The Chinese zodiac, known as "Shengxiao", is a traditional classification scheme based on a 12-year cycle, with each year associated with a specific animal sign. Each animal is believed to bestow distinct personality traits and characteristics upon individuals born in their corresponding year. In this article, we explore the 12 Chinese zodiac signs to discover more about their behaviour, relationships and destinies. 

The Chinese Zodiac

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The Chinese zodiac operates on a repeating 12-year cycle, with each year assigned to one of the 12 animals. The cycle begins with the Rat and ends with the Pig. For instance, if you were born in the year 2000, your zodiac sign would be the Dragon, and 12 years later, in 2012, another Year of the Dragon would occur.

The origins of the Chinese zodiac are rooted in ancient Chinese mythology and astronomy. According to legend, the Jade Emperor, a deity in Chinese mythology, summoned all the animals to a race to determine their order in the zodiac. The order in which they finished the race determined their position in the cycle.

The Chinese zodiac calendar is also used in Chinese society to determine auspicious dates for important events such as weddings and starting a business. The zodiac also plays a role in traditional celebrations, such as the Chinese New Year, where each year is dedicated to a different animal.

How the Zodiac is Used in Chinese Astrology

In Chinese astrology, the zodiac is used to predict fortunes, personality traits, and compatibility between individuals. Each zodiac sign is associated with certain traits and behaviours, giving insight into a person’s character and potential life path.

Additionally, the zodiac signs are linked to one of the five elements in Chinese culture (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water), which are believed to further influence a person's destiny and interactions. Compatibility between zodiac signs is also a significant aspect of Chinese astrology. By comparing the characteristics of different signs, astrologers can predict the harmony or discord in all types of relationships, whether romantic, professional or platonic. 

The 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs 

Each animal sign is associated with specific years, and people born in those years are believed to embody that sign's traits. 

As mentioned above, the most popular legend associated with the creation of the Chinese Zodiac is the great race organised by the Jade Emperor. According to this legend, the emperor wanted to select twelve animals to be his guards and decided to hold a race across a river to determine their order.

The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, in their sequential order, are:

  • The Rat - The clever Rat hitched a ride on the Ox's back and jumped off at the last moment to cross the finish line first, earning the first position in the zodiac cycle.
  • The Ox - The strong Ox came in second, despite being overtaken by the Rat at the last moment.
  • The Tiger - The fierce and swift Tiger secured the third spot.
  • The Rabbit - The agile Rabbit hopped across the river using stones and logs, finishing fourth.
  • The Dragon - The kind-hearted Dragon, despite his ability to fly, came in fifth because he paused to help others during the race.
  • The Snake - The cunning Snake hid in the Horse's hoof and startled it to take the sixth position.
  • The Horse - The hardworking Horse came seventh, just behind the Snake.
  • The Goat, The Monkey, The Rooster  - These three animals helped each other across the river and finished eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively.
  • The Dog - Despite being the best swimmer, the playful Dog finished eleventh after enjoying a bath in the river.
  • The Pig - The Pig, who stopped for a nap and food during the race, finished last, securing the twelfth position.

The Chinese zodiac's history dates back over two millennia, with its roots in ancient Chinese astronomy and cosmology. It was initially used as a method of timekeeping, with each animal representing a year in the sexagenary cycle. 

The sexagenary cycle is a calendar system that combines the twelve zodiac animals with the ten Heavenly Stems. It’s a 60-year cycle used for keeping time. 

The Ten Heavenly Stems are:

  1. Jia (甲)
  2. Yi (乙)
  3. Bing (丙)
  4. Ding (丁)
  5. Wu (戊)
  6. Ji (己)
  7. Geng (庚)
  8. Xin (辛)
  9. Ren (壬)
  10. Gui (癸)

Each is paired with the five elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water), with each element having a yin and yang aspect, making ten stems in total. 

Earthly  Branches

The Earthly Branches are a set of twelve terms that correspond to the twelve Chinese zodiac animals and are used in combination with the Heavenly Stems to form the sexagenary cycle for calendrical and astrological purposes in Chinese culture.

  1. Zi (子) - Rat
  2. Chou (丑) - Ox
  3. Yin (寅) - Tiger
  4. Mao (卯) - Rabbit
  5. Chen (辰) - Dragon
  6. Si (巳) - Snake
  7. Wu (午) - Horse
  8. Wei (未) - Goat (Sheep)
  9. Shen (申) - Monkey
  10. You (酉) - Rooster
  11. Xu (戌) - Dog
  12. Hai (亥) - Pig

Each year in the sexagenary cycle is a unique combination of one Heavenly Stem and one Earthly Branch, resulting in 60 distinct year combinations. For example, 2024 is the year of the Jiazi (甲子), combining the Heavenly Stem Jia (Wood) and the Earthly Branch Zi (Rat). After 60 years, the cycle resets.

