What you need to know about the Chinese zodiac

Kerry Ward
·4-min read
Photo credit: Issy Muir - Getty Images
Photo credit: Issy Muir - Getty Images

You've probably heard of Chinese horoscope and the Chinese zodiac signs. I know y’all just about feeling A-OK with Western astrology (you can hold court about star sign dates, rising signs and moon signs yah-di-yah), but there’s a whole other astrological system at play in the world (specifically China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand): the Chinese zodiac. And it’s been around even longer - for well over 2,000 years.

Both the Western and Chinese zodiac systems have 12 ‘signs’ (at least the majority of which are animals). Each sign provides personality attributes for the person born under it, and both systems also refer to the elements. However, that’s where the parallels end.

Chinese zodiac signs

How does the Chinese zodiac work?

The animals of the Chinese zodiac are not associated with constellations in the sky. Its 12-part cycle corresponds to years rather than months (mirroring Jupiter’s cosmic path around the Sun, which takes twelve years), and the elemental aspect is used differently.

Photo credit: LoulouVonGlup - Getty Images
Photo credit: LoulouVonGlup - Getty Images

The Chinese New Year begins on the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice (this changes each year, so if you’re a January or February baby make sure you check, which year you fall into) and each year comes under the influence of a different animal (see more on those below).

On February 12th 2021, we moved into the year of the ox. The ox was second in the great race (see below), tricked into losing by giving a lift to the wily rat, but nevertheless, is a highly valued animal in Chinese culture due to its contribution to agriculture. Oxes are associated with hard work, strength and reliability. They are logical, stoic, humble and earnest. So, 2021 babies are expected to possess these traits.

Origins of the Chinese zodiac system

One legend says that the origins of these animals’ selection came about because long ago, the Jade Emperor wanted to appoint twelve animals to be his guards. He sent an immortal being to Earth to spread the message, and put it out there that the earlier an animal got through the Heavenly Gate, the better rank it would receive.

So, the Earth’s animal kingdom embarked on a ‘race to the gate’- the first 12 were the first ‘knighted’. Rat was the smartest/fastest, and got there first. The rest came in the below order, and their stories kind of dictate the characteristics each are said to possess.

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!

Photo credit: MirageC - Getty Images
Photo credit: MirageC - Getty Images

Finding your animal

Rat (the insightful one): 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Ox (the kind-hearted one): 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Tiger (the organised one): 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Rabbit (the enduring one): 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Dragon (the flashy one): 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Snake (the graceful one): 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

Horse (the vigorous one): 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

Photo credit: LoulouVonGlup - Getty Images
Photo credit: LoulouVonGlup - Getty Images

Goat (the talented one): 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Monkey (the resilient one): 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

Rooster (the artistic one): 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Dog (the adaptable one): 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Pig (the explosive one): 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019

But your Chinese zodiac animal is not the only thing you need to know. Your birth year also corresponds to one of the five elements (metal, water, wood, fire, earth). In Chinese philosophy, these five elements are seen as the foundation of everything in the universe and all natural phenomena. They have their own characteristics, and which one you fall under determines your personality as well as your animal.

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Finding your Chinese horoscope element

Discover your element by matching the last numeral in your year of birth to the element below:

0 or 1: Metal

2 or 3: Water

4 or 5: Wood

6 or 7: Fire

8 or 9: Earth

So, for example if you were born in 1990, your element is metal; if you were born in 1982, your element is water. To put it all together and discover your in-depth personality analysis, click here (all you need to provide is your birth date).

For your own unique and personal tarot forecast, visit Kerry's TarotBella page.

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