The Chinese Zodiac: All You Need To Know

chinese zodiac overview


If you’re interested in the Chinese zodiac and curious what it’s all about, you’ll find everything you need to know in this article. Not all zodiacs are alike, but studying the Chinese zodiac is no more difficult than learning the zodiac signs practiced in the West. Much like the zodiac that most people are familiar with, the Chinese zodiac has 12 signs, but that is essentially where the similarities end. The Chinese zodiac symbols are based on the year a person is born, not the month, and every 12 years becomes the year for a particular sign. If it sounds confusing, please don’t worry, because it’s all very simple once you understand the basics.

What Is the Chinese Zodiac?


The Chinese zodiac symbols first came about in the 5th century BC, but no one knows exactly how it started. Some people say that the first Jade emperor started the zodiac, whilst others claim it was Buddha himself. Whoever it was, it’s said that all of the nearby animals were asked to his birthday party, but only 12 of them showed up. Another theory states that all of the animals were asked to participate in a race and that the top 12 winners were the animals chosen for the new zodiac – in the order that they won the race.

12-Year Cycles

The Chinese zodiac is based on the lunar calendar and runs in 12-year cycles, which is much like the 11.85-year orbital period of Jupiter. In other words, each sign gets to rule every 12 years. There are many variations of how it all started and how it’s practiced, with even different sections of China practicing it in a slightly different way. Both the Western and Chinese zodiacs are separated into 12 different parts, assign animals to all 12 of them, and claim that someone’s personality and even their future is influenced by the sign under which they are born.

When Do The Chinese Zodiac Years Start?

Interestingly there are various dates (moments) a new Chinese zodiac year is said to start. This is the moment when one of the 12 animals switches to the next. To make this as easy as possible, most Chinese stick to Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year). On this day they celebrate new year, based on the traditional lunar calendar. Simply put, this day is between January 21st and February 20th.

chinese new year information

What Are The 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs Per Year?

A Few Things To Understand

All 12 of the Chinese zodiac signs are assigned certain characteristics, and part of those characteristic includes the following:

  • The yin/yang force: Two completely opposite principles that are somehow connected to one another. We explain this in more detail further down below.
  • The trine it is in: There are four trines in the Chinese zodiac, with each trine consisting of three zodiac symbols.
  • The nature element: Earth, fire, water, metal, or wood.

The 12 Signs And Their Years

If you study the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, you can learn which characteristics are assigned to each one of them. This provides a better idea of how to understand the signs individually. Below are the 12 zodiac signs and some of their characteristics, in the correct order. If you’re interested in every single detail about each specific sign, just click on it’s name and we’ll explain everything there is to understand. Individual traits are explained further down below.

12 chinese zodiac signs explained
  1. Rat: Yang, first trine, water. Years: 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032, 2044, 2056…
  2. Ox: Yin, second trine, earth. Years: 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033, 2045, 2057…
  3. Tiger: Yang, third trine, wood. Years: 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034, 2046, 2058…
  4. Rabbit: Yin, fourth trine, wood. Years: 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035, 2047, 2059…
  5. Dragon: Yang, first trine, earth. Years: 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036, 2048, 2060…
  6. Snake: Yin, second trine, fire. Years: 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037, 2049, 2061…
  7. Horse: Yang, third trine, fire. Years: 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038, 2050, 2062…
  8. Goat: Yin, fourth trine, earth. Years: 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039, 2051, 2063…
  9. Monkey: Yang, first trine, metal. Years: 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040, 2052, 2064…
  10. Rooster: Yin, second trine, metal. Years: 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041, 2053, 2065…
  11. Dog: Yang, third trine, earth. Years: 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042, 2054, 2066…
  12. Pig: Yin, fourth trine, water. Years: 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043, 2055, 2067…

The 12 Signs Divided Into 4 Trines:

  1. First trine: rat, dragon, monkey.
  2. Second trine: ox, snake, rooster.
  3. Third trine: tiger, horse, dog.
  4. Fourth trine: rabbit, goat, pig.

As you can see, everything is laid out very clearly. Once you know which sign you’re born under, you can follow horoscopes and learn more about your unique personality traits by reading more about that particular sign.

What Are the Chinese Zodiac Signs Per Hour?

