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birth data, lunar calendar, planet movements, five elements

Chinese Zodiac Signs: An Overview

Author: Lena Santos

Chinese astrology dates back thousands of years.

In the course of its history, Chinese astrologers used two main systems: those that depend on birth data alone and those that used birth data but rely primarily on the movements of stars and planets. Majority used the lunar calendar which based its calculations on the cycles of the moon. This is the reason why Chinese New Year falls on a different date every year. Some Chinese systems used the solar year. However, both used the Chinese five elements theory on Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. These elements are fundamental part of Chinese philosophy.

The five elements are interrelated and dependent with each other, creating an environment where each element is of equal strength. They are involved in a productive cycle: Wood produces Fire; Fire produces Earth; Earth produces Metal; Metal produces Water; and Water produces Wood - thus the continuing cycle. The five year cyclical pattern of the five elements is followed by the assignment of an element each year, thus producing sixty possible sign combinations.

Based on the five elements Chinese astrologer would be able to describe a person’s personality and life relative to the twelve Chinese zodiac signs. The Chinese zodiacal signs are represented by twelve animals: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The 12 animals orderly stand for a consecutive twelve years since the Chinese zodiac is calculated according to lunar calendar. In the Chinese system, the symbols change each year as different from the Greek system where the symbols change from month to month. The Chinese believe that human personalities are determined by the sign under which they were born.

According to a Chinese legend, the twelve animals were called by Buddha to a race for the purpose of determining their ranking or order in the zodiacal signs. In order to test the animals, Buddha planned the race across land and sea. The clever rat in order to assure victory in the race befriended the ox that was capable to move fast and strong on land and across rough terrain as well as the ox could swim on the water. The rat rode and climb onto the back of the ox and when they are neared the finish line, the rat jumped off and became the first one to reach the finish line and thus the rat occupied the first sign.

The Chinese zodiac presented the character of persons born under each sign in twelve consecutive years. Each year are represented by the twelve animals, as follows:


  • Year of the Rat - 1912, 1924,1936,1948,1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032, 2044. People born under the said years are smart, willing to accumulate wealth and will exert efforts to be successful. Though shy, most of them are happy and can get along with others.

  • Year of the Ox - 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033, 2045. People born on these years are considered honest, hardworking, patient, and bullheaded and cannot communicate properly.

  • Year of the Tiger - 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034, 2046. People born on these years are brave, tolerant, and strong.

  • Year of the Rabbit - 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2036, 2047. People born under these years are gentle, sensitive, modest, and merciful and have sound memory. They have sense of humor, happy and romantic.

  • Year of the Dragon - 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036, 2048. People born under this sign are fortunate, energetic and lively. They have leadership abilities and perfectionists. However, they are sometimes arrogant, and impatient.

  • Year of the Snake - 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037, 2049. People born under this sign are good communicator, good tempered, and gracious morality but sometimes suspicious and jealous.

  • Year of the Horse - 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038, 2050. People born under this sign are clever, active, kind to others and like doing business with others.

  • Year of the Sheep - 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039, 2051. People under the sign of sheep are polite, tender, polite, friendly, clever and kind-hearted. They love art and beauty, faithful and serene.

  • Year of the Monkey - 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040, 2052. People born on these years of the monkey are active, energetic, and creative. However, they are impatient.

  • Year of the Rooster - 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041, 2053. People born one these sign are considered bright, honest, communicative, ambitious, and warm hearted.

  • Year of the Dog - 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042, 2054. People born under this sign are courageous, dexterous, smart, and faithful. They have straight-forward character.

  • Year of the Pig - 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2020, 2031, 2043. People born under this sign are honest and frank. They are calm, strong, but sometimes lack patience and independence. However, they are tolerant and optimistic.

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