10 Simple Facts for Discovering the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese zodiac is part of traditional Chinese culture. It has been used to name the years and, featuring in Chinese astrology and folklore, has influenced people's lives since ancient times. Here are 10 facts about the Chinese zodiac that might interest you.

1. The Zodiac Has 12 Signs — Rat First.

Chinese Zodiac

There are 12 Chinese zodiac signs. Unlike constellations, the zodiac signs are represented by 12 animals. In order, they are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

Read more on Why is the zodiac in that order?

2. The Zodiac Forms a Recurring Cycle.

The Chinese zodiac signs form a recurring 12-year cycle, and each year is represented by one of 12 animals. 2018 is a year of the Dog. And 2019 will be a year of the Pig.

The year you were born determines your zodiac sign, e.g. if you were born in a year of the Dog (… 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006…), you will be a Dog.

3. A Zodiac Year Doesn't Start on Jan. 1st.

Most people believe that a Chinese zodiac year starts on Chinese New Year's Day, falling between late January and late February, the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar. In 2018, it falls on February 16th.

However, other people — especially some astrologers — believe that a new year begins at the 'Start of Spring' (on February 4, 5, or 6), which is a solar term.

People born in January or February should take special care to get their sign right. Use the Chinese Animal Zodiac Sign Calculator tool to confirm it!

4. Zodiac Birth Sign Years Are Unlucky.

As the Chinese zodiac recurs every 12 years, everyone will meet his or her birth-sign year at age 12, 24, 36, etc. It's said people who are in their birth-sign year will have bad luck.

For example, people who were born in a Dog year should be more careful in all aspects of life – including career, fortune, health, and love – in Dog years, such as 2018, 2030, and 2042.

According to ancient Chinese superstition, the best way to avoid bad luck is to wear red items, such as red underwear, red socks, and red hair bands/wristbands. Learn more about How to Be Lucky in Your Zodiac Year.

5. Each Zodiac Year Has an Element.

According to Chinese astrology, each zodiac year is associated with one of the five elements (Gold, Water, Wood, Earth, and Fire). For example, the year 2018 is a Earth Dog year, and 2019 will be a Earth Pig year.

Each zodiac sign has five types and each element with a given sign recurs every 60 years.

Learn more about Descriptions and Tips for Dogs of Different Elements.

6. Each Zodiac Sign Has Fated Personality Traits.

The year a person is born determines their zodiac sign, and this is believed to affect their personality. Since ancient times, people have developed horoscopes based around zodiac sign traits, to predict destinies.

See below for the personality traits of each of the zodiac animals:

Zodiac Animal Birth Years Personality Traits
Rat ...1972, 1984, 1996, 2008... Quick-witted, resourceful, and versatile
Ox ...1973, 1985, 1997, 2009... Decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking
Tiger ...1974, 1986, 1998, 2010... Brave, competitive, unpredictable, and self-confident
Rabbit ...1975, 1987, 1999, 2011... Gentle, quiet, elegant, and alert; quick, skillful, kind, and patient
Dragon ...1976, 1988, 2000, 2012... Confident, intelligent, ambitious, persevering, and hardworking
Snake ...1977, 1989, 2001, 2013... Intelligent, courageous, confident, insightful, and communicative
Horse ...1978, 1990, 2002, 2014... Animated, kind, straightforward, active, and energetic
Goat ...1979, 1991, 2003, 2015... Gentle, shy, stable, sympathetic, and amicable
Monkey ...1980, 1992, 2004, 2016... Witty, intelligent, ambitious, and adventurous
Rooster ...1981, 1993, 2005, 2017... Observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, and talented
Dog ...1970, 1982, 1994, 2006... Loyal, honest, amiable, kind, cautious, and prudent
Pig ...1971, 1983, 1995, 2007... Diligent, compassionate, generous, easy-going, and gentle

(A person's personality is also determined by his or her birth hour and birth month, which are in turn each designated one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals.)

7. The Zodiac Is Used to Find a Suitable Spouse.


Most Chinese people believe that there are different degrees of predestined compatibility between zodiac signs. In ancient times, the Chinese zodiac was used to decide if two people were compatible in a marriage or love relationship.

Even nowadays, some people still weigh up zodiac compatibility before a marriage or romantic relationship can begin. For example, Roosters are most compatible with Oxes, Dragons or Snakes, but are least compatible with Rabbits, Roosters or Dogs.

Learn more about Chinese Zodiac Compatibility.

8. “What’s Your Zodiac Sign?” Is a Good Ice-Breaker.

In China, your zodiac is a good conversation-starter, especially if you are mixing in a peer group. You might easily find someone with the same zodiac sign and immediately have much to talk about.

9. The Zodiac Was Used to Tell the Time.

zodiac hours

In ancient times, when people didn't have clocks, they used terrestrial branches to name the hours. And for the sake of entertainment and convenience, they used the 12 animals to tell the time. Each zodiac sign represented 2 hours, e.g. the dog hours were 7-9 pm.

Read more about Chinese zodiac hours.

10. Your Zodiac Sign Might Be Your Mother's.

Since the 12 Chinese zodiac signs are in a recurring 12-year cycle, you might have the same zodiac sign as members of your family – if you are 12, 24, 36 … years older/younger than them.

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