Your Guide to the Chinese Zodiac: Animal Signs and Meanings

Your Guide to the Chinese Zodiac: Animal Signs and Meanings

The Chinese Zodiac offers a different way to view astrology with your own sign – find out what you are and where the different signs came from!

The Chinese zodiac operates on a 12-year cycle, with each year linked to a specific animal that carries distinct traits. This cycle aligns with the Chinese New Year, which falls in January or February. For instance, 2024 marks the Year of the Dragon, beginning on February 10th, 2024, and concluding on January 29th, 2025, following the Year of the Rabbit, which starts on January 22nd, 2023, and ends on February 9th, 2024. In Chinese culture, it’s believed that a person’s character, destiny, and compatibility in relationships are influenced by their zodiac sign, determined by the year of their birth.

Maybe you’re a Dragon searching for a Monkey to make your life complete. But stay away from those Dogs! Or maybe not. The Chinese Zodiac is a new and creative way to view your life and of those around you from an Eastern perspective – and fun to study as well!

Unlike the Western version of the Zodiac, the Chinese use only animals to create their cycle – and each animal gets their own year instead of a single month.

There are 12 animals in all, with a full cycle of the Zodiac taking 12 years. Usually, when a Chinese person reaches their 60th birthday, they have a big celebration because they have completed a full cycle of five cycles of 12 years, a major feat in Eastern Culture. One advantage of asking a person which year they were born is that you can calculate their age instead of asking outright, which is an affront in many cultures.

12 Animal Signs of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac, a cornerstone of Chinese astrology and culture, assigns an animal and its reputed attributes to each year in a 12-year cycle. These animals are not only significant astrologically but also embody a rich tapestry of cultural meanings. It is a widely held belief in Chinese tradition that the personality traits of individuals are influenced by the zodiac animal ruling their birth year. Below is a table showcasing each of the twelve zodiac animals along with their associated characteristics, reflecting the essence of the personalities they represent.

The twelve animals in order are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and lastly, the Year of the Boar.

12 Chinese zodiac animals in order
RatQuick-witted, resourceful, versatile, kind
OxDiligent, dependable, strong, determined
TigerBrave, confident, competitive, unpredictable
RabbitQuiet, elegant, kind, responsible
DragonConfident, intelligent, enthusiastic
SnakeEnigmatic, intelligent, wise
HorseAnimated, active, energetic
GoatCalm, gentle, sympathetic
MonkeySharp, smart, curious
RoosterObservant, hardworking, courageous
DogLoyal, honest, prudent
PigCompassionate, generous, diligent

Each character also holds many aspects of their animal, which are conveyed to the person born in that year.

Chinese Zodiac Signs’ Personality

Dragon people encompass anyone born in the following years: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, and 2000. The legend says that they are given the gift of health, energy, and courage. It is one of the most beneficial signs to be born under, the four blessings being virtue, riches, harmony, and longevity. Although Dragon people are said to be eccentric, they are also great workers and stick to the task at hand.

As you can see, it is not unlike the Western Zodiac interpretation for many signs, only that instead of a month, you have an entire year to be born. Many people check their mate’s sign only to find that they are following the Chinese Zodiac, whether they like it or not. For example, Dragons are better off with Monkeys than Dogs; Taurus people are viewed to be better suited to Virgos than other signs.

The legend of how these legendary animals came into their places is intriguing. Many centuries ago, there was no way to measure time, sending the Chinese people into constant confusion. The Jade Emperor, or the Emperor of Heaven, decided to hold a contest on his birthday, having the first 12 animals who could cross a swiftly flowing river to the opposite shore win places in the new Zodiac.

Immediately, rivalries started up between the animals. The cat and the rat, who had been good friends but were now estranged and knew that as poor swimmers, they had no chance, so they convinced the ox to carry them both across the river, promising to let him walk first on the shore. The ox agreed, being rather gullible and good-natured. But as they were wading across the river, the cat and the rat began to fight again; the cat was pushed into the river at the last minute by the rat, who wanted to eliminate any competition. Thus, cats and rats are enemies to this day. The ox plodded on towards the shore, and the rat leaped off and onto the shore before his helpful ally, taking first place in the race. The ox received second place and was happy with it. Third went to the tiger, who arrived exhausted due to the strong current pushing him further down the river, succeeding only because of his great strength.

Creativity played a part in the fourth Zodiac animal. The rabbit sat on the opposite shore, pondering how to cross. Suddenly, he began to leap from stone to stone and finally to a floating log that carried him to shore, safe and dry. The Emperor was amazed at the agility of this animal and quickly named him the fourth Zodiac sign.

The Emperor was very intrigued as the dragon flew in to land on the shore, taking the fifth place. He asked the dragon why he hadn’t been the first one since he could fly and swim and, therefore, should have beaten the others. The dragon responded that he had stopped to alleviate a drought in the land below, and when he had reached the river, he had seen a tiny rabbit clinging tightly to a log stuck on a rock in the middle of the river, so he had given a mighty puff and blown the log with the rabbit aboard to the opposite shore, following behind.

The Emperor applauded the dragon’s consideration and thoughtfulness just as the horse made his appearance out of the water and towards the shore. But just as the horse was about to lay a hoof on the solid ground and gain his spot, a snake appeared from between his hooves, making him jump back in shock and fear. The snake, therefore, became the sixth animal and the horse the seventh.

A team effort created the next three signs. The sheep, the monkey, and the rooster formed an alliance to get across; the rooster flew about until he found a raft with the sheep and monkey clearing the weeds and paddling toward the solid land. Impressed with their friendship, the Emperor named the sheep the eighth, the monkey the ninth, and the rooster the tenth Zodiac animal.

The dog was the next on the shore, surprising the Emperor, who asked again why he had taken so long since he could swim. The dog replied that since it was such a lovely day and that he was so dirty, he had stopped to take a bath before jumping into the river and polluting the clean, fresh water with his filthy body. Thus, the eleventh animal was recorded.

As the crowd began to grow restless, the Jade Emperor made ready to dismiss them and head back to his Palace when he suddenly heard a small squeal from a tiny pig trotting along the shore towards him. He asked why the diminutive animal had taken so long, with the pig replying that he had gotten hungry during the race and had stopped for a snack. After eating, he took a short nap and woke to find himself far behind the others. The Emperor laughed and proclaimed the pig as the last Zodiac animal, the twelfth.

As you can see, each animal exhibited the traits inherent in their Zodiac sign and, thus, in the people born under them.

What is My Chinese Zodiac Sign?

What sign are you? Check below to see what year you were born in and thus your sign.

Rat1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032, 2044
Ox1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033, 2045
Tiger1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034, 2046
Rabbit1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035, 2047
Dragon1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036, 2048
Snake1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037, 2049
Horse1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038, 2050
Ram1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039, 2051
Monkey1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040, 2052
Rooster1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041, 2053
Dog1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042, 2054
Pig1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043, 2055

As you can see, the Chinese Zodiac is a wonderful and intriguing system to determine your personality and that of your friends and family. Older than the Western Astrology, it has persevered through time and become more popular in recent years. Follow your sign, and you can’t go wrong!