Inner Animals (2nd Sign)

Unlike Western astrology, the Chinese zodiac pays attention to the hour you were born (as well as the year like mentioned above). For example, if you were born in 1970, your sign is a dog. If, however, you were born at 1:15 p.m., the sheep is your “secret” or “hour” animal (sometimes known as “inner” animal). Much like the year you were born, the animal attached to the hour you were born will influence your personality and your horoscope, or what happens to you in the future. Below are the animals attached to each hour:

  1. Rat: 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
  2. Ox: 1:00-3:00 a.m.
  3. Tiger: 3:00-5:00 a.m.
  4. Rabbit: 5:00-7:00 a.m.
  5. Dragon: 7:00-9:00 a.m.
  6. Snake: 9:00-11:00 a.m.
  7. Horse: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  8. Goat: 1:00-3:00 p.m.
  9. Monkey: 3:00-5:00 p.m.
  10. Rooster: 5:00-7:00 p.m.
  11. Dog: 7:00-9:00 p.m.
  12. Pig: 9:00-11:00 p.m.
chinese zodiac sign hour chart


These 12 two-hour time frames add up to a full day (24 hours). Each of these two-hour periods is also known as a Shi-Chen and represents one of the animals as well.

Simply put, more than one animal influences your personality, your likes and dislikes, and what will happen to you in the future. Therefore, it certainly makes studying the Chinese zodiac a lot more interesting.

Chinese Elements, Heavenly Stems, Earthly Branches, Yin And Yang


There are many ways to interpret and use the Chinese zodiac. As you can already tell, much of the zodiac signs’ relevance comes from which element they are associated with. For example, your particular birthday – including the date and year – is associated with an element, not to mention a heavenly stem and an earthly branch, in addition to an animal. There are a total of 10 heavenly stems and 12 earthly branches. It’s easy to find out what they are because the charts they’re listed on can be found all over the Internet.

5 Elements

  1. Earth
  2. Fire
  3. Water
  4. Metal
  5. Wood

They are considered complementary to one another, even though they can be in different positions in the cycle they’re in. When we look at creation and destruction for example, it seems as if they are complete opposites. However, that’s only the case if you look at them from a certain point of view. Another way to look at the elements is from a “creation process” point of view:

  • Wood can start a fire
  • Fire can create the earth, or soil
  • The earth consists of metal
  • Metal can carry water
  • Water can feed wood

Conversely, the destruction process can be interconnected this way:

  • Fire will melt metal
  • Metal objects can chop wood
  • Wood can separate the earth
  • The earth can absorb water
  • Water can put out a fire

Elements Explained Practically

What do all these things mean in practical terms? Think of it like this: Each element has a specific role and purpose in life, even it’s own priorities. This can explain personality traits as well because the element we are born under gives us certain strengths and weaknesses and certain “roles” in the cycle of life. When it comes to the Chinese zodiac, all personalities are represented. These personalities can interconnect at any time and make friendships, romantic relationships, and more.

Here’s what your particular element tells about yourself:

  1. Wood: You are well-grounded, focused, patient, understanding, and a true visionary.
  2. Fire: You are a thrill-chaser who loves an adventure, not to mention that you’re creative, persistent, and passionate about life.
  3. Earth: You are a mediator at heart, contemplative, responsible, and you love justice.
  4. Metal: You are a bit rigid, but you always get the job done. You’re also disciplined and have high moral standards.
  5. Water: You are an artist, sensitive, introverted, and you like to stay relaxed and view things from the sidelines.
chinese zodiac elements

Heavenly Stems And Earthly Branches

The Chinese zodiac uses heavenly stems and earthly branches, and the symbols are used as a counting system in the calendar. No one knows for certain how stems and branches came about, but we do know there are 10 stems, 12 branches, and 60 cycles associated with this system. 1924 to 1983 constituted one 60-year cycle, and each of the years in the cycle is associated with a color, an animal, and a number. For instance, the year 1999 is the Brown Rabbit and the 16th of the Stem-Branch system, whilst the year 2000 is the White (Golden) Dragon. We won’t go into too much detail in order to keep this article organized, but if you’re curious we’d advise this website.

10 Heaveny Stems: Jia, Yi, Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geen, Xin, Ren, Gui.

12 Earthly Branches: Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Xu, Hai.

Yin And Yang

The Concept (“Opposites”)

Now let’s take a look at yin and yang. Most people have heard these terms, but what do they mean exactly and how are they related to the Chinese zodiac system? First of all, the concept of yin and yang is illustrated by a circle with a curved line in the middle. The left section of the circle is white and the right section is black. Yin is the receptive principle and yang is the active principle in this equation. In short, yin and yang – or “opposites” – are an important part of the Chinese culture and play a significant role in their astrology, martial arts, medicine, their calendar, and in Feng Shui, among others.


