Chinese Zodiac Signs

Chinese Zodiac Signs

The Chinese New Year, celebrated not according to the Gregorian calendar but according to the lunar one, brings the turn of the year not on January 1st but at the end of January or the beginning of February. This shift marks the beginning of auspicious years, each heralding the lunar New Year under a different zodiac sign, from the year of the Rabbit to the year of the Dragon, reflecting the rich tapestry of Chinese culture and its deep-rooted connection to the moon’s cycles.

It is exceedingly rare to encounter someone unfamiliar with the Chinese horoscope, a system far removed from the linear characteristics of Western astrology. Yet, even rarer is to find an individual fully versed in the intricate dance of the Chinese zodiac animals, from the oxen’s steadfastness to the dragon’s leadership qualities, and how these signs, along with elements from wood to water, intricately determine human destinies and influence lives from birth year to ben ming nian, the year of one’s zodiac sign which is thought to bring both good fortune and bad luck.

What, then, is the essence of the Chinese Horoscope?

Encompassing more than mere animal signs, the Chinese (or Eastern) horoscope integrates 12 zodiac animals and 5 elements—Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood—into a 60-year cycle, a majestic temporal spiral that commences with the Wood Rat and concludes with the Water Pig. This cycle, which currently spans from the year 1984 to the year 2044, transcends the mere assignment of personality traits based on one’s birth year. Instead, it offers a complex understanding of an individual’s potential and their inherent characteristics, from the pride of the snake to the wits of the monkey, underpinned by the profound influence of the Chinese zodiac’s 12-year cycle and the elemental forces at play.

Contrary to the predictive nature of Western astrology, the Eastern zodiac emphasizes the nuanced interplay between these zodiac signs and their corresponding years, from the prosperity promised in the year of the Rabbit to the challenges foretold in the year of the Dragon. It’s a system that affords a deeper comprehension of one’s personality traits and leadership qualities, guiding individuals in navigating their paths with wisdom gleaned from centuries of observation and superstition.

In this realm, the Chinese zodiac compatibility becomes a lens through which relationships are viewed, offering insights into the harmonious pairing of signs, from the oxen’s steadfast companionship to the dragon’s fiery presence, each finding their rank and place within the cycle. From the temples honoring the year of the Goat to the celebrations welcoming the year of the Monkey, the Chinese horoscope remains a vibrant testament to the enduring legacy of Chinese astrology, a tradition steeped in the lunar new year’s promise of renewal, abundance, and the perpetual pursuit of harmony with the cosmos.

Elements of the Chinese Horoscope

Elements of the Chinese Horoscope

Each element endows the sign with special qualities, each element has its color.

  • The Fire Element is red color and qualities of courage and selfishness, inventiveness, and curiosity.
  • The Earth Element is yellow (brown) and has the qualities of practicality and passivity, as well as reliability and sensuality.
  • The Metal Element is white and has the qualities of originality and willpower, kindness, determination, and intellectuality.
  • The Water Element is black and has qualities of intuition and creativity, dynamism, and sociability.
  • The Wood element is a green (blue) color and has qualities of individualism, compassion, and inertness.

The emotions of the elements are defined as follows: fire is joy; earth is reflection; metal is rage and passion; water is fear; wood is sadness.

Principles of Yin and Yang

In addition to the elements, each animal of the Eastern zodiac expresses the masculine principle of Yang or the feminine principle of Yin. The Yang principle represents the masculine, active nature, the desire for creative development, and the exploration of new possibilities. The Yin principle represents the feminine, passive beginning, the ability to accept and preserve, to select the most valuable, and to create tradition.

  • Yang years include odd years – Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, and Dragon.
  • Yin years include even years – Bull, Rabbit, Snake (yin/yang), Goat, Rooster, Pig.

A bit of history

The traditional Chinese calendar, often referred to as the Eastern Animal Calendar, is the oldest of all the chronologies in use today. It is more than 2200 years old: the sixty-year cycle of Chinese chronology was developed during the reign of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi (259 – 210 BC), the unifier of China and creator of the famous “terracotta army”.

A great number of stargazers and soothsayers, at the risk of their lives, worked on the creation of the oriental calendar of animals. For errors in calculations and predictions could be paid heed, because the accuracy of predictions of the calendar was to confirm the “heavenly” origin of the power of the Emperor. Hence, by the way, the name of the Chinese empire – “Celestial”.

