is the time when the Sheep is being let out to graze.
15:00 ~ 17:00 is called Shenshi and this belongs to the Monkey. This is the time when the Monkeys are lively.
17:00 ~ 19:00 named Youshi, This is the time when Roosters begin to go back to their coops.
19:00 ~ 21:00, or Xushi, belongs to the Dog. This is the time when Dogs begin to carry out their duty of guarding the houses.
21:00 ~ 23:00 named Haishi, is Pigs are sleeping sweetly.
See this website for more details
So the next time you come across people saying the Chinese Zodiac signs in order, with 2 characters instead of 1 - "子鼠、丑牛、寅虎、卯兔、辰龙、巳蛇、午马、未羊、申猴、酉鸡、戌狗、亥猪" - You know what first character to each zodiac means.
Picture from here