The Chinese zodiac calendar - known as Sheng Xiao - is divided into 12 cycles. Each cycle lasts 12 months and each cycle is represented by one animal. 2013 is the Year of the Snake and the Snake is the sixth symbol in the Chinese zodiac. The Snake is characterised as a mixture of intelligence, grace and greed.
Good Year, Bad Year?
Dong Yilin, a traditional fortune teller in the Chinese capital of Beijing, told The Telegraph 2013 would be neither lucky nor unlucky... neither good nor bad: "2013 is the Year of the Snake. For people who were born under this Chinese zodiac sign we cannot predict a very auspicious year or a year of bad fortune."
"This sign is perceived as a bit negative. Perhaps because snakes like to be in the water or in the mud, people normally do not view it as a very auspicious sign. Another reason is that it has poison and can harm people," the fortune teller continued.
Chinese Astrology on People Born in Year of Snake
Traditional Chinese astrology believes the presence of an individual born to the Snake zodiac sign, in any household, is an auspicious omen. The Chinese zodiac year - which extends up to 30 January, 2014 in this rotation - describes the Snake as a good omen; one reading is that it means nobody will ever go hungry. Overall, people born in the Year of the Snake are considered lucky.
In addition, Snake signed people are believed to be intelligent (but materialistic) and blessed with a graceful personality. They are keen analysts of any situation and compulsive achievers. Their materialistic nature also keeps them surrounded by luxury.
Unfortunately, the ancient scrolls dictate bad news as far as the individual's health is concerned. It is believed the individual's mental health may suffer this year. A stressful year is predicted, with far too much noise all around... leading to anxiety and tension.
Finally, Snake people are believed to have a preference for bitter tastes, the summer, colours like red and green, and rice and lamb. The designated birthstones are jasper, topaz and bloodstone.
The Legend of the Snake
Chinese mythology considers the snake a powerful creature. A popular myth says being close to a person of this particular zodiac brings renewed energy to one's life.
The Snake is associated with the element of fire (Chinese mythology has five primary alchemical elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water), and is therefore believed to generate positive feelings of light, warmth and comfort. However, like fire, it is also associated with the negative quality of burning when treated without respect.
Snakes are also associated with karmic signs and Chinese astrology says that karmic problems are common among people born under this zodiac. Therefore, people must try and strike a balance between their emotions and actions to avoid problems with Karma.
Business ventures started by people of the Snake zodiac will usually be rewarded in the form of financial perks and recognition. However, the fact such people often display a lack of concentration may lead to fatigue and job hopping. The best career options for those born in this sign are: astrologer, scientist, painter, sociologist, jeweller and dietician.
Animal signs compatible with Snakes, according to Chinese astrology, are the ox and the rooster. The Snake is incompatible with the monkey and the pig.
Famous female Snakes include: Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Hurley, Audrey Hepburn, Liv Tyler, Jacqueline Kennedy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Grace Kelly, Oprah Winfrey and Linda McCartney. Famous male snakes: Bob Dylan, Art Garfunkel, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum, Brad Pitt, Mike Oldfield.
Scroll down for our selection of pictures of the Beijing celebrations marking the beginning of the New Year