Personality and Compatibility 

Signs with complementary characteristics tend to get along better, and each zodiac sign is influenced by one of the five elements. The interactions between these elements—whether they support or counteract each other—affect compatibility.

The balance of yin and yang energy is another factor in determining compatibility. Signs with complementary yin and yang energies often experience a harmonious relationship.

The Rat

The Rat symbolises wit, resourcefulness, and adaptability. Rats are intelligent and known for their resourcefulness and ability to adapt to various situations. They are very sociable and can easily make new friends, but they also value their independence. 

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Ox, Dragon, Monkey
  • Challenging Matches: Horse, Goat

The Ox

The Ox is the second animal in the Chinese zodiac. It symbolises diligence and strength. Oxen are known for their patience, reliability, and strong work ethic. They excel in tasks that require endurance and precision. They are also very honest and trustworthy. 

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Rat, Snake, Rooster
  • Challenging Matches: Tiger, Horse, Goat

The Tiger

The Tiger represents courage, power, and passion. They are known for their boldness, confidence, and competitive spirit. They’re natural leaders who are unafraid to take risks, and their enthusiasm often inspires others. 

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Dragon, Horse, Pig
  • Challenging Matches: Ox, Snake, Monkey

The Rabbit

Rabbits are gentle, kind, and sensitive. They are known for their grace and good manners. They also value peace and will do their best to avoid conflict. They can be very intelligent and attentive to detail too. 

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Sheep, Dog, Pig
  • Challenging Matches: Rooster, Dragon

The Dragon

The Dragon. represents strength, luck, and authority. They are natural leaders who inspire others with their enthusiasm and strength. They are also extremely ambitious and strive for greatness.

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Rooster, Monkey, Rat
  • Challenging Matches: Dog, Rabbit

The Snake

The Snake symbolises wisdom and elegance. They are analytical and often prefer to observe before taking action. Snakes are also elegant and sophisticated, with a desire for the finer things in life! 

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Ox, Rooster, Dragon
  • Challenging Matches: Tiger, Monkey, Pig

The Horse

Horses are known for their enthusiasm and independence. They are adventurous and love to explore new places and ideas. Horses are also sociable and enjoy being the centre of attention.

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Tiger, Sheep, Dog
  • Challenging Matches: Rat, Ox, Rabbit

The Goat

The Goat symbolises peace and gentleness, and areknown for their calm and kind nature. They’re very artistic and are compassionate and empathetic individuals, always putting others’ needs before their own.

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Rabbit, Horse, Pig
  • Challenging Matches: Ox, Tiger, Dog

The Monkey

Monkeys are witty, lively, and intelligent. They are natural problem-solvers and are always curious about the world around them. They are sociable individuals who enjoy being around other people and being the life of the party. 

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Rat, Dragon, Snake
  • Challenging Matches: Tiger, Pig

The Rooster

Roosters are known for their confidence and meticulous nature. They are hardworking and always strive for perfection. Roosters are also outspoken and enjoy being recognised for their achievements.

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Ox, Snake, Dragon
  • Challenging Matches: Rabbit, Dog

The Dog

Dogs are loyal and have a strong sense of justice. They are protective and always stand up for what they believe is right. Dogs are also compassionate and good at forming close bonds with others.

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Rabbit, Tiger, Horse
  • Challenging Matches: Dragon, Sheep, Rooster

The Pig

The Pig is the twelfth and final animal in the Chinese zodiac. It symbolises wealth, honesty, and happiness. Pigsare very generous and have a good nature. They work hard but also enjoy spending time with friends and family. 

Compatibility with other Signs:

  • Best Matches: Tiger, Rabbit, Sheep
  • Challenging Matches: Snake, Monkey
Animals Chinese Zodiac Sign

Chinese Zodiac Sign Calculator - What’s your zodiac animal?

To figure out what Chinese zodiac sign you are, all you need to know is your birth year. Each zodiac sign is associated with a specific year in a repeating 12-year cycle. By knowing your birth year, you can easily identify which animal sign you belong to!

For example, if you were born in 1996, your zodiac sign is the Rat. If you were born in 2000, your zodiac sign is the Dragon.

Find the year in which you were born and the corresponding Chinese Zodiac animal. 

Year of the Rat (1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020)

Year of the Ox (1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021)

Year of the Tiger (1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022)

Year of the Rabbit (1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023)

Year of the Dragon (1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024)

Year of the Snake (1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025)

Year of the Horse (1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026)

Year of the Goat (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027)

Year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028)

Year of the Rooster (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029)

Year of the Dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030) 

Year of the Pig (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031)

One thing to note, however, is that the Chinese zodiac is based on the Chinese Lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar commonly used in the West. The Chinese New Year, which marks the beginning of a new zodiac year, typically falls between January 21st and February 20th. This means that if you were born in January or early February, you should check the exact date of the Chinese New Year for your birth year to accurately determine your zodiac sign.