And so that the commoners had no doubts about the divine origin of the Emperor’s right to power, a legend was invented, according to which Buddha decided to invite all the animals to celebrate the New Year. And the one who would show respect and be one of the first to show up would be made the “symbol of the year”.

The Rat was the first to arrive, ahead of everyone else. The Bull came after her. Then ten more animals responded to the invitation of the “deity”: a tiger, a hare, a dragon (mythological king of animals, symbol of the power of the Emperors of China), a snake, a horse, a goat, a monkey, a rooster, a dog, and a pig. As promised, each of the most diligent guests received a “name” year. This was the origin of the Great Circle of Time, governed by the five Great Elements – Earth, Water, Wood, Metal and Fire.

The Eastern animal calendar is divided equally between domestic and wild animals. The first “half” of the Eastern animal calendar is formed by representatives of the “wild”: rat, tiger, hare, dragon (a mythical creature), snake, and the “domestic” bull. In the second, “domestic” half, a horse, a sheep, a rooster, a dog, and a pig, were quite legally settled and “wild” monkeys. The signs of animals are in exact accordance with the main position of Chinese philosophy – the principle of harmony “yin-yang”, male and female natural principles, from the interaction of which arises all living things. Energies “yin” and “yang” flow one into another, as winter passes into summer, day into night, heat into cold, and do not exist one without the other.

Chinese Zodiac Sign

Chinese Zodiac Signs: How to Count

Depending on which year you were born, you will be patronized by a certain animal. And not only patronize, but also determine some of your character traits (but more on that later). There are 12 in total: rat, bull, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.

There are two versions of why these were chosen. According to the first, these animals visited the Buddha before he ascended to Nirvana.

According to the second, when the legendary Jade Emperor was forming the zodiacal circle, he chose these animals because they personified the virtues important to him.

But let’s not get too distracted by mythology, it is better to consider a specific Chinese horoscope by year.

  • Rat: 1900, 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
  • Bull: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
  • Tiger: 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
  • Rabbit: 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
  • Dragon: 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
  • Snake: 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
  • Horse: 1906, 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
  • Goat: 1907, 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
  • Monkey: 1908, 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
  • Rooster: 1909, 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
  • Dog: 1910, 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
  • Pig: 1911, 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Chinese Zodiac Signs: Traits

According to beliefs, the patron animal of the year not only symbolizes a certain period but also influences the events and destinies of those who were born at that time. Therefore, the 12 animals from the Chinese calendar are often called the Chinese zodiac or Eastern horoscope. Usually, a person is simply attributed to the character traits that endow the patron animal. So, Bulls are patient and always ready to help, Snakes are wise, and Pigs generously share both money and feelings. And now about each of them in detail.

RAT (鼠, SHǓ)

RAT Chinese Zodiac Sign

With this animal, the cycle begins. Who would have thought it, but in China the Rat is a symbol of good luck and wealth, unlike its Western counterpart that lives in the gutters. Rat charming animal, while honest and energetic. She knows how to count money, thrifty, but generous with those she loves.

Element — water
Color – black and blue
Positive traits: positive, hardworking, intelligence and dexterity
Weaknesses: some timidity and indecisiveness, suspiciousness, conservatism, exorbitant mystical thinking


BULL Chinese Zodiac Sign

The second sign of the Chinese horoscope is the Bull. He is strong and resilient, a born leader and strategist. If our understanding of the bull is associated with a hard-headed power, the Chinese Bull’s nature is refined and observant.

Bulls are noble beings, they have a strict moral code. They dislike change and do not tolerate stress well, preferring to work or think at their own evolved pace.

Bulls tend to keep their views to themselves and are more likely to take offense in silence than to express their grievances publicly. Bulls will defend those they care about to the last.

Element — earth
Color – yellow and ochre
Positive traits: diligence, strength, loyalty, enterprise
Weaknesses: stubbornness, arrogance, inability to adapt


TIGER Chinese Zodiac Sign

The tiger is a magnetic creature, and few animals can resist its seductive attraction when it is on the hunt.

Although the Tiger is not the king of the jungle, he is certainly the master of the situation and is always in control. However, tigers do not handle setbacks well and have a temper. Tigers are smart and resourceful in business, they know how to take initiative and win.

