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The 12 Signs of the Chinese Zodiac

For Melissa, learning is her passion, and helping others gain useful knowledge and learn new practical skills is her goal.

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac: A Tradition That Has Lasted Over 2500 Years

The Chinese zodiac has been used since the 5th century B.C., and follows the Chinese lunar calendar. Every Chinese New Year, a new zodiac animal is celebrated, like the Year of the Dog, for example. In 2021, the date of Chinese New Year is February 12th, and it is the Year of the Ox.

Before it was common to celebrate birthdays, Chinese people would use their Chinese zodiac sign to keep track of how old they were. Marriage compatibility was also determined by Chinese Zodiac signs, and still is in some areas of China. Each sign is based on an animal figure in Chinese mythology, and it is said that people born under a particular sign share some of that animal’s traits.

Many things are associated with each sign as lucky attributes, such as lucky colors, numbers, and elements. This includes the Earthly Branches and the Heavenly Stems, a way that the ancient Chinese measured years in a 60-year cycle. Each zodiac sign is associated with an Earthly Branch that combines with one of 10 Heavenly Stems to form the date for a year. A specific combination of an Earthly Branch and a Heavenly Stem will repeat every 60 years.

Each time a specific Chinese zodiac sign occurs, it is associated with one of five elements for that particular year: metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. So for example, you would only see a metal year of the rat once every 60 years.

The Chinese calendar also follows the cycle of the moon, so the year rolls over at a different time than in the Gregorian calendar. If you were born around January or February, you may have a different sign than you believed, so check your lunar calendar birthdate here. Also, in Chinese tradition your age is counted from your conception, not your birth, so don't be surprised when the lunar calendar says you're a year older!

This guide will help you learn more about your Chinese zodiac sign and its associations.

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Rat

2020 was the year of the rat. People born under the sign of the rat are said to be clever and quick thinkers, due to a myth in which the Jade Emperor was calling animals to form the zodiac, holding a race to decide who makes it in. The rat asked the ox to give him a ride, and when they got there the rat hopped off and sped to the finish line, becoming the first animal in the Chinese zodiac.

Rats reproduce quickly and abundantly, so people born under the sign of the Rat tend to be wealthy and good with their money. Rats are also known for their charm and love of gossip. Their quick wits and raw intelligence can make them the life of the party, or the mastermind behind the fun.

A downside for rats is that sometimes they can become stubborn and overly critical of others. Rats may also lack courage in situations where they are under pressure. This lack of courage may cause them to prematurely give up on important goals. Rats may also be stingy or greedy due to their love of money.

Celebrities born in the year of the rat include George Washington, William Shakespeare, and Mark Zuckerberg.

What's Lucky for Rats?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Zi

Lucky Element

Water

Yin or Yang

Yang

Lunar Month

Eleventh

Recent Years of the Rat

1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Lucky Numbers

2, 3, 6, 8

Unlucky Numbers

4, 5, 9

Lucky Flowers

Lily, African Violet

Lucky Colors

Gold, Blue, Green

Unlucky Colors

Yellow, Brown

Lucky Season

Winter

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Sagittarius

Most Compatible With

Rat, Dragon, Monkey, Ox

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Ox

The ox, a powerful and diligent creature who has pulled plows for Chinese farmers for thousands of years, is the second animal in the Chinese zodiac. 2021 is the year of the Ox. In the myth where the Jade Emperor held a race for animals to join the zodiac, the ox carried the rat to the finish line, and then crossed it himself, taking second place. In the Vietnamese lunar calendar, the Ox is replaced with the Water Buffalo.

People born under the sign of the ox take after their symbol, being hardworking, patient, and honest. They think before they act and have strong willpower that helps them get things done. Often, the ox is a rock for their friends and family, a source of stability and peace in times of crisis. They may be quiet but their words can carry great weight.

