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.

The 12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

In order, the 12 animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

Why These 12 Animals?

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 symbolic lucky meanings. 

The ox, horse, goat, rooster, pig, and dog are six of the main domestic animals raised by Chinese people. A traditional saying including the phrase ‘the prosperity of the six domestic animals’ symbolizes a thriving family, so these six animals were selected.

The other six animals: rat, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, and monkey are all loved by the Chinese people. The dragon is a legendary animal with the symbolic meanings of good luck and power in Chinese culture. 

Why in That Order?

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.
The yin/yang of the other zodiac animals is determined as follows.

Yin and Yang of Chinese zodiac animals

The Symbolic Meanings of the 12 Animal Signs

Each animal holds symbolic meanings and conceptions attributed by ancient Chinese people. 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.

Zodiac AnimalAttributeSaying
RatWisdomWisdom without industriousness leads to triviality.
OxIndustriousnessIndustriousness without wisdom leads to futility.
TigerValorValor without caution leads to recklessness.
RabbitCautionCaution without valor leads to cowardice.
DragonStrengthStrength without flexibility leads to fracture.
SnakeFlexibilityFlexibility without strength leads to compromise.
HorseForging aheadForging ahead without unity leads to abandonment.
GoatUnityUnity without forging ahead leads to stagnation.
MonkeyChangeabilityChangeability without being constant leads to foolishness.
RoosterBeing constantBeing constant without changeability leads to woodenness.
DogFidelityFidelity without amiability leads to rejection.
PigAmiabilityAmiability without fidelity leads to immorality.

Chinese Zodiac Calculator – What Is Your Chinese Zodiac Sign?

Your Chinese Zodiac sign is derived from your birth year, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Those born in January and February take care: Chinese New Year moves between 21 January and February 20.

The twelve animal signs each represent different types of personalities. The following are the twelve signs in their year-by-year cycle. Use the calculator on the left to determine your own sign.

Chinese Zodiac Years and Animals

Find your birth year below for your Chinese zodiac animal. 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.

  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962
  • Rabbite: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966
  • Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Chinese Zodiac Hours

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, 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.

RatOxTigerRabbitDragonSnakeHorseGoatMonkeyRoosterDogPig
11pm1am3am5am7am9am11am1pm3pm5pm7pm9pm
totototototototototototo
1am3am5am7am9am11am1pm3pm5pm7pm9pm11pm

Chinese Zodiac Animal Love Compatibility

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.

Also read Chinese Zodiac Animal Love Compatilibility Chart

Chinese Zodiac Years Have Two Different Starts!

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.

It’s Bad Luck When Your Zodiac Year Comes Around

A Chinese Zodiac birth sign year is called a ben ming nian (‘origin life year’). As the Chinese animal zodiac recurs every 12 years, when a person is 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72, etc. the birth sign year recurs.

According to ancient Chinese superstition, in one’s birth sign year, he will offend Tai Sui, the god of age in Chinese mythology, 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.

Continue to read How to be Lucky in Your Zodiac Years

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