For example, if you were born on February 1, 1996, before the Chinese New Year (February 19, 1996), your zodiac sign would be the Pig (from the previous year). If you were born on February 1, 1997, after the Chinese New Year (February 7, 1997), your zodiac sign would be the Ox.

You can use this online Chinese Zodiac calculator that considers the exact lunar calendar dates. It also tells you your element, planetary ruler, whether you sit with Yin or Yang and your zodiac colour. 

The Influence of the Five Elements 

Chinese Philosophy recognises five elements rather than the four we are familiar with. The Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water), also known as Wu Xing, are thought to be the building blocks of everything in the universe. They play an important role in many areas of Chinese culture, such as astrology, medicine, feng shui and martial arts. The Five Elements theory describes the interactions and relationships between these elements and how they influence natural phenomena and human life.

Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water


Wood represents growth, vitality, and flexibility. It is associated with spring, the season of renewal and new beginnings. It also symbolises creativity and progress and is linked to qualities like determination and idealism.


Fire embodies energy, passion, and transformation and is connected to the summer season. It stands for enthusiasm and assertiveness, and reflects characteristics like courage and leadership. 


Earth represents stability, nourishment, and balance. It corresponds to late summer or the transitional periods between seasons. It is also associated with traits such as patience and endurance


Metal signifies strength and resilience. It is linked to autumn, the season of harvest and consolidation. Metal reflects precision, organisation, and determination and is connected to qualities like integrity and discipline.


Water embodies adaptability and wisdom. It corresponds to winter which is the season of reflection. Water is associated with traits such as sensitivity and intelligence.

In Chinese astrology, each zodiac sign is influenced by one of the Five Elements. The elements rotate every two years, creating a 60-year cycle when combined with the twelve animal signs. Each element imparts its unique qualities to the zodiac animals, enhancing or modifying their inherent traits.

Fire and water are blending together.


  • Encourages growth and creativity.
  • Example: Wood Rat: Innovative, energetic, and ambitious.


  • Enhances passion and assertiveness.
  • Example: Fire Tiger: Dynamic, enthusiastic, and charismatic.


  • Promotes stability and practicality.
  • Example: Earth Dragon: Reliable, thoughtful, and ambitious.


  • Strengthens determination and organisation.
  • Example: Metal Rooster: Disciplined, meticulous, and resolute.


  • Enhances adaptability and intuition.
  • Example: Water Snake: Insightful, adaptable, and resourceful.

The five elements interact in both creative and destructive cycles which have an impact on compatibility also. 

Creative Cycle: Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth (ash), Earth bears Metal, Metal enriches Water (through mineral deposits), and Water nourishes Wood.

Destructive Cycle: Wood breaks Earth (roots), Earth absorbs Water, Water extinguishes Fire, Fire melts Metal, and Metal cuts Wood.

Understanding these interactions helps predict how well two signs will get along. For example, a sign governed by Fire might have a naturally supportive relationship with a sign governed by Wood, but a challenging relationship with a sign governed by Water.

Yin and yang symbol

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang are fundamental concepts in Chinese philosophy, representing the interconnectedness of opposites in the natural world. Yin embodies qualities such as darkness, femininity, passivity, and introspection, while Yang represents light, masculinity, activity, and outward expression. Together, they form a balanced and harmonious whole. 

In the Chinese zodiac, each of the twelve animal signs is associated with either Yin or Yang, reflecting its inherent energy and characteristics.

Yin Signs - Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Goat, Rooster, Pig

These signs are often more introspective, nurturing, and calm. They tend to focus on inner strength, patience, and subtlety in their actions and relationships.

Yang Signs - Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Horse, Monkey, Dog

These signs are generally more active, bold, and extroverted. They exhibit dynamic energy, enthusiasm, and assertiveness in their pursuits and interactions.

The balance of Yin and Yang is important for a successful relationship. Pairs with complementary energies—one Yin and one Yang—often find a natural balance and mutual support. 

On the other hand, relationships between two Yin or two Yang signs can face challenges due to an imbalance of energies. But, by simply understanding and appreciating the need for balance can help these pairs work together. 

As we conclude our journey, we encourage you to discover more about your own Chinese zodiac sign and the traits and compatibility that define it. If you’d love to learn more, check out our accredited Chinese Astrology Diploma Course for only £29 (save £98!) This course includes 10 detailed modules on the zodiac signs, the Five Elements, Yin and Yang, the Lunar calendar, and much more! 

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