Yin and yang are also used to help people determine who they are most compatible with. As you can imagine, certain astrological signs are better matched with certain other signs, whilst some are happier when they stay away from one another. The yin and yang classification for your particular sign is good to know. Whether you’re choosing friends or a romantic partner, choosing a “compatible” sign can mean the difference between a fulfilling relationship and one that is doomed to failure. A list of both good and bad matches per sign are listed further down below.

yin yang chinese astrology

Wrapping It Up

These systems are not meant to confuse you, but to teach more about yourself in order to live a more fulfilling life. Whether you’re looking up your stem, branch, animal, element, or yin/yang characteristic, you can easily find a chart somewhere that explains their meaning. This makes it a little easier to understand how to create the life you want and deserve. The characteristics are also meant to work together to help people understand themselves. In fact, you’ll get more out of the Chinese zodiac system if you combine them.

What Do the Signs Say About You?

Many people, upon reading the personality traits associated with their particular animal, have an “a-ha” moment because the descriptions are often extremely accurate. Although we can look at our animal, our inner animal, our element, or anything else we already mentioned, it’s easiest to start with the animal that is associated with your birth year. Researching the characteristics associated with each animal can also help explain why you do some of the things you do, think the way you do, and even react the way you do to certain people and situations.

Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent characteristics associated with each of these animal signs:


People born in the “year of the rat” are smart, ambitious, and very keen. While they certainly know how to socialize with others, they are picky about who to be close with. They are quite cautious and very clever.

chinese zodiac rat traits


Ordinary and conscious, the ox is a very “what you see is what you get” kind of personality. They never pretend to be something they’re not. In addition, the ox is difficult to make mad, but when you do, watch out because it won’t be pleasant.

chinese zodiac ox traits


Natural-born leaders, tigers are persistent in getting what they want. Their dominant and enthusiastic personality usually results in the job getting done – and doing it right – as long as they are in charge.

chinese zodiac tiger traits


Rabbit people are respectable, they love peace and beauty, so they are the perfect diplomat in a variety of situations. They have very friendly personalities and are a pleasure to be around with. Usually they are extremely popular amongst others.

chinese zodiac rabbit traits


People born under the dragon sign are risk-takers, but also very driven. They enter challenges with full-force, which makes them achieve their goals and get things done. They can get burned out at times, but they always bounce right back and resume the game quickly.

chinese zodiac dragon traits


A bit on the mysterious side, snakes feel like they are destined for greatness and therefore usually have a lot of self-confidence. They can be unpleasant to be around with whenever someone makes them angry, and they won’t always forgive you when you do them wrong.

chinese zodiac snake traits


Horse people are very social and love to be around others. They can multitask extremely well and are willing to take risks whenever necessary. Their risks, however, are well-calculated. Therefore, they’re usually successful in their attempts.

chinese zodiac horse traits


Although very warm-hearted, goat people tend to need some tender loving care once in a while. They can be very anxious on the inside, without those around them being aware of this fact. They also appreciate the finer things in life.

chinese zodiac goat traits


People born under the monkey sign are playful and curious. They are intelligent and can be very naughty from time to time. Monkeys are also very goal-oriented and don’t mind a challenge here and there. Almost nothing stands in their way whenever they chase their dreams.

chinese zodiac monkey traits


Roosters love to be the center of attention and can be perfectionists. They are smart and don’t easily give up when being challenged. If you stand in their way they can show their angry side. They can come across as very convincing but need love to stay on track.

chinese zodiac rooster traits


One of the most giving of all the Chinese zodiac signs, the dog has a suspicious nature and tends to get angry when feeling threatened. They like to serve others and have a nurturing, protective nature.

chinese zodiac dog traits


Very compassionate and gracious, those born under the pig sign love being with people and appreciate the good things in life, including good wine, music, and food. They also tend to be philanthropists because they love to share their wealth.

chinese zodiac pig traits

If you don’t know your sign, try this free Chinese zodiac sign calculator and find out within seconds.

Predicting The Future (And More)

Just like Western astrology, Chinese astrology can help you find out what is going to happen in the future. Horoscopes based on the Chinese zodiac can be found daily, monthly, and even for the entire year. They tend to deal with areas such as relationships, finances, health, well-being, careers, and predictions for the future.

Lucky And Unlucky Numbers

The Chinese culture includes lucky and unlucky numbers. In other words, some numbers can bring luck or fortune to someone whilst other numbers do the opposite. For example, a certain number could show up as a sign that something might change for the better (or worst). On the other hand, people can also influence their lives themselves. If one’s lucky number is 2 for example, they could choose to buy a lottery ticket on February 2nd.

