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The Chinese zodiac 生肖 (shēng xiào) is a 12-year cycle, represented each year by an animal. These animals dictate your personality and affect the upcoming year. The Year changes on the Chinese New Year, which is based on the lunar calendar. The New Year usually falls within January or February and so unlike the western calendar, this is when the new zodiac begins.
The Chinese zodiac has played a huge part in decision-making for many Chinese people for centuries. Although this is gradually changing, and the younger generations are more interested in horoscopes, plenty of people still use the zodiac to choose their partner and wedding date. One of the most interesting ways the zodiac is still used for many Chinese families is in the planning of having children. In recent years I have experienced colleagues and friends who were planning to have a child in the Year of the Dragon. The Dragon appears to be one of the most sought after signs due to the dragon’s strength. Other zodiac like the goat or sheep is not a desirable year and many families will ensure they have a child the year before or after but not during that year. Many women have been known to have premature inducements or caesarean sections to ensure their baby is born before the Chinese New Year.
When your zodiac year comes around, it’s traditional to wear something red, especially underwear for a time during New Year.
Asking Someone Their Year
To find out what someone’s year is, use the question:
你属什么？(nǐ shǔ shén me.) What’s your year sign?
To respond use the phrase:
我属。。。(wǒ shǔ…) My year sign is… [add your animal here]
This is a great way to find out how old someone is without actually asking (yes, it is rude)!
So what does your Chinese zodiac say about you?
Here’s a rundown of the 12 Chinese Zodiac signs!
狗年 (gǒu nián) Year of the Dog
Years of the Dog include 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018 and 2030
Dogs are extremely faithful 忠诚 (zhōng chéng) when it comes to work and love, and they often make good leaders. They are able to inspire confidence in other people and are able to keep secrets. Dogs can sometimes become easily worried and irritable. If this is the case they can find fault in many things and create a distance between themselves and those they care about.
猪年 (zhū nián) Year of the Pig
Years of the Pig include 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019 and 2031
Pigs have a strong character and tend to speak honestly. They are optimistic 乐观 (lè guān) and usually have a calm exterior. The people around them might not see their positive qualities of loyalty and sincerity until they are friends. Pigs are extremely kind to their loved ones. Although Pigs can sometimes be hot-tempered 脾气火爆 (pí qì huǒ bào), they dislike arguing.
鼠年 (shǔ nián) Year of the Mouse
Years of the Rat include 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020 and 2032
Rats are smart and often work towards success. They are thoughtful 体贴 (tǐ tiē), sensible people, but are sometimes materialistic. Rats can often be timid 羞怯 (xiū qiè) and although on the outside they do not appear capable of taking a leading role, rats stick strongly to their beliefs 固执己见 (gù zhí yǐ jiàn), and will not be swayed by other people.
牛年 (niú nián) Year of the Ox
Years of the Ox include 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021 and 2033.
Oxen are strong-willed people with a strong devotion to work. They are able to succeed in a leadership role, although their communication skills are not the greatest. Oxen consider their options before taking action but can sometimes be a little too conservative.
虎年 (hǔ nián) Year of the Tiger
Years of the Tiger include 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022 and 2034.
Tigers enjoy a challenge and do things quickly and actively. They are often well respected because they are frank and good at expressing themselves. However, they can often be overly confident 自大\ (zì dà) and show off to others. Tigers can often be sympathetic 有同情心 (yǒu tóng qíng xīn) but also have moments of irritability without considering the consequences.
兔年 (tù nián) Year of the Rabbit
Years of the Rabbit include 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023 and 2035.
Rabbits are gentle and modest 谦虚 (qiān xū) and often try to spice up life with romance or change. They enjoy humour and this is often how they make friends. Sadly, because of their mild nature 温和 (wēn hé), Rabbits may miss opportunities in life. They are able to complete tasks efficiently, but also enjoy escaping reality.
龙年 (lóng nián) Year of the Dragon
Years of the Dragon include 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024 and 2036
Dragons are lively 活泼 (huó po) and intelligent and can easily take a leadership role. They are incredibly ambitious 有野心的 ( yǒu yě xīn de) and do not get discouraged, even when faced with a challenge. Dragons can sometimes be arrogant and if they are unable to control their mood they can be seen as eccentric and intolerant.
蛇年 (shé nián) Year of the Snake
Years of the Snake include 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025 and 2037.
Snakes have a very good temper and tend to be very sympathetic towards others. Although Snakes usually have a calm demeanour 冷静 (lěng jìng) they are also passionate souls driven to succeed. Unfortunately, Snakes can sometimes be jealous 嫉妒 (jí dù) and suspicious which may cause them to lose friends along the way. They can sometimes doubt the judgement of other people and may find relationships difficult.
马年 (mǎ nián) Year of the Horse
Years of the Horse include 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026 and 2038.
Horses are intelligent and make time for other people. They have incredible communication skills and although they may have a tendency to talk too much they are enthusiastic 热情 (rè qíng) and receptive. Horses have an active lifestyle at home and at work and have many friends. Sometimes they can be impatient 没耐心 (méi nài xīn) and their independence means they rarely listen to advice.
羊年 (yáng nián) Year of the Goat/Sheep
Years of the Goat/Sheep include 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015 and 2027.
Goats are often gentle 温柔 (wēn róu), kind-hearted people, sensitive to beautiful things around them. Goats prefer a peaceful life but their wise nature 明智 (míng zhì) will guide them in areas of business. However, Goats are easily worried and because of their shyness can often be perceived as weak-willed. Goats enjoy flattery and are often looked after by others.
猴年 (hóu nián) Year of the Monkey
Years of the Monkey include 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, and 2028.
Monkeys are very active people and especially enjoy taking part in sports. They are confident, sociable 合群 (hé qún) and will often set aside your own interests to help others. Monkeys have good memories and love to learn new things. Sometimes they can be jealous and arrogant 傲慢 (ào màn) and can sometimes look down on others.
鸡年 (jī nián) Year of the Rooster
Years of the Rooster include 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, and 2029.
Roosters are often intelligent 聪明 (cōng ming) and deep thinkers. They very rarely rely on other people and have a large amount of self-respect. Roosters can be very enthusiastic about a project but can lose interest quickly. Sometimes, they can a little narrow-minded 狭隘 (xiá ài), and whilst they enjoy lecturing others, dislike taking advice themselves.
If you’re interested to know more about how the Chinese Zodiac came to be and why there is no cat zodiac, take a look at our article, The Legend of the Chinese New Year Animals.