On the other hand, Oxen may be prejudiced towards things outside of their comfort zone, and will stubbornly stick to ideas that they are used to. Because of their quiet nature, those born under the sign of the Ox may have difficulties with communicating their feelings. They may come across as moody or irritable to others as a result.

Celebrities born under the sign of the Ox include Walt Disney, Margaret Thatcher, and Vincent Van Gogh.

What's Lucky for Oxen?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Chou

Lucky Element

Earth

Yin or Yang

Yin

Lunar Month

Twelfth

Recent Years of the Ox

1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Lucky Numbers

1, 4

Unlucky Number

5, 6

Lucky Flowers

Tulip, Evergreen, Peach Blossom, Rose

Lucky Colors

White, Green, Yellow

Unlucky Colors

Blue

Lucky Season

Winter

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Capricorn

Most Compatible With

Ox, Snake, Rooster

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The Tiger

The third sign of the Chinese zodiac is the brave and confident tiger. In the origin myth of the zodiac, the tiger came in third place behind the rat and ox because he was weighed down by water in the river, but his powerful muscles carried him quickly to the finish line.

Like their animal, Tiger signs are courageous and charismatic leaders, ruling with luck and authority. They are ambitious and independent, often climbing the ranks in the world of business as doggedly as the tiger chases its prey. They tackle problems proactively and never back down from a challenge. Tigers are also fiercely protective of their loved ones and make faithful friends.

Negative traits of the tigers, however, are a love of boasting and a tendency towards irritability. Tigers can be slightly self-centered at times and need to be liked by others. They also tend to have short tempers and end up in conflict with authority (when they aren't the one in authority).

Famous people born under the sign of the tiger include Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Cruise, and Lady Gaga.

What's Lucky for Tigers?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Yin

Lucky Element

Wood

Yin or Yang

Yang

Lunar Month

First

Recent Years of the Tiger

1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Lucky Numbers

0, 1, 3, 4

Unlucky Numbers

6, 7, 8

Lucky Flowers

Cineraria, Anthurium

Lucky Colors

Blue, Gray, Orange

Unlucky Colors

Brown

Lucky Season

Spring

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Aquarius

Most Compatible With

Tiger, Horse, Dog

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Rabbit

The bright and beautiful rabbit is the fourth sign in the Chinese zodiac. In the myth about the creation of the zodiac, the swift rabbit was right behind the tiger, but he could not swim through the river as easily. Instead, the rabbit had to use his cleverness to jump over rocks in the river, and so he came in fourth place. In the Vietnamese lunar calendar, the rabbit is replaced with the cat.

Those born under the sign of the rabbit may seem quiet and demure at first meeting, but their shy exterior hides a bright mind and a tenacity towards their goals that might surprise you. Rabbits are intelligent and detail-oriented, carrying themselves with elegance and grace. They are very responsible people who will always try to keep their promises.

However, Rabbits can be polite to a fault and may struggle with confrontation. Rabbits are prone to melancholy and can be overly cautious. Some rabbits can be very stubborn and superficial.

Celebrity rabbits include Albert Einstein, Michael Jordan, and Lionel Messi.

What's Lucky for Rabbits?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Mao

Lucky Element

Wood

Yin or Yang

Yin

Lunar Month

Second

Recent Years of the Rabbit

1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Lucky Numbers

3, 4, 6

Unlucky Numbers

1, 7, 8

Lucky Flowers

Cyclamen, Plaintain Lily, Snapdragon

Lucky Colors

Pink, Purple, Blue, Red

Unlucky Colors

Brown, Yellow, White

Lucky Season

Spring

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Pisces

Most Compatible With

Rabbit, Goat, Pig

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Dragon

The dragon is the fifth sign of the Chinese zodiac, and the only imaginary animal in the set. In the zodiac creation myth, the Jade Emperor was surprised that the mighty dragon did not come in first place. The dragon replied that while he was flying he saw a village that was on fire, and stopped to help put out the fire with his windy breath. The emperor understood, and praised him for his sense of honor.

