Chinese Zodiac Explained

What’s your spirit animal on the Chinese calendar? Find out what your horoscope signs mean — and who you’re compatible with.

 In the Chinese zodiac, every year is paired with one of 12 animals that determine your personality traits and compatability in love

In the Chinese zodiac, every year is paired with one of 12 animals that determine your personality traits and compatability in love

I’ve always been skeptical of Chinese astrology. I have my doubts about Western astrology as well, but I find it easier to believe that people born within the same month share some overall characteristics than people within an entire year possessing similar traits.

Then again, maybe it’s just because I was born in the unflattering-sounding Year of the Rat. You can tell me how awesome it is to be a Rat, but I’ll never be convinced, when I could have been something rad like a Dragon or a Tiger.

The sign of your birth year shapes your destiny, including your personality and whom you should marry.

Despite my skepticism, Chinese astrology has been around in some form for 3,000 years, and many scholars think its roots trace back to antiquity.

 

Origins of the Chinese Zodiac

There are 12 animal signs, determined by what year you were born. According to legend, Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he left the Earth. Only 12 came to bid him farewell. He named a year after each creature in the order they arrived: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (also called Goat and sometimes Ram), Monkey, Rooster (aka Cock), Dog and Pig.

Another popular tale says that the Jade Emperor, a representation of the first Taoist god, held a race. The Rat won by riding on the back of the Ox and hopping off to cross the finish line first. The Pig, meanwhile, stopped to eat and came in last.

The sign of your birth year shapes your destiny, including your personality and whom you should marry.

As counterintuitive as it seems, you’re supposed to actually have bad luck when your year rolls around. The best way to prevent this is to wear something red — and because you should be doing so all year long, maybe try a bracelet.

The Chinese have a saying about their zodiac: “This is the animal that hides in your heart.” Guess I have to accept there’s a Rat in mine. –Wally

 

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THE RAT

“Wisdom without industriousness leads to triviality.”

Years include: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Characteristics: intelligent, adaptable, quick-witted, charming, popular with the opposite sex, artistic, creative, generous, hard-working, perfectionists, highly judgmental, do well in business, easily angered, gossipy, thrifty with money

Compatible with: Dragon, Monkey and Ox

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THE OX

“Industriousness without wisdom leads to futility.”

Years include: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Characteristics: Loyal, reliable, thorough, strong, reasonable, determined, good leaders, bull-headed, eccentric, bigoted, fierce tempers, don’t speak much but eloquent when they do, easy-going, hate to fail or be opposed

Compatible with: Snake, Rooster and Rat

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THE TIGER

“Valor without caution leads to recklessness.”

Years include: 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Characteristics: Enthusiastic, courageous, ambitious, leaders, confident, charismatic, sensitive, tendency to go overboard, fight for causes they believe in, short-tempered, not good with authority, indecisive, suspicious

Compatible with: Horse, Dragon and Dog

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THE RABBIT

“Caution without valor leads to cowardice.”

Years include: 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

Characteristics: Trustworthy, modest, diplomatic, sincere, sociable, caretakers, sensitive, sentimental, snugglers, articulate, talented, ambitious, virtuous, have excellent taste, admired, trusted, financially lucky, gossips but generally kind, seldom lose their temper, never back out of a contract, good gamblers (though they seldom do)

Compatible with: Sheep, Pig and Dog

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THE DRAGON

“Strength without flexibility leads to fracture.”

Years include: 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

Characteristics: Lucky, flexible, eccentric, imaginative, artistic, spiritual, larger than life, quick-witted, charming, fun, passionate, healthy, energetic, short-tempered, stubborn, honest, brave, inspire confidence and trust, compassionate — letting others take advantage of them

Compatible with: Rat, Snake, Monkey and Rooster

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THE SNAKE

“Flexibility without strength leads to compromise.”

Years include: 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

Characteristics: Philosophical, organized, intelligent, intuitive, elegant, attentive, decisive, psychic, want to give and receive unconditional love, say little, possess great wisdom, never need to worry about money, vain, selfish, stingy, self-reliant, calm on the surface but intense and passionate inside, good-looking, have marital problems because they’re fickle

Compatible with: Ox and Rooster

 Gong Kai (1222-1307?), Emaciated Horse, in [Yuan shidai no huihua].  Tokyo (Nara?): Yamato Bunkakan, 1998.  pl. 1, p. 26.  Collection of the [Daban shili meishuguan].



ink on paper, 29.9 x 56.9 cm.

THE HORSE

“Forging ahead without unity leads to abandonment.”

Years include: 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Characteristics: Adaptable, loyal, courageous, ambitious, intelligent, adventurous, strong, independent, free spirits, great work ethic, natural leaders, popular, cheerful, good with money, perceptive, talk too much, have a weakness for the opposite sex, impatient, like entertainment and are OK with large crowds, rarely listen to advice

Compatible with: Tiger, Dog and Sheep

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THE SHEEP/GOAT/RAM

“Unity without forging ahead leads to stagnation.”

Years include: 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

Characteristics: Tasteful, crafty, warm, elegant, charming, intuitive, sensitive, calm, extremely gentle and loving, possess quiet strength, elegant, artistic, shy, pessimistic, confused, deeply religious, passionate, well off, wise

Compatible with: Rabbit, Pig and Horse

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THE MONKEY

“Changeability without being constant leads to foolishness.”

Years include: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Characteristics: Quick-witted, charming, lucky, adaptable, bright, versatile, lively, confident, great sense of humor, skillful, flexible, inventive, too agreeable, impatient, often abandon projects partway through, look down on others, have excellent memories, strong-willed, their anger cools quickly

Compatible with: Dragon and Rat

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THE ROOSTER/Cock

“Being constant without changeability leads to woodenness.”

Years include: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Characteristics: Honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, confident, extravagant, attention-seekers, progressive, talented, loners, don’t take failure well, have difficult relationships, outspoken, they think they’re right — though they usually are, seem adventurous but are timid, selfish, emotions and fortunes swing from high to low

Compatible with: Ox, Snake and Dragon

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THE DOG

“Fidelity without amiability leads to rejection.”

Years include: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Characteristics: Loyal, sociable, courageous, diligent, steady, lively, adaptable, smart, trustworthy, protect those they love, put others’ needs above their own, can keep secrets, stubborn, care little for money but somehow always have it, cold-hearted, distant, sharp-tongued, good leaders

Compatible with: Horse, Tiger and Rabbit

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THE PIG

“Amiability without fidelity leads to immorality.”

Years include: 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Characteristics: Honorable, determined, optimistic, sincere, sociable, altruistic, humanitarians, studious, stick to goals, quiet, well-informed, have few friends, kind, intuitive

Compatible with: Rabbit and Sheep


Sources: Building Beautiful Souls, China Highlights, Goway Travel, Whats-Your-Sign.com