Element – wood
Color – green and blue
Positive traits: vigor, fairness, gentleness, ambitiousness
Weaknesses: complacency, willfulness, increased emotionality


RABBIT Chinese Zodiac Sign

Rabbits are soft and fluffy, by nature they are kind, gentle, and sensitive signs. They feel most comfortable among close friends or family members. Rabbits do not tolerate isolation and loneliness well, they need emotional support and warmth.

Rabbits are not able to fight alone, so when faced with problems they try to ignore them. Sometimes even minor decision-making can cause mental trauma to a poor rabbit.

Rabbits have a sharp intuition, they are extremely sensitive to people and situations.

Element – wood
Color – green and blue
Positive traits: kindness, optimism, prudence
Weaknesses: vanity, irritability, tendency to inaction


DRAGON Chinese Zodiac Sign

The dragon is the only fairy tale character in the Chinese horoscope. It is one of the most powerful animals, using its fiery energy to achieve greatness. Dragons are charismatic creatures, they breathe warmth and energy into everything they come in contact with. This makes them charming and popular.

Dragons like to take charge and infect others with enthusiasm, no matter what project you are working on. However, dragons can be arrogant and impatient.

Dragons are defenders of the weak and will always stand up for more timid animals.

Element — earth
Color — yellow and ochre
Positive traits: courage, determination, generosity
Weaknesses: irritability, bossiness, stubbornness


SNAKE Chinese Zodiac Sign

The snake is the most mysterious sign in the Chinese horoscope. She is seductive, intelligent, and always sheltered by an air of mystery.

The snake loves the beautiful life and has an aptitude for managing finances.

Snakes have a deep-rooted skepticism, they question everything, and jealousy and distrust can ruin relationships with people close to them.

Element – fire
Color – red and purple
Positive traits: responsibility, intelligence, cheerful disposition
Weaknesses: suspiciousness, skepticism


HORSE Chinese Zodiac Sign

The horse is elegant and graceful, but indomitable and wild. They value their independence and have an unquenchable passion for traveling.

Horses prefer not to burden themselves with material possessions, as they prefer to be free to follow their flights of fancy. They have a pioneering spirit and are often the first to discover new territories. Horses are not very disciplined and prefer to act in their way.

The wild temperament of horses pushes them into crazy love affairs, but they are also afraid of emotional attachment.

Element – fire
Color – red and purple
Positive traits: vigor, determination, honesty
Weaknesses: restlessness, stubbornness


GOAT Chinese Zodiac Sign

The goat prefers the inner world, it is an introspective being with a rich imagination and can afford to dream. Goats are creative, great lovers of tranquility and beautiful places. Any monotonous reality drives them crazy.

In most cases, Horses are intangible, they avoid authority and do not like responsibility. That said, they enjoy luxury and are generous to those they love.

On a personal level, they are quite secretive and keep their feelings to themselves.

In the bedroom, the creative streak blossoms, and the Goat turns out to be not as shy as it seems.

Element – earth
Color – yellow and ochre
Positive traits: creativity, patience, kindness
Weaknesses: high emotionality, and indecisiveness


MONKEY Chinese Zodiac Sign

The monkey is cheeky, fun-loving, outgoing, and is great at lifting spirits and laughing in the face of adversity. But she often doesn’t know when the joke is over and it’s time to be serious.

Her irrepressible energy allows you to communicate with a lot of people and make a lot of friends. Monkey quickly learns in complex, non-standard situations.

In love, Monkey hates commitment, and rebels against anyone who tries to jeopardize her independence. If she feels emotionally trapped, she is likely to cheat on her partner.

Element – Metal
Color – white and gold
Positive traits: initiative, looseness, sociability
Weaknesses: frivolity, flightiness, fickleness


ROOSTER Chinese Zodiac Sign

Roosters attach great importance to the visual component of everything around them. They are like true sybarites, enjoying material goods and aesthetic perfection.

Roosters are balanced and calm, they do not like to ruffle their feathers unnecessarily. They don’t take a long time to fancy themselves so they lose their gloss in public. However, they can be theatrical and overly dramatic if the ideal world they aspire to is threatened.

Their love of wealth and material possessions combined with their attention to detail causes them to spend too much time and money on furnishing their dream home.

Element – metal
Color – white and gold
Positive traits: vigor, sociability, constancy
Weaknesses: selfishness, stubbornness

DOG (狗 -GǑU)

DOG Chinese Zodiac Sign

The Dog, on the other hand, is very much like its Western counterpart. It is obedient, and executive, they make great workers and performers. But the Dog can bite painfully and bark loudly.

