The Chinese zodiac, or Sheng Xiao ( 生肖 ), is a repeating 12-year cycle of animal signs and their ascribed attributes, based on the lunar calendar. In order, the zodiac animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig.

The Lunar New Year , or Spring Festival, marks the transition from one animal to the next—2021 is the year of the Ox , which began on February 12th, 2021, and ends on January 31st, 2022. February 1st, 2022 (Chinese New Year) will signal the start of the year of the Tiger .

What’s Your Zodiac Sign?

Your birth year determines your Chinese zodiac sign, but it can get tricky, as the lunar calendar varies from the solar, or Gregorian, calendar.

Because the dates of Chinese New Year change every year, individuals born in January or February will need to pay special attention to their birth date in addition to their birth year.

The 12 Zodiac Animals

If you already know your Chinese zodiac sign, or are curious to explore them all, select one from below to discover the personality traits, romantic compatibility, and what fortune 2023 will bring.

Chinese Zodiac Years

Since the Chinese zodiac cycle repeats every 12 years, it’s easy to figure out if it’s your year—just check if your age is a multiple of 12! Listed below are the 12 zodiac animals in order with accompanying years:

Zodiac Sign Chinese Name Zodiac Years
Rat 鼠 (shǔ) 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox 牛 (niú) 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Tiger 虎 (hǔ) 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Rabbit 兔 (tù) 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Dragon 龙 (lóng) 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Snake 蛇 (shé) 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Horse 马 (mǎ) 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Goat 羊 (yang) 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Monkey 猴 (hóu) 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Rooster 鸡 (jī) 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Dog 狗 (gǒu) 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Pig 猪 (zhū) 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Ben Ming Nian (Zodiac Birth Year)

Maybe you think your zodiac year ( 本命年 / ben ming nian) will be lucky. It’s your year after all. However, it’s the total opposite.

It’s seen as a hurdle you have jump over. The way to protect yourself from evil spirits and bad fortune is to wear red underwear every day for the entire year. Even in modern times, it’s still treated as a real concern.

In some places, married men even have to be accompanied by their wives when they go out at night during their year!

Origins of the Chinese Zodiac

It is generally believed the origins of the Chinese zodiac are rooted in zoolatry, or animal worship, with the system dating back to the Qin dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago.

Legend has it that the Jade Emperor summoned all the animals to his palace in a “Great Race” (or possibly for a banquet), and the order in which they arrived determined the animal’s place in the zodiac.

With such a rich past, it’s little wonder the Chinese zodiac remains so popular throughout China and much of Asia. An integral part of everyday life, it’s used to determine your fortune for the year, marriage compatibility, career path, best times to have a baby, and so much more.

The Science Behind the Chinese Zodiac

How do Chinese astrologers know each zodiac’s personality, fortune and compatibility with others?

Below is some technical information you might be interested in.

Dì Zhī ( 地支 ), or Earthly Branches, were the original terms used for the years. These branches are also assigned to the hours of the day, based on solar time.

The animals were later added as mnemonics and categorized as either yīn ( ) or yáng ( ).

Ten Celestial Stems ( 天干 / tiān gān) pair with the Earthly Branches for a 60 year calendrical cycle. Then add in an element. These cycle through, but each zodiac also has a fixed element. This fixed element is what determines which sign you’re compatible with.

Twelve Earthly Branches: zi ( ), chǒu ( ), yín ( ), mǎo ( ), chén ( ), sì ( ), wǔ ( ), wèi ( ), shēn ( ), yǒu ( ), xū ( ), hài ( ).

Ten Celestial Stems: jiǎ ( ), yǐ ( ), bǐng ( ), ding ( ), wù ( ), jǐ ( ), gēng ( ), xīn ( ), rén ( ), guǐ ( ).

Five elements: water ( / shuǐ), wood ( / mù), fire ( / huǒ), earth ( / tǔ), metal ( / jīn).

