Chinese astrology is an ancient practice with its roots thousands of years ago. About until the initial 2000 years of Chinese history which is recorded, there was no clear line between astrology and astronomy. This practice was regarded as a science to make an estimate to execute agricultural practices or determine climate by the communities. Chinese astrology, unlike Western astrology, is complex with a number of elements coming into play to determine the future or decode the present spiritual, emotional and even physical existence of human beings in parlance with the Universe. Chinese almanac has been traditionally used as a guide by the farmers to look for appropriate days to plant seeds or plan an important task as per a date. And so, here is your guide to the Chinese zodiac signs and everything related to it.

While in Western astrology, people are divided into 12 zodiac signs depending on the month of their birth as per the Gregorian calendar, Chinese astrology delves deeper. The study of this nuanced technique is called BaZi or Four Pillars in Chinese culture.

It constitutes 12 zodiac animals according to the year of the birth of a person as per the Chinese almanac and the five feng shui elements. Everything from a person’s fate, to his interaction with the universe, is charted out after making different permutations and combinations using this Cycle Of Sixty (another name for the 12 zodiac animals and five elements according to feng shui).

Chinese zodiac signs: Folklore and myths

According to the authors of Pocket Chinese Almanac, Ken Smith and Joanna C. Lee, there was once a great emperor of the Han dynasty who announced a race for the 12 animals and their order was to be determined as per their rank. The Rat cheated in the race as it jumped on the Ox’s back and won the race by a whisker, thus earning the first position followed by the Ox and then the rest of the animals. The Pig was the last one to finish the race as it is believed that it halted for a bit to take some rest. Going by what the ancient Chinese believed, the quality of wit is often associated with the animal Rat in the zodiac.

What are the Chinese zodiac animals?

The Chinese zodiac has 12 animals depending on the year of your birth. It is to be noted that this year, it is according to the Chinese calendar which begins with the new year on January 22 in 2023. This is a Lunisolar calendar as opposed to the Gregorian calendar used in western astrology.

Chinese zodiac signs
Image credit: Eva Bronzini/Pexels

The twelve animals of Chinese zodiac signs are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Each of them has specific characteristics and here is what you need to know about your zodiac animal.

Characteristics of each Chinese animal sign


Birth Years: 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020

Characteristics: Family-oriented, frugal and quick-witted, the Rat is also known to have a good sense of humour and is optimistic. They are a delight to have around and cleverly adapt to any situation.


Birth Years: 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021

Characteristics: Steadfast, relentless and hardworking, an Ox values integrity above everything else. They are always loyal and dependable. There is a chance they might be taken for granted by others due to these qualities and may feel sidelined at times but they always keep going and are rewarded in the end.


Birth Years: 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022

Characteristics: Passionate and high on energy, the tiger is an impulsive romantic who loves taking risks. The majestic persona also mirrors a huge ego. Not afraid to make mistakes, the tiger doesn’t shy away from trying new things.


Birth Years: 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023

Characteristics: The rabbit hates conflict of any kind and is very affable in nature. Being social creatures that they are, they look for attention and are great in relationships. A rabbit is also known to be even-tempered and artistic.


Birth Years: 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024

Characteristics: The Chinese consider Dragons to be great leaders. Enthusiastic, result-oriented and independent, they are one of the most popular animals in the zodiac. Also, it is observed that believers of Chinese zodiac want their babies to have Dragon as their zodiac sign since it is most coveted amongst all other signs, hence, it is observed that a lot of babies are conceived in the Year of the Dragon.


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

Characteristics: The Snake is mysterious and can be warm and open but also cold and secretive. Highly intuitive, and compassionate but only to those who unlock this side of them.


Birth Years: 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026

Characteristics: Carefree and wild, people born in the Year of Horse seldom turn an adventure down. They also like to experiment and surround themselves with many people. They have an infectious energy and can sometimes put people off with their slightly imposing opinions.


Birth Years: 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027

Characteristics: The Sheep has a mild temperament and is known to have a kind heart but do not mistake it to be a pushover for they value their independence and hate compromising.


Birth Years: 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Characteristics: The Monkey has an innate ability to lead and is found to be really good at problem-solving. They have a tendency to seek an opportunity which is new and exciting and therefore sometimes stray from their partners.


Birth Years: 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029

Characteristics: Flexible and resilient especially in uncomfortable situations, the Rooster loves things to be perfect. They are bound by duty and pride.


Birth Years: 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2030

Characteristics: Faithful to the core, those born in the Dog years love to do what is expected of them and love to honour their commitments. They are also very detail-oriented, selfless and giving.


Birth Years: 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Characteristics: Kind and lovable, Pigs like to keep their circle tight. Usually non-confrontational, they do not shy away from a fight if they are convinced that they are right.

How to find your Chinese zodiac animal?

Just check your year of birth to know which of the 12 zodiac animals you belong to. While checking the year, be assured that you are going by the Chinese almanac and not the Gregorian calendar. This is for people born before a typical Chinese New Year begins, that is on or slightly before 4 February. In such cases, they should take the previous year under consideration.

