The Chinese animal zodiac, or shengxiao (/shnng-sshyaoww/ ‘born resembling’), is a repeating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes. Traditionally these zodiac animals were used to date the years.
In order, the 12 animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.
Your Chinese Zodiac sign is derived from your birth year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. See the years of each animal below or use the calculator on the right to determine your own sign.
Those born in January and February take care: Chinese (Lunar) New Year moves between 21 January and February 20. If you were born in January or February, check whether your birth date falls before or after Chinese New Year to know what your Chinese zodiac year is.
People born in a certain animal year are believed to have attributes of that animal, which could either help or hinder a relationship. An important use of the Chinese Zodiac is to determine if (the signs of) two people are compatible, in a romantic relationship or any kind of relationship.
Take our online test on the right and find how suitable you and your partner are. See our Chinese Zodiac Love Compatibility Charts
As the Chinese zodiac recurs every 12 years, your animal year will come around when you are 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, etc.
According to ancient Chinese superstition, in your birth sign year, he will offend the God of Age, and will have bad luck during that year. The best way to avoid bad luck during this year is by wearing something red given by an elder (relative), such as socks, a neck cord, underwear, a waistband, a bracelet, or an anklet.
Read more on How to be Lucky in Your Zodiac Year.
There are two dates a Chinese zodiac year could be said to start on, and neither is January 1! China traditionally uses two calendars: the solar calendar and the lunar calendar.
The traditional solar calendar has 24 fifteen-day solar terms, and the first, called ‘Start of Spring’, falls on February 4 (or 5).
The lunar calendar has 12 or 13 months and starts on Chinese New Year, which is somewhere in the period January 21 to February 20.
Most Chinese people use lunar New Year as the start of the zodiac year. But for fortune telling and astrology, people believe ‘Start of Spring’ is the beginning of the zodiac year.
The 12 animals were chosen deliberately, after many revisions. The zodiac animals are either closely related to ancient Chinese people’s daily lives, or have lucky meanings.
The ox, horse, goat, rooster, pig, and dog are six of the main domestic animals raised by Chinese people. The other six animals: rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, and monkey are all loved by the Chinese people.
The 12 Chinese Zodiac animals are in a fixed order according to Chinese Yin and Yang Theory and perceived attributes.
The yin or the yang of the animals is defined based on the odd or even number of their claws (or toes, hoofs). The animals are then arranged in an alternating (complementary) yin-yang sequence.
Usually an animal has is the same number of claws on its front and rear legs. However the rat has four toes on its fore legs and five on its hind legs. As the old saying goes, “a thing is valued in proportion to its rarity”, so the Rat ranks first of the 12 zodiac animals. It uniquely combines the attributes of odd (yang) and even (yin). 4+5=9, and yang is dominant, so the Rat is classified as odd (yang) overall.
|Zodiac Animal||Toes Per Limb||Odd/Even||Yin/Yang|
|Rat||4 front; 5 back||(even and) odd||(yin and) yang|
Each animal has symbolic meanings given to it by the ancient Chinese. These animal attributes comes in six contrasting pairs that must be harmonized, like yin and yang, and are the primary factor governing the order of the zodiac. (Presumably the attributes most valued by ancient Chinese are first and so on.) The strong yang attribute comes first, then the balancing yin attribute.
|Rat||Wisdom||Wisdom without industriousness leads to triviality.|
|Ox||Industriousness||Industriousness without wisdom leads to futility.|
|Tiger||Valor||Valor without caution leads to recklessness.|
|Rabbit||Caution||Caution without valor leads to cowardice.|
|Dragon||Strength||Strength without flexibility leads to fracture.|
|Snake||Flexibility||Flexibility without strength leads to compromise.|
|Horse||Forging ahead||Forging ahead without unity leads to abandonment.|
|Goat||Unity||Unity without forging ahead leads to stagnation.|
|Monkey||Changability||Changability without being constant leads to foolishness.|
|Rooster||Being constant||Being constant without changability leads to woodeness.|
|Dog||Fidelity||Fidelity without amiability leads to rejection.|
It is widely known that each year is associated with a Chinese zodiac animal, but in Chinese culture the 12 zodiac animals are also associated with hours of a day.
In ancient times, in order to tell the time, people divided a day into twelve 2-hour periods, and designated an animal to represent each period, according to each animal’s “special time”.
According to Chinese astrology, though not popularly used, a person’s personality and life is more decided by his/her birth hour than year. The zodiac hour is widely used for character and destiny analysis.