Dragons are highly revered in Chinese society for their confidence and cunning. They are gifted with a willingness to take risks and the ability to face down challenges with might and enthusiasm. Their dominant personalities and unparalleled ambition are valued in Chinese society so much that there tends to be a baby boom in Dragon years.

However, dragons can be hotheaded, overly confident, and do not easily accept criticism as much as they can dish it out. They have a reputation for their fierce tempers, spitting fire with impunity.

Famous figures born in the year of the dragon include John Lennon, Bruce Lee, and Vladimir Putin.

What's Lucky for Dragons?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Chen

Lucky Element

Earth

Yin or Yang

Yang

Lunar Month

Third

Recent Years of the Dragon

1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Lucky Numbers

1, 6, 7

Unlucky Numbers

3, 8

Lucky Flowers

Hyacinth, Bleeding Heart Vine

Lucky Colors

Gold, Silver, Gray

Unlucky Colors

Blue, Green

Lucky Season

Spring

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Aries

Most Compatible With

Dragon, Rooster, Rat, Monkey

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Snake

The mysterious and clever snake is the sixth animal of the Chinese zodiac. In the origin story of the zodiac, the snake and the horse were neck and neck for sixth and seventh place, but the snake wound around the horse's hooves, causing her to trip. The sly serpent then raced across the finish line. The emperor did not judge the snake for this, because craftiness was in the snake's nature.

People born as snakes tend to have an air of calm intellect about them. They are sophisticated thinkers and like to get creative, often pursuing careers in the arts. Snakes can be very charismatic, with a gift for making others feel comfortable in their presence. When faced with a problem, snakes can remain calm and rational no matter how high the stakes are, due to their inner confidence.

As a downside, those born in the year of the snake may find it hard to be vulnerable with others, keeping their secrets close to their chest. The secrets of others, however, are not off-limits, as snakes can be terrible gossips fueled by jealousy. Sometimes it is difficult for them to follow through with their many ambitions.

Celebrities born in the year of the snake include Pablo Picasso, Kanye West, and John F. Kennedy.

What's Lucky for Snakes?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Si

Lucky Element

Fire

Yin or Yang

Yin

Lunar Month

Fourth

Recent Years of the Snake

1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

Lucky Numbers

2, 8, 9

Unlucky Numbers

1, 6, 7

Lucky Flowers

Orchid, Cactus

Lucky Colors

Black, Red, Yellow

Unlucky Colors

Brown, Gold, White

Lucky Season

Summer

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Taurus

Most Compatible With

Snake, Rooster, Ox, Horse

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Horse

The lively and cheerful horse is the seventh animal in the Chinese zodiac. In the zodiac myth, after the snake made the horse trip she crossed the finish line in seventh place. She took this in stride, and kept her head held high. The emperor admired the grace with which she took her loss, and kept many horses in his stables as a reminder of humility.

As free spirits, horses are most motivated by the pursuit of happiness. These people are full of energy and excel at using that energy to achieve their goals in intellectual pursuits and athletics. Their optimism is refreshing for the people around them and their great sense of humor often puts them on the center stage. Horses are wonderful conversationalists and original thinkers.

Horses can be prone to overspending and showing off too much. Sometimes those born in the year of the horse have a problem with being too blunt with others. Meanwhile, they give too much importance to other people's advice and ideas, and can easily fall prey to manipulation.

Celebrities born in the year of the horse include Kobe Bryant, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jerry Seinfeld.