Chinese zodiac signs: What does animal of the year mean?

The Chinese zodiac years work on the repeating cycle of 12. There is an animal designated for every year and the order of animals is fixed, as mentioned above. 2023 is the Year of the Water Rabbit which represents the yin energy. The energy this year is healing and spiritual and the lucky colours are azure blue and apple green. The lucky zodiac signs of this year include Ox, Tiger and Snake while the signs who need to work extra hard to push their luck include Dog, Horse, Goat and Pig.

chinese zodiac
Image credit: Klub Boks/Pexels

How to find the element of your year of birth

Moving on to the next important part of the Chinese horoscope is the study of five elements which is also called Wu Xing. These hold great importance in feng shui which is a study of these physical elements and their influence on us. While you have your governing element according to the year you were born, there is also a fixed element of your birth animal. And, their combined traits affect your life.

These five sacred elements are metal, wood, fire, earth and water. To know your birth element, the last digit of your birth year is taken into account;

Metal: The last digit of your birth year is 0 or 1
Water: The last digit of your birth year is 2 or 3
Wood: The last digit of your birth year is 4 or 5
Fire: The last digit of your birth year is 6 or 7
Earth: The last digit of your birth year is 8 or 9

Want to know more about these elements? Here is what each symbolises.

chinese zodiac
Image credit: Rodnae Productions/Pexels

Metal: Rigid and unmovable, those influenced by metal are symbolised by strength and a penchant towards making and obeying rules. The Autumn season is dedicated to metal.

Water: Creative and full of free-flowing energy, they are calm and futuristic but can also be destructive. Winter is associated with this element.

Wood: This element is symbolised by the qualities of being warm, nurturing and encouraging growth. Spring is the season that goes with this element.

Fire: Fiery and impulsive, people influenced by this element are full of life. They can be aggressive and passionate. Naturally, summer is associated with fire.

Earth: Dependable and balanced, this element is known to be reliable and popular without being spontaneous. Earth symbolises transition in seasons as they have both yin and yang energies.

Which Chinese zodiac signs are most compatible?

After understanding the traits of every zodiac animal, here is a guide highlighting the worst and the best matches according to Chinese astrology.

  Best match Worst match
Rat Ox, Dragon Monkey Horse, Rooster
Ox Rat, Snake, Rooster Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Sheep
Tiger Dragon, Horse, Pig Ox, Tiger, Snake, Monkey
Rabbit Sheep, Monkey, Dog, Pig Snake, Rooster
Dragon Rooster, Rat, Monkey Ox, Sheep, Dog
Snake Dragon, Rooster Tiger, Rabbit, Snake, Sheep, Pig
Horse Tiger, Sheep, Rabbit Rat, Ox, Rooster, Horse
Sheep Horse, Rabbit, Pig Ox, Tiger, Dog
Monkey Ox, Rabbit Tiger, Pig
Rooster Ox, Snake Rat, Rabbit, Horse, Rooster, Dog
Dog Rabbit Dragon, Sheep, Rooster
Pig Tiger, Rabbit, Sheep Snake, Monkey

(Main and featured image credit: Victoria Emerson/Pexels)

This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Hong Kong

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: Which Chinese zodiac is the luckiest?

Answer: Rabbit, Pig and Rat are luckiest in the year 2023 which is the Year of Rabbit.

Question: Is Chinese zodiac real?

Answer: The Chinese zodiac has been in practice since ancient times and it can be traced back to the Han dynasty (206 BC to 9 AD). There was no clear demarcation between astrology and astronomy since both the community and state followed the Chinese zodiac to determine all important life events.

Question: Which animal is left out of the Chinese zodiac?

Answer: Cat and Lion are two animals that are left out in the Chinese zodiac. As per the legend, the cat was betrayed by his friend rat and thus could not participate in the great race to determine the 12 zodiac sign animals and the Lion lost his status due to his misbehaviour.

Question: Why is the Chinese zodiac important?

Answer: This ancient practice has been part of Chinese culture for centuries and it was traditionally used to determine the sequence of agricultural activities, important partnerships and lucky days to carry out important tasks. An estimate of weather was also made using the lunisolar Chinese almanac. Today it finds relevance as feng shui techniques, which is a part of the larger umbrella of the Chinese zodiac, and globally used to accentuate their living and work spaces in addition to the growing interest in Chinese zodiac signs.

Question: Are the Chinese and Japanese zodiacs the same?

Answer: The Japanese zodiac came into being after China’s. Therefore, it is derived from the Chinese zodiac. The difference though is that it follows the solar calendar and not lunisolar like the Chinese. Though all zodiac signs are similar to China in Japan, the last sign in Japan is a Boar while in China it is a Pig.

written by.

Preeti Kulkarni

After completing her PG in New Media from the Asian College of Journalism, Preeti has worked in a daily and a magazine before finding her calling in digital journalism. A lover of single malts and an avid pop culture junkie, you can catch her at the movies on weekends or binge-watching the latest shows on OTT when she is not busy preparing her toddler for his Hogwarts letter.
What Is Your Chinese Zodiac Sign And Will 2023 Be Lucky For You?