Find Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

Choose your date of birth and find out about your Chinese zodiac sign.

The Chinese Zodiac

What is the Chinese zodiac? Known as Sheng Xiao (生肖) in China, the zodiac consists of the 12 animal signs designated to the 12 earthly branches in China, including Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

Each of the animal signs is related to the Chinese lunar calendar, based on a twelve-year cycle. 2019 will be the Year of the Pig, beginning on February 5, 2019 (Chinese New Year) and running to January 25, 2020.

Which Chinese Zodiac Sign Are You?

Rat

...1948,1960,1972,
1984,1996,2008...

Ox

...1949,1961,1973,
1985,1997,2009...

Tiger

...1950,1962,1974,
1986,1998,2010...

Rabbit

...1951, 1963, 1975,
1987, 1999, 2011...

Dragon

...1952,1964,1976,
1988,2000,2012...

Snake

...1953,1965,1977,
1989,2001,2013...

Horse

...1954,1966,1978,
1990,2002,2014...

Goat

...1955,1967,1979,
1991,2003,2015...

Monkey

...1956,1968,1980,
1992,2004,2016...

Rooster

...1957,1969,1981,
1993,2005,2017...

Dog

...1958,1970,1982,
1994,2006,2018...

Pig

...1959,1971,1983,
1995,2007,2019...

NB: The years above are Chinese calendar years, starting at Chinese New Year.

The Origins of the Chinese Zodiac

Rat

The first mention of the zodiac can be found in the Book of Odes (Shijing, 诗经). At one point, the poem in Shijing Xiaoya Jiri (小雅·吉日) says: ”Auspicious Geng Wu is a good day for horse hunting”. This was the first juxtaposition of the Wu (午) character and the Horse.

The method of counting years using the Chinese zodiac originated during the time of the Southern and Northern dynasties (420–589 AD). Yu Wenhu in his biography discussing the Northern dynasty’s history, records a letter from his mother saying: “I gave birth to your two brothers in Wuchuan Town. The zodiac of your eldest brother is Rat and the other brother, Rabbit. Yours is Snake.”

So the zodiac was already used to mark the years at that time. To this day, there is no clear evidence as to the origins of the Chinese zodiac. It has, however, continued to be valued and used as a mascot of Chinese New Year and a symbol of festive celebrations.

  • Please feel free to contact us if you've heard any other stories about how the zodiac animals first came out!

How to Calculate the Chinese Zodiac?

Lichun (立春, the Beginning of Spring) in the Chinese lunar calendar means the beginning of a new zodiac, a new year, and the first of 24 solar terms.

But in today’s China, people tend to regard the first day of the Chinese lunar New Year as New Year. About half of all Chinese people calculate zodiacs based on the first day of the Chinese lunar New Year, while the other half believe New Year starts from lichun.

The Selection of Animal Signs

A Mascot of Chinese New Year

Animal signs have close ties with the way the Chinese people’s daily and social lives are lived. There are roughly 3 categories of animals.

1. Six domestic animals—ox, goat, horse, pig, dog, and rooster. These 6 animals, known as liuchu in Chinese, are vital to Chinese agriculture. In rural areas they are traditionally believed to thrive and flourish (liu chu xing wang, 六畜兴旺), suggesting large, auspicious and prosperous families.

2. Five wild animals—tiger, rabbit, monkey, rat, and snake.

3. The traditional and symbolic Chinese mascot in a class of its own—dragon. The dragon is the quintessential symbol of the Chinese nation, representing wealth and auspiciousness.

The Order of Animal Signs

Why the current order of the animal signs? There are 3 main explanations, approaching the mystery from vastly different angles.

1. Legend

grazing Ox

A folk story is one of the most popular ways to explain development of the Chinese zodiac culture.

According to legend, the Yellow Emperor (huangdi, 黄帝) wanted to select 12 animals to be his palace guards. The cat asked the rat to help it sign up, but the rat forgot its promise, so the cat wasn’t included. Thereafter, the cat and rat were enemies.

The elephant also wanted to join the palace guard, but the cunning rat entered only its trunk, to limit its chances. As for other animals, the ox was originally first, but the rat climbed up its back and the pig tried to follow. As a result, the rat became the first of the animal signs while the pig became the last.

As the Mountain King and Ocean King respectively, the tiger and the dragon were not satisfied to be listed behind the rat and the ox. The rabbit also felt it was unfair, so it raced the dragon and successfully came ahead of the dragon.