What's Lucky for Horses?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Wu

Lucky Element

Fire

Yin or Yang

Yang

Lunar Month

Fifth

Recent Years of the Horse

1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

Lucky Numbers

2, 3, 7

Unlucky Numbers

1, 5, 6

Lucky Flowers

Calla Lily, Jasmine

Lucky Colors

Yellow, Green

Unlucky Colors

Blue, White

Lucky Season

Summer

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Gemini

Most Compatible With

Horse, Dog, Tiger, Goat

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Goat

The determined and warmhearted goat is the eighth animal of the Chinese zodiac. In the creation myth of the zodiac, the goat, monkey, and rooster rode together down the river on a raft. Because of the goat's kindness to them, the monkey and rooster let the goat cross the finish line first, putting the goat in the eighth place.

Those born in the year of the goat are good with children and animals, and have a caring nature. They are generous with their time and money, putting their loved ones above themselves without giving it a second thought. Goats are open-minded people and will look at every aspect of a situation before making a decision. Behind this kind and open demeanor, however, there is grit and determination. They are resilient through personal hardships, and always remain hopeful in the face of despair.

Goats must be careful to not let other people take advantage of their kindness and walk all over them. They can be somewhat naive and passive, preferring to avoid confrontation even when it is detrimental to them to do so. Taking charge can be difficult since they prefer to be on the sidelines instead of on center stage. Anxiety may also make it difficult for them to socialize.

Celebrities born under the sign of the goat include Mark Twain, George Harrison, and Babe Ruth.

What's Lucky for Goats?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Wei

Lucky Element

Earth

Yin or Yang

Yin

Lunar Month

Sixth

Recent Years of the Goat

1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Lucky Numbers

2, 7

Unlucky Numbers

4, 9

Lucky Flowers

Carnation, Primrose

Lucky Colors

Brown, Red, Purple

Unlucky Colors

Blue, Black

Lucky Season

Summer

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Cancer

Most Compatible With

Goat, Horse, Pig, Rabbit

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Monkey

The friendly and inquisitive monkey is the ninth animal in the Chinese zodiac. In the zodiac myth, the goat, the monkey, and the rooster were riding together in a raft down the river. After the goat crossed the finish line, the monkey persuaded the rooster to let her cross before him, giving the monkey ninth place in the race.

From a young age, the curious monkey may seek to know everything about the world around them. Monkeys pursue new ideas with enthusiasm and make great scientists and inventors. They also are intuitive with the people around them, reading them to see what makes them tick so that they can solve their problems. Their strong communication skills and positive attitudes will help them get far in life.

Monkeys' enthusiasm can lead to impatience, and they may become easily frustrated when faced with a difficult situation. Their intelligence can make them arrogant and overly competitive with others. Recklessness is a problem for monkeys, who don't always plan for the long term when making decisions.

Famous people born in the year of the monkey include Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Cash, and George Lucas.

What's Lucky for Monkeys?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Shen

Lucky Element

Metal

Yin or Yang

Yang

Lunar Month

Seventh

Recent Years of the Monkey

1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Lucky Numbers

4, 9

Unlucky Numbers

2, 7

Lucky Flowers

Chrysanthemum

Lucky Colors

White, Blue, Gold

Unlucky Colors

Red, Pink

Lucky Season

Autumn

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Leo

Most Compatible With

Monkey, Rat, Dragon

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Rooster

The self-assured and analytical rooster is the tenth animal in the Chinese zodiac. In the creation myth of the zodiac, the resourceful rooster found a raft sitting on the shore and brought it to his friends, the goat and the monkey. Together they sailed down the river, and the rooster let his two friends cross the finish line before he did, which put him in tenth place.

Roosters are born with a serious nature and strive towards perfection in their work. They are incredibly focused and hardworking, and they make great leaders because of their logical thinking. Organization is a strong point for the industrious rooster, and no detail slips past their watchful eye. However, roosters aren't all work and no play. They are family-oriented and attentive to the needs of the people around them, and they hide a surprising sensitivity behind their stern exterior.

Roosters have a tendency to become vain, needing the flattery of others to boost their self-esteem. They may also be critical of others who fail to meet their high standards, and are prone to lecturing others. Moodiness and a short temper may make the rooster difficult to deal with.

