Twelve Chinese zodiac animals represent the years and are used in determining your fortune, marriage compatibility, career fit, and many more.
They have a long history in Chinese culture and continue to play a significant role today.
- 1 What is the Chinese Zodiac?
- 2 Origin of the Chinese zodiac
- 3 The science behind Chinese zodiac
- 4 Introduction to Chinese zodiac animals
What is the Chinese Zodiac?
The Chinese zodiac is generally believed to have derived out of animal worship and originated more than 2,000 years ago during the Qin dynasty. Over time, the zodiac animals were each given their own unique set of characteristics and were gradually integrated into everyday life. This gave rise to various compatibilities between the zodiac animals which is often taken into consideration in marriage and career decisions, fortune-telling, and many more!
What is your Chinese zodiac animal?
According to a
The cycle of the zodiac animals repeats every 12 years. To determine when your zodiac year is, just check if your age is a multiple of 12!
Here is a list of all the zodiac animals with their accompanying years:
|ZODIAC ANIMAL||CHARACTER||RECENT YEARS|
|Rat||鼠 (shǔ)||1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2021|
|Ox||牛 (niú)||1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021|
|Tiger||虎 (hǔ)||1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022|
|Rabbit||兔 (tù)||1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023|
|Dragon||龙 (lóng)||1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024|
|Snake||蛇 (shé)||1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025|
|Horse||马 (mǎ)||1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026|
|Goat||羊 (yang)||1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027|
|Monkey||猴 (hóu)||1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028|
|Rooster||鸡 (jī)||1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029|
|Dog||狗 (gǒu)||1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030|
|Pig||猪 (zhū)||1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031|
Many people believe the common misconception that your zodiac year (本命年—ben ming nian) is a lucky year. In reality, it is the complete opposite.
In Chinese culture, your zodiac year is seen as an obstacle you have to conquer. You can ward off the bad luck it brings by wearing red underwear throughout your zodiac year.
Read more: Chinese New Year Myths
Origin of the Chinese zodiac
According to one Chinese folktale, the Jade Emperor needed 12 animals to guard the palace. The cat asked the rat to help him sign up, but the rat forgot. This is the reason why they became mortal enemies.
The ox was first in line at the palace, but the rat sneakily climbed its back and jumped ahead. The tiger and the dragon witnessed the rat’s antics and thought it was unfair, but they could only settle behind the ox.
The rabbit challenged the dragon to a race and succeeded. Frustrated, the dog bit the rabbit and was sent to the back of the line as punishment.
The snake, the horse, the goat, the monkey, and the rooster also got into a fight.
When everything was fixed, the pig arrived, very late, and could only settle to be the last.
The science behind Chinese zodiac
To determine the zodiac animals’ personality, fortune, and compatibility with each other, Chinese astrologers made use of the following technical information:
Dì Zhī (地支) or Earthly Branches were the 12 terms originally used to refer to the years. They were also assigned to hours of the day based on solar time.
The animals were later integrated as mnemonics and were tagged as either yīn (阴)or yáng (阳).
The 10 Celestial Stems (天干—tiān gān) couple with the Earthly Branches for a 60-year calendrical cycle. One of the five elements is fixed for each year. The element is primarily what determines which year you are compatible with.
Twelve Earthly Branches: zi (子), chǒu (丑), yín (寅), mǎo (卯), chén (辰), sì (巳), wǔ (午), wèi (未), shēn (申), yǒu (酉), xū (戌), hài (亥).
Ten Celestial Stems: jiǎ (甲), yǐ (乙), bǐng (丙), ding (丁), wù (戊), jǐ (己), gēng (庚), xīn (辛), rén (壬), guǐ (癸).
Five elements: water (水—shuǐ), wood (木—mù), fire (火—huǒ), earth (土—tǔ), metal (金—jīn).
Chinese zodiac calendar
A calendar of all the information mentioned above in past and future years would look like this:
|YEAR||CELESTIAL STEM||EARTHLY BRANCH||ZODIAC||ELEMENT||YIN YANG|
Essentially, there are six groups (六合—liù hé) of pairs that are most compatible. If you meet a compatible person, you would fit together like jigsaw pieces. They are the ones who support you in the background.
There are also four groups of trios (三合—sān hé) of compatible zodiac animals. If you form a compatible trio and work as a team, you would be very productive as you complement each other’s skills.
Introduction to Chinese zodiac animals
As previously mentioned, the Earthly Branches are associated with specific hours of the day. In turn, the animals are also connected to certain times. This adds to the various explanations as to the order of the zodiac animals.
The following list includes every zodiac animal’s time of day, culture, personality, and compatibility.
Those born in the Year of the Rat are known to handle their money really well. They never struggle financially and live very systematic lives. If you receive an expensive gift from someone born in these years, it means that they think highly of you. They do not seek praise and recognition. They take calculated risks and succeed more often than not.
The rat is Yang, its earthly branch is Zi.
23:00-01:00. The rat is most productive during these hours.
The rat steals food and this activity is understood as a means to keep a wealthy household and having surpluses. Some also pray to rats for children because of their capability to reproduce fast.
Best match: Ox
Best group: Monkey, Dragon
People born in the Year of the Ox are hardworking and responsible. They are not fond of showing their emotions and keep them bottled up inside. They don’t usually lose their temper but when they do, they can be very ferocious and drive others away.
The ox is Yin, its earthly branch is Chǒu.
01:00-03:00. During these hours, farmers get out of bed to feed their oxen.
To begin a new year of hard work and bountiful harvests, the ritual of whipping spring cattle (打春—dǎ chūn) used to be performed. Five types of grains would fill the stomach of the ox and then scattered to symbolize the sowing and harvest.