Dogs like to give pleasure to those they love and to preserve relationships and peace can change the truth.

On the other hand, Dogs have an acute hatred of deception in others. This, combined with their emotional insecurities, makes them wary of new acquaintances.

Dogs prefer to stick with their pack and those who have earned their trust. Dogs will fiercely defend their values and stand their ground against anyone who questions their beliefs.

Element – Earth
Color – yellow and ochre
Positive traits: intelligence, fairness, loyalty, reliability
Weaknesses: irascibility, selfishness

PIG (猪 -ZHŪ)

PIG Chinese Zodiac Sign

The pig has a sunny, cheerful nature, she is fun-loving and sociable. Pigs are naturally generous and indulgent, she has impeccable manners, exquisite taste, and a gentle disposition.

Pigs love comfort and prefer to live in a luxurious home. They are homebodies, hence they spend more time with close friends and family.

Pigs are incapable of making difficult decisions, so they often tolerate relationships that do not satisfy them completely. Pigs would rather be with an unsuitable partner than be alone, as one of their biggest fears is isolation.

Element – Water
Color – black and blue
Positive traits: sincerity, honesty, responsiveness
Weaknesses: shortsightedness, conservatism

Chinese Zodiac Signs: Compatibility

Between themselves the animal signs of the eastern zodiac form four triplets of kindred compatibility. This compatibility from the psychological point of view corresponds to four types of temperament.

  1. Rat, Dragon, and Monkey – open signs
  2. Bull, Snake, and Rooster – closed signs
  3. Tiger, Horse, and Dog – strong-willed signs
  4. Rabbit, Goat (Sheep), and Pig (Boar) are creative signs.

The zodiac animals belonging to the same trio work well together on all levels of life, from friendship and love to partnership and career.

Zodiac Signs of China

Based on typical character traits, different signs of the Chinese horoscope interact with each other in different ways. One to build relationships, and simply interact, will be much easier than others. Things are as follows:

  • Rat. Easy with the dragon, bull, and monkey. Difficult with sheep, horses, and rabbits.
  • Bull. Easy with rats, snakes, and roosters. Difficult with horse, dog, and goat.
  • Tiger. Easy with horse and dog. Difficult with snakes and monkeys.
  • Rabbit. Easy with sheep, pigs, and dogs. Difficult with rats and dragons.
  • Dragon. Easy with rats, monkeys, and rooster Difficult with bull, dog, and rabbit.
  • Snake. Easy with bull and rooster. Difficult with tiger and pig.
  • Horse. Easy with tiger, goat, dog. Difficult with rats, bulls, and rabbit
  • Goat. Easy with rabbit, horse, and pig. Difficult with bull and dog.
  • Monkey. Easy with rats, dragons, and snakes. Difficult with tiger and pig.
  • Rooster. Easy with bull, dragon, and snake. Difficult with rats, rabbits, and dogs.
  • Dog. Easy with tiger, rabbit, and horse. Difficult with bull, dragon, goat, and rooster.
  • Pig. Easy with goat and rabbit. Difficult with snakes, monkeys, and other pigs.

As you may have noticed, the ease or difficulty of communication doesn’t have to be two-way at all. A rat, for example, is easy with a dragon, just as a dragon is easy with a rat. A horse has a hard time communicating with a rabbit, although it is fine for a rabbit.


The Chinese cyclical calendar, or “Shu Xiang”, is a twelve-year cycle in which each year is assigned the name of an animal: Rat, Bull, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. In many ways, the emergence of such a calendar was due to the ancient Chinese worship of animals.

Nowadays signs and symbols of the twelve-year Chinese calendar are widely used as talismans, especially willingly bought and given during the celebration of the Chinese New Year. They are included in the traditional attributes of leisure and cultural events. Thanks to international cultural exchange, the Oriental calendar with its twelve animals is well known in all countries of the world. Many people are eager to learn as much as possible about their signs.

And lastly, let’s give you a summary about Chinese water signs, highlighting the most important qualities of each sign.

  • Rat – Wisdom
  • Bull – Hard work
  • Tiger – Courage
  • Rabbit – Caution
  • Dragon – Strength
  • Snake – Flexibility
  • Horse – Progressiveness
  • Goat – Unity
  • Monkey – Entrepreneurship
  • Rooster – Constancy
  • Dog – Loyalty
  • Pig – Affability.

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