At that moment, the dog also felt outraged by the unfair situation, so it bit the rabbit. Unfortunately, the dog was then punished by becoming the penultimate sign. The snake, horse, goat, monkey, and rooster later all found their zodiac positions after participating in this dramatic competition.

2. The Ancient Explanation of 12 Hours of Day and Night

In ancient China, each day was divided into 12 shichen (时辰)and each shichen was the equivalent of 2 hours today. People in ancient days named each shichen according to the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

Animal Sign

Hours

Description

Rat

Zi Shi 子时, 23:00–1:00

Rats are active during this time.

Ox

Chou Shi 丑时, 1:00–3:00

Oxen are used to grazing at night.

Tiger

Yin Shi 寅时, 3:00–5:00

Tigers hunt prey.

Rabbit

Mao Shi 卯时, 5:00–7:00

Rabbits like to eat grass with the morning dew, as light emerges.

Dragon

Chen Shi 辰时, 7:00–9:00

It’s often foggy at this time, and dragons ride the clouds and mount the mists.

Snake

Si Shi巳时, 9:00–11:00

Snakes go out for food.

Horse

Wu Shi 午时, 11:00–13:00

Wild horses like to run and neigh at noon.

Goat

Wei Shi 未时, 13:00–15:00

This is the best time for goats to eat grass.

Monkey

Shen Shi 申时, 15:00–17:00

As sunset approaches, monkeys moan.

Rooster

You Shi 酉时, 17:00–19:00

Roosters go back to their henhouses.

Dog

Xu Shi 戌时, 19:00–21:00

Dogs are responsible for guarding the households at night.

Pig

Hai Shi 亥时, 21:00–23:00

Lazy pigs do nothing but eat and sleep, day and night.

3. The Categories of Yin and Yang for the Twelve Animals

The ancient Chinese believed that the 12 animal signs of the zodiac are divided by yin and yang into 2 categories. In addition, they thought that odd numbers belong to yang while even numbers belong to yin.

The number of toes on most animals is generally the same on all feet. However, the rat has 4 toes on its forefoot, and 5 on its back foot. Odd numbers with even numbers of toes on the same animal is rather rare. Hence the rat ranks first.

Zodiac Animal

Toes per Limb

Odd/Even

Yin/Yang

Rat

4 front, 5 back

even and odd

yin and yang

Ox

4

Even

yin

Tiger

5

Odd

yang

Rabbit

4

Even

yin

Dragon

5

Odd

yang

Snake

0

Even

yin

Horse

1

odd

yang

Goat

4

even

yin

Monkey

5

odd

yang

Rooster

4

even

yin

Dog

5

odd

yang

Pig

4

even

yin

In total, there are 6 animals with odd numbers of toes, placing them in the yang category, and another 6 creatures with even numbers of toes, belonging to yin.

Why Is the Cat Not Listed among the 12 Animal Signs?

Where is the cat?

Tiger, Wild Animal

There are many folk stories about this topic. The practical reason, however, is that there were no cats in ancient China. Cats originated in ancient Egypt, and the Chinese zodiac existed before they were brought to China.

In addition, tigers and cats are part of the same biological family, so actually a member of the cat family still has a place in the Chinese zodiac.

All of this helps to show that the selection of animal signs was not arbitrary. On the contrary, everything had a reason; though there were different ways of looking at the choice.

Are We Really Unlucky in a Benmingnian?

The Chinese benmingnian (本命年) is literally the zodiac or animal year of one’s birth. If one was born in the Year of the Pig, then the Year of the Pig is his animal year.

Because of the circular recurrence of the Chinese zodiac, one will experience his animal year once every 12 years. Therefore, a person will encounter his animal year when he is 12, 24, 36, 48, 60, and so on.

  • Why do the Chinese wear red waistbands during their animal year? Does this really prevent them from experiencing bad things? Would the year otherwise be unlucky for them? Check The Animal Year.

Introduction to the 12 Animals

We list all the 12 zodiac animals with detailed information, if you want to check out which animal sign you or your parents or your kids belong to:

Experience Chinese Culture with China Travel

Wanna take a tour to know China better and experience more? China Travel will help you create a China tour for you based on your needs and requirements which can save your time, money, and trouble. Feel free to tell us your tour ideas!