Best match: Rat
Best group: Snake, Rooster
Those born in the Year of the Tiger are independent and have high self-worth. They take pride in being a leader and providing protection to the common people. Justice is what they aspire and never back down from arguments. Their recklessness is what causes them to fail sometimes, but they never truly collapse because they always find a way to get back up and succeed in the long run.
The tiger is Yang, its earthly branch is Yín.
03:00-05:00. Tigers are most frightening at night. Farmers would hear their viscous roars during these hours.
Tigers are the king of all beasts. They are believed to be the guardians of children. Infants used to be washed with water boiled with tiger bones to ward off diseases.
Best match: Pig
Best group: Horse, Dog
People born in the Year of the Rabbit intelligent, polite, and stylishly fashionable. They enjoy great career success because of their sense of responsibility and thoroughness. They never fall for someone easily as they take love seriously.
The rabbit is Yin, and its earthly branch is Mǎo.
05:00-07:00. During these hours, rabbits shortly leave their homes to feed on the dew.
The rabbit represents the moon. In ancient China, people believed there was a rabbit on the moon.
Best match: Dog
Best group: Pig, Goat
Those born in the Year of the Dragon are adventurous and romantic. Their mysterious personality is often difficult for people to understand. They may also seem lazy but become very determined when they decide to do something.
The dragon is Yang, and its earthly branch is Chén.
07:00-09:00. Fog usually appears during these hours. In Chinese folklore, dragons ride fog to come down to the earth.
Dragons are among the most revered mythical creatures in China that emperors were seen as reincarnations of dragons. When paired with a phoenix, they symbolize a fruitful marriage and harmony between yin and yang.
Best match: Rooster
Best group: Monkey, Rat
People born in the Year of the Snake may seem cold, but they are actually warm and enthusiastic inside. They have this fierce desire for exclusive ownership that it annoys them if they are unable to fully understand someone. Although devoted and determined, their ultimate weakness is laziness.
The snake is Yin, and its earthly branch is Sì.
09:00-11:00. When the fog disperses, snakes come out to bask in sunlight. The character for sì (巳) was made to resemble a snake.
Snakes usually have negative implications and are used as symbols of witchcraft. But in Chinese mythology, the creator of the universe, Nǚ Wā (女娲), had the head of a human and the body of a snake.
Best match: Monkey
Best group: Rooster, Ox
Those born in the Year of the Horse are very valiant. They are positive, energetic, and always seek to
Horse is Yang, and its earthly branch is Wǔ.
11:00-13:00. When the sun is at its brightest, horses would joyfully gallop in the fields.
Horses play a crucial role in transportation and war and are the leaders of the six domestic animals. Northern ethnicities such as the Manchurians and Mongolians worship the horse.
Best match: Goat
Best group: Tiger, Dog
People born in the Year of the Goat are kindhearted. Although they hold on to their own opinions, they would rather suffer in silence than argue and ruin the mood of others. Nonetheless, they also have a few tricks up their sleeves. They have the ability to persuade others in their favor in a patient and polite manner.
The goat is Yin, and its earthly branch is Wèi.
13:00-15:00. By this time, the dew on the grass has been dried by sunlight and is thereby the best hours to let goat and sheep out.
Xiè Zhì (獬豸) is a mythological one-horned goat that assisted the God of Justice, Gāo Yáo (皋陶). The goat is also used as a symbol of filial piety.
Best match: Horse
Best group: Pig, Rabbit
Those born in the Year of the Monkey are motivated by personal interest. They will put their entire heart into something they truly care for. On the other hand, they will act carelessly if it’s something they are not concerned about. They often live lengthy lives full of energy and curiosity for the world.
The monkey is Yang, and its earthly branch is Shēn.
15:00-17:00. Monkeys would play around in the forest during the sunset when the weather is much cooler.
There are several Chinese legends about monkeys being the ancestors of humans. Monkeys are also associated with peaches, symbols of longevity. This is why monkeys are also used to represent long life.
Best match: Snake
Best group: Rat, Dragon
People born in the Year of the Rooster have the ability to sense what others are thinking or feeling. They are able to plan for everything carefully because of their foresight. Although they make great friends, some are tricksters.
The rooster is Yin, and its earthly branch is Yǒu.
17:00-19:00. The Chinese character for yǒu (酉) looks similar to the character for wine (酒—jiǔ). Dinner and wine are usually consumed during these hours. It is also the time to put roosters and hens back to their nests.
In ancient China, sworn brothers would swear to the heavens then drip rooster blood on the wine they drink. Roosters are also believed to ward off evil spirits.
Best match: Dragon
Best group: Snake, Ox
Those born in the Year of the Dog valued in the workplace because of their loyalty. They very rarely break the rules except for people who are important to them. Their only desire is to live peacefully with their family.
The dog is Yang, and its earthly branch is Xū.
19:00-21:00. Before going to bed, people patrol around to check with their dogs trailing behind them.
The Stone Dog was worshipped during the Qin and Han dynasty. Today, it is still common for people of the Guangdong Province to name their dogs Wàng Cái (旺财). It derives from the barking sound of dogs (旺旺—wàng wàng) and means “prosperous wealth.”
Best match: Rabbit
Best group: Tiger, Horse
People born in the Year of the Pig use their excellent critical thinking skills to solve problems. They are very polite and often provide for their family as they are usually wealthy. Their only downside is their short temper.
The pig is Yin, and its earthly branch is Hài.
21:00-23:00. Pigs rustle around during these hours as farmers feed them before calling it a day.
In general, pigs are used to represent wealth. Their chubby faces and large ears are also symbols of fortune.
Best match: Tiger
Best group: Rabbit, Goat