Chinese zodiac (生肖shēngxiào) is based on a twelve year cycle, with each year of the lunar calendar in the cycle associated with an animal sign. The 12 animals in order are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (Goat), Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.
Chinese Zodiac sign is based on one’s year of birth according to the Chinese lunar calendar. People under different signs have unique characters and fortune. You can find out your animal signs quickly according to the zodiac years chart below and click the animal sign to view more information about the sign.
Test the compatibility between you and your partner by using our tool below or find through the chart by clicking Chinese Zodiac Compatibility.
Select your animal sign to get to know your compatible and incompatible signs:
Origin and Story of Chinese Zodiac
It's a mystery that which country created the zodiac first. According to the historical literature, the 12 animals in China used today including the animal selection and their orders were originated in the Han Dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD). The order of the animals is most explained with a folk-tale about how the animals were summoned to heaven by the Jade Emperor who ruled the heavens of China.
There are many different versions of stories and folklores related to Chinese zodiac. The most popular one is about the race between the animals. Legend said the Jade Emperor held a race and asked all the animals to participate. The first 12 could be given a place in the calendar. Although the Rat is small, it won the first place by riding on the Ox’s back. The pig got the last one because of stopping to eat. View more Chinese Zodiac Stories.
12 Zodiac Signs and Time (Shichen)
"Shichen" is a timing unit in ancient China and an old Chinese way of dividing a day. Based on the time of sun rise, the traditional Chinese people divided a day which has 24 hours into 12 segments. These segments with each having two hours are called Shichen. Each two-hour period (one Shichen) is given the name of one of the 12 Earthly Branches.
By observing life characters of animals in different time periods, the Chinese people linked each Shichen with one of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals. Following are connections between 12 animals and Shichen:
Animal Features during the Period
Rats are most active during this period in seeking food.
Oxen ruminate slowly and leisurely.
Tigers are most ferocious and hurt prey more.
The jade rabbit on the moon is busy pounding medicinal herb according to the tale.
Dragons are hovering in the sky to give rainfall.
Snakes start to leave their caves.
The sun is overhead. Other animals are lying down for a rest, while Horses are still standing.
Sheep(Goats) eat grass and urinate frequently.
Monkeys are screeching and most lively.
Roosters return to their coops as it is getting dark.
Dogs are most alert and begin to do their duty to guard houses.
Pigs are sleeping soundly and growing fast.
What are symbolic meanings of Chinese Zodiac signs?
Chinese Zodiac plays an important role in Chinese folk culture. Each animal has symbolic meanings. The 12 animals are divided into six pairs. In each pair the two animals are complementary and couldn’t be separated based on their attributes and characteristics.
Rat and Ox: Rat is a symbol of wisdom while Ox a symbol of diligence.
Tiger and Rabbit: Tiger is a symbol of valor and vigor while Rabbit symbolizes prudence.
Dragon and Snake: Dragon is a symbol of strength and inflexibility while Snake symbolizes flexibility.
Horse and Sheep: Horse is a symbol of persistence and marching forward with indomitable will while Sheep is a symbol of peace.
Monkey and Rooster: Monkey is a symbol of flexibility while Rooster, which crows every morning, is a symbol of constancy.
Dog and Pig: Dog is a symbol of loyalty while Pig is considered amiable.
Why did the Chinese zodiac animals fix the number twelve?
According to the research, all agreed that the reason why Chinese zodiac animals fixed to 12 ones is greatly related to the traditional Chinese astronomy and calendar. The ancient people observed the phases of the moon and found that there is 12-times full moon in a year. So, they divided twelve months in a year and 12 two-hour periods in a day as they regard 12 as the number given under the will of Heaven. Therefore, the twelve Earthly Branches and the twelve zodiac animals appeared afterwards.
Why choose the present twelve animals not others?
The chosen of 12 animals are greatly related to Chinese people’s daily and social life. If you analyze these animals carefully, you can find that they can be divided into three categories:
The first group is Chinese six domestic animals: horse, ox, goat, pig, dog and chicken. They are raised and trained for economic and other purposes playing important roles in Chinese agriculture. In people’s traditional view, a family will have a flourishing population and live happily if their domestic animals are all thriving. When the Chinese spring festival comes, people always wish their domestic animals thrive in the coming year. So, due to their importance, these six animals must be chosen in the 12 animals.
The second group is wild animals that are well known by the people and closely related to people’s life. They are tiger, rabbit, monkey, rat and snake. Among them, tiger and snake are feared, rat is detested, and rabbit and monkey are loved by the people. These animals are commonly seen in people’s life and easily remembered and chosen into the 12 animals.
The last group includes one animal - dragon, the traditional mascot of Chinese people. It is the only fictitious animal in 12 ones. Chinese people think they are descendents of the dragon and have a special emotion with it. It is a deified animal symbolizing auspicious, omnipotent ability and the loftiest power. So, dragon is indispensable.
Why is Chinese zodiac so Important to the Chinese?
As an important part of the traditional Chinese Culture, the Chinese Zodiac culture has long been recognized, accepted, taken by consensus and penetrated into the daily lives of the Chinese people. Everyone, from the date of birth, has his unique animal sign accompanying him with the life long time. It is the birth symbol and mascot with different symbolic meanings for each one affecting their behaviors, characters and destiny. People show their strong belief in fortune and luck through the animal signs. As each animal sign has unique personality traits, the Chinese people like to predict people’s relations and more according to this. For example, when finding their mates, Chinese people hope to find the person with the animal sign that compatible with him best. Also the zodiac provides guidance on how people live their lives. For example, according to Chinese astrology, in different animal years, people under different signs should pay attention to different things in order to go smoothly in the year. All in all, the Chinese zodiac is an important component of China's ancient culture, reflecting the rich psychology of the Chinese people vividly.
Zodiac Signs of Different Countries
Chinese zodiac culture, the gem and an important component of Chinese culture has deeply penetrated in people’s daily life in many aspects. It does not only exist in China, but also other countries in the world. However, the signs in different countries are different. Check the following table to get zodiac equivalents in other counties to Chinese zodiac signs.