In the Chinese Zodiac, these are lucky and unlucky numbers for each of the 12 animals:

  1. Rat: 2, 3 (Lucky) – 5, 9 (Unlucky
  2. Ox: 1, 9 (Lucky) – 3, 4 (Unlucky)
  3. Tiger: 1, 3, 4 (Lucky) – 6, 7, 8 (Unlucky)
  4. Rabbit: 3, 4, 9 (Lucky) – 1, 7, 8 (Unlucky)
  5. Dragon: 1, 6, 7 (Lucky) – 3, 8, 9 (Unlucky)
  6. Snake: 2, 8, 9 (Lucky) – 1, 6, 7 (Unlucky)
  7. Horse: 2, 3, 7 (Lucky) – 1, 5, 6 (Unlucky)
  8. Goat: 3, 4, 9 (Lucky) – 6, 7, 8 (Unlucky)
  9. Monkey: 1, 7, 8 (Lucky) – 2, 5, 9 (Unlucky)
  10. Rooster: 5, 7, 8 (Lucky) – 1, 3, 9 (Unlucky)
  11. Dog: 3, 4, 9 (Lucky) – 1, 6, 7 (Unlucky)
  12. Pig: 2, 5, 8 (Lucky) – 1, 3, 9 (Unlucky)
chinese zodiac lucky unlucky numbers

Chinese Versus Western Astrology

Chinese astrology and Western astrology are a lot alike. That being said, the two systems differ in a few ways:

The Calendar

Chinese astrology uses the lunar calendar, where each month begins with a new moon and lasts approximately 29 days. Western astrology uses the solar calendar, which is organized according to the earth’s orbit around the sun. In the solar calendar, each month lasts between 28 and 31 days.

The Elements

In the Chinese zodiac, there are five elements: Fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Each of the elements is linked to a two-year period and each element governs the motivating forces in your life. In the Western zodiac, there are four elements: Fire, earth, air, and water. Each element is associated with three zodiac signs and governs the psychological characteristics of those signs (having an effect on the Western horoscope).

Lunar Phases Versus Modes

Chinese astrology says that a person’s temperament is based on the phase of the moon when that person was born. The four lunar phases are new moon, waxing moon, full moon, and waning moon. Western astrology, on the other hand, recognizes three qualities for the various zodiac signs: Cardinal, fixed, and mutable. Each of these modes is linked to a total of four zodiac signs.

What About Romance?


Many people seek out astrology for answers about their love life, and there are definitely Chinese zodiac signs that are more compatible with certain other signs. If you’re looking to add a little romance to your life or if you’re looking for a new best friend, it’s good to take the following tips into consideration. Here are the 12 Chinese zodiac signs and the signs they are most compatible with, along with the signs each of them should avoid:

Best Versus Worst Matches

  1. Rat: Dragon, ox, monkey (no horse or rooster).
  2. Ox: Snake, rat, rooster (no goat, horse, or dragon).
  3. Tiger: Dragon, horse, dog (no ox, snake, or monkey).
  4. Rabbit: Dog, pig (no rooster).
  5. Dragon: Rat, tiger, snake, monkey (no ox, goat, or dog).
  6. Snake: Rooster, ox, dragon (no tiger).
  7. Horse: Tiger, goat, dog (no rat, ox, or rooster).
  8. Goat: Horse, rabbit, pig (no ox, tiger, dog, rat, or snake).
  9. Monkey: Rat, dragon (no tiger or pig).
  10. Rooster: Ox, dragon, snake, pig (no rat, rabbit, dog, tiger, or rooster).
  11. Dog: Horse, rabbit, tiger, pig (no rooster, dragon, or goat).
  12. Pig: Tiger, rabbit, goat, dragon (no snake or monkey).
chinese zodiac compatibility chart


Studying the Chinese zodiac is certainly fascinating, but it’s much more than just an interesting read. There’s a lot you can learn about yourself, and how to make the smartest moves. Once you start to understand and comprehend all the details, things will finally make a lot of sense.

The Chinese Zodiac shows a lot of similarities with Western astrology. Sure, there are a few differences and the animals/signs are everything but the same. But there’s a lot to be found in both of them.

The 12 Chinese zodiac signs possess a lot more traits and characteristics. We provided the basic and most important things to be aware of. For a more detailed report we’d advise you to go to our Chinese Zodiac category where we cover the 12 individual animals and their ruling years in more detail. If you don’t know which animal is being celebrated this year, you can visit Chinese New Year and find out immediately.

We hope this article was helpful and that your knowledge has been expanded. Feel free to visit us again or share this article with your friends and family.

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