The Chinese animal zodiac, or sheng xiao in pinyin (literally translated as "born resembling"), is a rotating cycle of 12 years, with each year being represented by an animal and its reputed attributes.
Traditionally these recurring animals were used to date the years, a different animal for each year, with each animal year repeated every 12 years. There are altogether 12 animals, which are, in order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. How is this order determined?
Actually the Chinese animal zodiac has certain similarities with the Western zodiac. Both have rotating cycles divided into 12 parts, and both imply the influence of each sign on a person’s personality. However, the differences are major. The Chinese animal zodiac is divided into years, while the Western zodiac is divided into months, and the animals are not associated with constellations.
Chinese Zodiac years of birth are also calledChinese Zodiac animal years or ben ming nian
Because the Chinese animal zodiac is a rotating cycle of 12 years, every 12 years a certain animal year recurs. For example, if a person was born in the year 1990, which was the year of the horse, then this person's animal sign is the horse. Every 12 years, when this person is 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, 72 etc., the year of the horse recurs, which is this person's year of birth, or ben ming nian (roughly translated as ‘origin of life year')
According to ancient Chinese superstition, in one’s year of birth, 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 someone else, such as socks, a ribbon, clothes, underwear, a waistband or a bracelet.
The twelve animal signs each represent different types of personalities. The following are the twelve signs in order. Use the calculator on the left of this page to determine your own sign.