Chinese Astrological Years

Chinese proverb

Proverb

饼充饥
Huà bǐng chōng jī [hua bing chong ji]
draw biscuit fill hunger
Drawing a biscuit to satisfy hunger
To act foolishly and ineffectively

In Chinese astrology there are a sequence of twelve animals ( shēng xiào), each representing a year. The sequence is rat; ox; tiger; rabbit; dragon; snake; horse; sheep; monkey; rooster; dog and finally pig. The Chinese year in which you were born determines which is the associated animal. As the Chinese year starts at Chinese New Year and not on January 1st, if you are born in January or February you need to account for when the Chinese year started in that year, you can check this by hovering the mouse over the year in the following list, a pop-up will show the dates of the Chinese calendar year.

Hong Kong, zodiac, sculpture
The Garden of the Chinese Zodiac features twelve carved animals in the gardens of Kowloon Walled City Park, Hong Kong

Each year is associated with an element as well as an animal. The Chinese ‘elemental essences’ are: Metal; Water; Wood; Fire and Earth. It takes a full 60 years before the cycle repeats itself, so for example, a ‘Metal Sheep’ year is followed in 12 years time by a ‘Water Sheep’; only after 5 x 12 = 60 years will there be a ‘Metal Sheep’ year again. The animals represent the twelve earthly branches. The twelve astrological years only became widely used in the Yuan dynasty.

Lotus

Lotus

Culture

The lotus is an emblem with strong Buddhist links. As the plant grows in mud and muck and yet produces a pure white flower it is considered a metaphor for favorable transformation.

The reason for twelve animal years is most likely to relate to the twelve months in a year but may actually relate to the almost 12 year orbit of Jupiter around the sun (11.86 years). The orbit was well known from very ancient times in China. However in legend it is said that God of the Golden Star reported to the Jade Emperorthat chaos and confusion reigned on Earth. The God of the Golden Star 's solution was to put twelve animals in charge at different times to bring about some order to affairs.

A full astrological reading is a complex matter as you need the year, month, day and hour of conception (not birth), this is known as the bā zì 'eight characters' as each item is written as two characters using the sexagemisal characters for recording dates. An astrologer will then be able to give predictions for your whole life.

It is all taken as a bit of fun and it serves as a polite way to ask someone's age (you can usually tell which 12 year span was the person's birth year). Here are the years with the associated animal and the earthly stem. The twelve names were also used for the traditional twelve (two hour) shí chen divisions of the day. In addition the propitious month of year and compass direction are given, taking account of these gives extra luck. In China the occurrence every twelve years of your běn mìng nián birth year (astrological sign) is considered an unlucky year and you are vulnerable to accidents and bad luck. This bad influence is particularly strong in your 60th year. To ward this off the ill effects you should take extra care and some superstitious Chinese wear lucky red underwear or red wrist bracelets during this year.


Animal
Earthly Branch
YearsTime of day
and Month
Direction
Rat
Chinese year of the rat
1

1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020 11pm to 1 am
7th Dec to 5th Jan
North

A rat in China is not the dirty, nasty creature seen in Europe. A rat is cool; calm and charming. They act with integrity, are persistent and are careful with money. They are generous to those they love.

Ox
Chinese year of the ox
2

chǒu
1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021 1 to 3 am
6th Jan to 3rd Feb
North-North-East

An ox is quiet and easy-going. Practical and self assured they are often successful. As they are not outspoken they can be difficult to read and so easy to misunderstand and provoke to anger.

Tiger
Chinese year of the tiger
3

yín
1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022 3 to 5 am
4th Feb to 5th Mar
East-North-East

Tiger people share the power and courage with the admired and respected animal. Tigers are thoughtful and may be destined for high office. They can be selfish and offhand; tigers have difficulty accepting orders.

Rabbit
Chinese year of the rabbit
4

mǎo
1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023 5 to 7 am
6th Mar to 4th Apr
East

A rabbit is a popular creature, good at getting along with people. Gifted and ambitious they are proficient at business. They are prone to sadness and are not deep thinkers. Naturally lucky, a rabbit is skillful in handling money.

Dragon
Chinese year of the dragon
5

chén
1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024 7 to 9 am
5th Apr to 4th May
East South East

In the West dragons are supposed to be violent and evil monsters. Not so in China, they are the most powerful of creatures but are friends as much as foes, and are considered lucky. Dragons have energy, courage and perception. Natural leaders, dragons are healthy and prosperous, however dragons can be spiteful and prone to anger.

Snake
Chinese year of the snake
6

1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013 2025 9 to 11 am
5th May to 5th June
South South East

The wisdom of the snake is proverbial, and this is a snake's principal virtue. Spells of deep thinking can make them loners and independent. Wisdom with handling money makes them able at attain wealth, they are also blessed with good looks. As they are not very perceptive of those around them, they can make poor partners.

Horse
Chinese year of the horse
7

1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014 2026 11 am to 1 pm
6th June to 6th July
South

A horse is cheerful and easy to get on with but impulsive and with a short temper. Horse people do not always think things through; they may choose a partner on a whim. Horses are gregarious and love entertainment; they can also be good at managing money.

Sheep
Chinese year of the sheep
8

wèi
1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015 2027 1 to 3 pm
7th July to 6th Aug
South South West

One of the most creative people, sheep (or goats) ponder on life and can get depressed. They are not leaders and tend to be shy but look after themselves well. However their gentle nature does not indicate a lack of passion. Sheep are naturally helpful people, aiding anyone in distress.

Monkey
Chinese year of the monkey
9

shēn
1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016 2028 3 to 5 pm
7th Aug to 7th Sept
West South West

While the dragon is the ruler, it is the monkey that is held in most affection. Skillful and successful, monkeys have an abundance of common sense and are fun loving. Talkative and impish they can alienate people at times. They are avid readers and promote harmony rather than discord.

Chicken or Rooster
Chinese year of the rooster
10

yǒu
1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017 2029 5 to 7 pm
8th Sept to 7th Oct
West

A chicken is sociable but thoughtful. Ambitious and positive they are often overly ambitious and seem reckless. Roosters, however can be outspoken and act selfishly.

Dog
Chinese year of the dog
11

1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018 7 to 9 pm
8th Oct to 6th Nov
West North West

A dog in China goes not have the negative undertones that it has elsewhere. Dogs are loyal and dutiful and eager to please, which makes them good workers. There is a tendency towards selfishness and obstinacy, dogs do not take part in social affairs. Warm-hearted dogs can be relied on to stand up against injustice.

Pig
Chinese year of the pig
12

hài
1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019 9 to 11pm
7th Nov to 6th Dec
North North West

Like dogs, rats and snakes, pigs are not as bad as the Western association would make you think. Pigs are brave and strong, preferring to work on their own. A pig's knowledge is fairly superficial and they are not gregarious; pigs are loving and dedicated partners and friends.

Fish for good fortune

Fish for good fortune

Culture

Fish ( ) have been a frequently used symbol for good fortune for centuries. This is because means ?surplus; abundance? and so a picture of a fish is a wish for prosperity. They are often eaten at Chinese New Year partly as a symbol for a wish for abundance in the coming year.
Owls

Owls

Culture

The owl is a bird of ill omen in China and is considered to be unlucky.
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Citation information: Chinasage, 'Chinese astrological years and associated animals', last updated 5 Dec 2016, Web, http://www.chinasage.info/astrology.htm.

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