A calendar of recent years with everything explained above would look like this:

Year Celestial Stem Earthly Branch Zodiac Element Yin Yang
2000 gēng chén Dragon Metal Yang
2001 xīn Snake Metal Yin
2002 rén Horse Water Yang
2003 guǐ wèi Goat Water Yin
2004 jiǎ shēn Monkey Wood Yang
2005 yǒu Rooster Wood Yin
2006 bǐng Dog Fire Yang
2007 ding hài Pig Fire Yin
2008 zi Rat Earth Yang
2009 chǒu Ox Earth Yin
2010 gēng yín Tiger Metal Yang
2011 xīn mǎo Rabbit Metal Yin
2012 rén chén Dragon Water Yang
2013 guǐ Snake Water Yin
2014 jiǎ Horse Wood Yang
2015 wèi Goat Wood Yin
2016 bǐng shēn Monkey Fire Yang
2017 ding yǒu Rooster Fire Yin
2018 Dog Earth Yang
2019 hài Pig Earth Yin
2020 gēng zi Rat Metal Yang
2021 xīn chǒu Ox Metal Yin
2022 rén yín Tiger Water Yang
2023 guǐ mǎo Rabbit Water Yin
2024 jiǎ chén Dragon Wood Yang
2025 Snake Wood Yin


There are six groups ( 六合 / liù hé) of most compatible pairs. They fit into each other like jigsaw pieces. These are the ones who support you in the background.

Four groups of trios ( 三合 / sān hé) are the next most compatible signs. Working in a team, they complement your skills.

Fortune and Personality of the 12 Zodiac Animals

As mentioned before, the Earthly Branches are also assigned to hours of the day. The animals, depending on what they did, became associated with that certain time. This is another explanation for the ordering of the animals. The following list include each zodiac’s time of day, culture, personality and compatibility.

  1. Rat (鼠 / Shǔ)

    People born in the like saving and collecting. They never have hard times financially and live organized lives. If you receive a valuable gift from a Rat, know that he thinks highly of you, because he doesn’t usually like opening his wallet for others. Rats don’t look for praise and recognition. They are very sensitive and know when there is trouble. When they do take risks, they’re usually successful.

    • Science
      Rat is Yang, and its earthly branch is Zi.
    • Hours
      23:00–01:00. Rats are at the height of their activity at this time and people began to associate rats with the Zi hour.
    • Folklore
      Rats steal food, which can be interpreted as the household being wealthy and having surpluses. Because of their fast reproduction rate, some also pray to rats for children.
    • Compatibility
      Best match: Ox
      Best group: Monkey , Dragon
      Incompatible: Horse
  2. Ox (牛 / Niu)

    People born in the are hard workers and have a strong sense of responsibility. Even if they run into difficulty during work, they’ll persevere through. They aren’t very romantic, but are patient and would never force themselves onto someone who doesn’t like them. They are usually quiet and keep their emotions bottled up inside. It’s hard for others to understand them. When they do lose their temper, it’s like an explosion and can drive others away.

    • Science
      Ox is Yin, and its earthly branch is Chǒu.
    • Hours
      01:00–03:00. This is when farmers would wake up to feed their oxen.
    • Folklore
      Whipping spring cattle (打春—dǎ chūn) was a ritual performed to begin a new year of hard work and good harvests. The ox’s stomach would be filled with five types of grains and scattered after the whipping to represent the sowing and harvest.
    • Compatibility
      Best match: Rat
      Best group: Snake , Rooster
      Incompatible: Goat
  3. Tiger (虎 / Hǔ)

    People born in the are independent and have high self-esteem. They enjoy being the leader and protector of average people. They love justice and never back down in an argument. Recklessness is their biggest weakness, causing them to fail. However, they never truly fail. Tigers will always find a way to stand back up and succeed in the end.

    • Science
      Tiger is Yang, and its earthly branch is Yín.
    • Hours
      03:00–05:00. Tigers are the most dangerous at night. Farmers would always be able to hear their frightening roars during this hour.
    • Folklore
      Tigers are the kings of all beasts. People believe that they are the guardians of children. In the past, infants were washed with water boiled with tiger bones to prevent diseases. Children also wear hats and shoes with tiger designs.
    • Compatibility
      Best match: Pig
      Best group: Horse , Dog
      Incompatible: Monkey
  4. Rabbit (兔 / Tù)

    People born in the are gentle, quiet and polite. They are patient, intelligent and chic. Their sense of responsibility and attention to detail lead to great career success. They take love seriously as well, and would never fall for someone easily. If they find the right person, they’ll love them to the end of the world and back.

    • Science
      Rabbit is Yin, and its earthly branch is Mǎo.
    • Hours
      05:00–07:00. At daybreak, rabbits would come out of their homes to feed on the dew.
    • Folklore