Famous people born under the sign of the rooster include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Beyonce Knowles, and Kate Middleton.

What's Lucky for Roosters?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

You

Lucky Element

Metal

Yin or Yang

Yin

Lunar Month

Eighth

Recent Years of the Rooster

1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Lucky Numbers

5, 7, 8

Unlucky Numbers

1, 3, 9

Lucky Flowers

Gladiolus, Cockscomb

Lucky Colors

Gold, Brown, Yellow

Unlucky Colors

Red

Lucky Season

Autumn

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Virgo

Most Compatible With

Rooster, Snake, Dragon, Ox

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Dog

The honest and loyal dog is the eleventh animal in the Chinese zodiac. In the zodiac race myth, the dog ended up placing eleventh because once he was in the river, he enjoyed it too much, and he began playing around while almost all of the other animals passed him. Eventually he realized he was late, and he sped across the finish line into the arms of the waiting emperor.

Dogs are valuable people to have around because of their loyalty and sincerity. These dedicated people will do anything for their friends, and are eager to provide advice and help. Dogs have a great sense of humor and know how to look on the bright side of life. Their genuine and fun personalities tend to make them popular.

Those born under the sign of the dog can be frivolous and irresponsible at times. They have plenty of confidence in others but may lack confidence when it comes to themselves. Sometimes dogs may struggle to communicate their deeper feelings when they are worried about how others will perceive them.

Celebrities born in the year of the dog include Freddy Mercury, Judy Garland, and Mother Teresa.

What's Lucky for Dogs?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Xu

Lucky Element

Earth

Yin or Yang

Yang

Lunar Month

Ninth

Recent Years of the Dog

1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Lucky Numbers

3, 4, 9

Unlucky Numbers

1, 6, 7

Lucky Flowers

Rose, Cymbidium

Lucky Colors

Green, Red, Purple

Unlucky Colors

Blue, White, Gold

Lucky Season

Autumn

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Libra

Most Compatible With

Dog, Tiger, Rabbit

the-12-signs-of-the-chinese-zodiac

The Pig

The compassionate and patient pig is the twelfth animal of the Chinese zodiac. In the zodiac myth, the pig placed last in the race, and almost didn't make it because he stopped to eat and fell asleep. The emperor almost called the race, but then over the hill came the pig at last, well-rested and happy. Once the pig arrived, the Jade Emperor had his full set of zodiac animals, and then he created the Chinese calendar system.

Pigs tend to have a strong moral code that they stick to, and they are always determined to finish things that they start. They are warm and compassionate people, and will not refuse a friend in need. Pigs take the time to enjoy life's blessings and patiently trudge through the mud of hard times, knowing that there's a reward at the end. They are easygoing and let trouble roll off their backs.

Pigs may overindulge in pleasures like food and material gifts. They may be short-sighted because this tendency to overindulgence makes them live in the moment, and thus they do not see problems coming for them in the future. Sometimes they can be gullible because of their honest nature, and overly dependent on the assistance of others.

Celebrities born under the sign of the Pig include Sir Elton John, Tupac Shakur, and Park Jimin.

What's Lucky for Pigs?

ElementAttribute

Earthly Branch

Hai

Lucky Element

Water

Yin or Yang

Yin

Lunar Month

Tenth

Recent Years of the Pig

1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

Lucky Numbers

2, 5, 8

Unlucky Numbers

1, 7

Lucky Flowers

Hydrangea

Lucky Colors

Yellow, Gray, Brown, Gold

Unlucky Colors

Red, Blue, Green

Lucky Season

Winter

Closest Western Zodiac Sign

Scorpio

Most Compatible With

Pig, Goat, Rabbit, Tiger

What Does This Tell You About Yourself?

Now you have learned about the 12 different Chinese Zodiac signs. Which sign were you born under? What traits of your sign do you see in yourself? Answer the poll below to see where you compare with other readers!

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Melissa Clason

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