The Chinese zodiac signs explained: what you need to know

Like western astrology, Chinese zodiac signs are telling. Take a glimpse at the centuries-old beliefs

Chinese zodiac signs, Chinese zodiac signs explained
(Image credit: Ola-Ola/Getty Images)

Have you ever tried to uncover your Chinese zodiac sign?

Sure, you're familiar with Western astrology—you've been following your 2022 horoscope predictions to a T, snagging the best crystals for Mercury retrograde and following along with the full moon calendar. We're fully aware that you're a cosmic pro. 

But there are more transcendental methods that offer a glimpse into your fate. Considering the Chinese zodiac, a.k.a. sheng xiao, has been around for thousands of years—and it's often referenced in Bling Empire season 2, which we know you'll be watching—we figured we'd do a little homework. 

Here's everything you need to know.

The Chinese zodiac signs, explained:

The Chinese zodiac has 12 different signs, which are represented by an animal. (Sound familiar?) The animals are considered somewhat prophetic—they're able to determine personality traits and what type of connections people will form in their lifetimes. 

The zodiac cycle repeats every 12 years with the same animals. In order, they are as follows: 

  • Rat
  • Ox
  • Tiger
  • Rabbit
  • Dragon
  • Snake
  • Horse
  • Goat 
  • Monkey
  • Rooster
  • Dog
  • Pig

chinese zodiac sign animals

(Image credit: Pazhyna/Getty Images)

For those who are anxious to uncover their sign and corresponding traits, you'll have to select the animal that coincides with your birth year. (Remember, the cycle starts anew every 12 years.) This all follows the Chinese lunar calendar, not the typical calendar we're accustomed to. 

For those who are not inclined to calculate numbers (guilty!) this chart from travel sight China Highlights (opens in new tab) will assist in pinning down your creature. 

  • Rat: 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
  • Ox: 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
  • Tiger: 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
  • Rabbit: 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
  • Dragon: 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
  • Snake: 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
  • Horse: 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
  • Goat: 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
  • Monkey: 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
  • Rooster: 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
  • Dog: 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
  • Pig: 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Similar to Western zodiac signs, Chinese zodiac signs assign personality traits to each animal. Here are a few for each: 

  • Rat: resourceful and versatile,
  • Ox: determined and dependable 
  • Tiger: quick-witted and kind
  • Rabbit: quiet and elegant 
  • Dragon: confident and enthusiastic
  • Snake: enigmatic and wise
  • Horse: energetic, animated
  • Goat: calm and sympathetic 
  • Monkey: sharp and curious
  • Rooster: hardworking and observant
  • Dog: honest and loving
  • Pig: generous and diligent

Do you agree with your animal's traits? Notice any discrepancies?

Chinese zodiac elements

Those who have studied astrological birth charts know that the fun does not stop with animals. The Five Elements also impact your Chinese Zodiac chart. We're used to water, fire, air and earth in Western astrology, but in Chinese astrology, it's a little different.

According to The Guide to Chinese Horoscopes via Oprah Daily (opens in new tab), here's how to uncover your element: 

Metal

Birth years: Last number of your birth is 0 or 1
Associated with:
 “solidity and willpower"

Water

Birth years: Last number of your birth is 2 or 3
Associated with: “responsiveness and persuasion”

Wood

Birth years: Last number of your birth is 4 or 5
Associated with:
 “imagination and creativity”

Fire

Birth years: Last number of your birth is 6 or 7
Associated with:
 “passion, and bursts of dynamic energy”

Earth

Birth years: Last number of your birth is 8 or 9
Associated with:
 “down-to-earth qualities that encourage focus and commitment to achieving goals.”

Do be warned...

Allegedly, your Chinese zodiac birth year, also known as Ben Ming Nian, is considered an unlucky time, so avoid making sudden changes. When you think about it, it's a bit similar to when planets go retrograde: it means we'll have to go with the flow. 

For a more in-depth look at the traits, superstitions and all, be sure to visit China Highlights (opens in new tab)

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Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment. 


The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos and honed in on astrology coverage within the Life vertical. She's partial to writing pieces about the next big TV obsession—anyone else impatiently waiting for "Conversations with Friends"—and keeping you up to date on new trends like the latest must-have from Zara. 


Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets. 


When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a new book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)