Chinese Zodiac 101: Breaking Down the Chinese Zodiac

Many people have heard of the Chinese Zodiac, but who out there knows the many little details that make up the breadth of this fascinating form of Eastern Astrology?

The Chinese Zodiac consists of 12 animals, each of which rules a year. According to the year of your birth and depending on what animal rules that year, you will exhibit qualities and characteristics of the animal. You could call it an ‘animal spirit’ almost, which influences your behavior, thought patterns, and beliefs.

The Chinese Zodiac, Explained

Filled with a rich history and lore, the Chinese zodiac is a powerful guidance tool that has stretched beyond the eastern world. 

The 12 Signs of the Zodiac

You’re probably familiar with the 12 signs of the western zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. These signs are named after constellations in the sky and are based on a 12-month cycle.

The Chinese zodiac also has 12 signs, but instead of being named after constellations, they’re named after animals. The 12 Chinese signs are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. The Chinese zodiac is based on a 12-year cycle, with a new sign beginning just after the Chinese New Year each year.

The 12 animals are (in order): Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.

Each animal possesses its own unique set of talents and characteristics.

Dragons, for example, are known for being powerful and energetic; a person born in the Year of the Dragon would, therefore, have a powerful and energetic spirit. Rabbits are gentle and accommodating; so someone born in the Year of the Rabbit would have a gentle and accommodating spirit.

What is Your Chinese Zodiac Sign?

Each Chinese New Year, a new year in the 12-year cycle begins. Your Chinese zodiac is dependant on which animal ruled on your date of birth, those who were born in January will need to take a closer look as this new year happens later than the western version.

  • Rat: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
  • Ox: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
  • Tiger: 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
  • Rabbit: 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
  • Dragon: 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
  • Snake: 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
  • Horse: 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
  • Goat: 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
  • Monkey: 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
  • Rooster: 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
  • Dog: 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
  • Pig: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

The Rising Sign

As well as the main year sign, there is also the Rising Sign. Fans of Western Astrology will recognize this as the sign that represents the hour of your birth; it governs how you present yourself to the world and your outward style. It is the same in the Chinese Zodiac, where your Rising Sign will rule your image and outward manner.

So if you were born in the Hours of the Dog, you will likely come across as a serious sort of person but deeply loyal and also fierce. If you were born in the Hours of the Tiger, you will often have a powerful aura about you and take pride in your appearance. If you were born in the Hours of the Pig, you will seem relatively approachable and pleasant.

The 5 Elements

The Chinese Zodiac has five different elements that govern the signs:

  • Wood
  • Fire
  • Earth
  • Metal
  • Water

Each year will have its own special element, but each animal is ruled by a specific element (for example, if you were born in 1986, you would be a Fire Tiger, but the Tiger itself is ruled by wood).

Each element also brings its own characteristics to the individual. Wood brings a calming and diplomatic energy; Fire brings energy and dynamism; Earth brings practicality and the ability to focus; Metal brings drive and ambition; Water brings emotional and intuitive gifts.

The 4 Trines

The Chinese Zodiac is also made up of four trines, quite similar to how Western Astrology divides itself into four based on its elements. There are three Chinese Zodiac animals in each trine. These animals are known as ‘friends’ and will often share much in common.

The 1st Trine

Made up of the Rat, Dragon, and Monkey.

These are the doers of the zodiac and can achieve phenomenal things. They can be innovative, progressive and make great leaders, but they can also be aggressive, jealous and vindictive.

The 2nd Trine

Made up of the Ox, Snake, and Rooster.

These are the hard workers of the zodiac who are able to conquer just about anything through sheer tenacity. They can be patient, enduring and wise, but also egotistical, self-righteous and judgemental.

The 3rd Trine

Made up of the Tiger, Horse, and Dog.

These are the humanitarians of the zodiac who want to make the world a better place. They can be brave, free-thinking individuals, but also argumentative, stubborn and over-sensitive.

The 4th Trine

Made up of the Rabbit, Goat, and Pig.

These are the peacemakers of the zodiac who dislike conflict and are known for their compassionate natures. They can be caring, artistic and pleasant to be around, but also gullible, pessimistic, and pedantic.

The Circle of Conflict

Just as the Chinese Zodiac has its friends, it also has its enemies. Each animal has an ‘opposite’ who is traditionally known as their nemesis. This does not, of course, suggest that every individual of your enemy-animal will actually be your enemy; there are many people who are friends or lovers with their enemy-animal and they get on perfectly well! It simply illustrates that the animal opposite yours is the one you may experience the greatest challenges with because you tend to be so different.

The Circle of Conflict is as follows:

Rat > Horse

Ox > Goat

Tiger > Monkey

Rabbit > Rooster

Dragon > Dog

Snake > Pig


That just about sums up our Chinese Zodiac 101! By learning about your year of birth animal, your Rising Sign, your dominating elements, your trine and who stands opposite you in the Circle of Conflict, you can learn more about yourself and others. Not only is it deeply insightful, but great fun too!

Take the Quiz! Which Chinese Zodiac Animal Are You, Really?

About The Author

Iberia Tor

Iberia Tor is a harmonious Libra Sun, Conflicted Scorpio rising, and a Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac.A whirlwind writer with a passion for Tarot cards and Astrology in all forms, she is fascinated by other realms and experiencing both the negative and positive that goes with its inhabitants. Sarah believes the imagination knows no boundaries; it is not just a gift, but a privilege also, one utilized as a tool of exploration to penetrate the very core of our existence.Iberia has authored three novels, and currently writes Astrology Answers’ Daily Money and Chinese Zodiac Horoscopes, as well as articles.
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