What Is The Chinese Zodiac + How To Find Your Zodiac Animal

Photo: GaudiLab/shutterstock
What is My Chinese Zodiac Sign?

Most of us are somewhat familiar with the Zodiac. We read horoscopes and know our sign, yet we don't really question what it's all about or where it came from. We accept our Western astrology, and so has the entire world, for many years.

Then, we hear of Chinese astrology, and we assume it's just "the Chinese version" of what we're already accustomed to. But it's not! So, when we wonder, "What is my Chinese zodiac sign?" it turns out that Chinese astrology has its own cosmic source.

There are no "signs" of the zodiac — not in the way Western astrology uses signs — and there are no Chinese counterparts. In this ancient system, animals are used as icons, and each animal is representative of the year we were born.

When done correctly, we get to experience wisdom unfold before our very eyes.

RELATED: Which Chinese Zodiac Signs Are Lucky?

What is Chinese astrology?

The Chinese zodiac is a system of animal representations that cover the range of human behavior and actions. The "signs" are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig.

This system is over 2,000 years and is a great part of Chinese tradition.

One thing we have to know is that Chinese astrology, though cosmic, is nothing at all like Western astrology. In Western astrology, we find our signs according to the month and date of our birth. Extensive readings would require time, place, year, location.

In Western astrology, we write up charts that are based on a system of monthly zodiac signs, whereas in Chinese astrology, we take an entirely different route.

Chinese astrology is based on the year you were born.

This method also changes yearly, as each new year is represented by an animal as well. So, we have 12 signs of the zodiac. based on the individual year of birth, and we have named years, one by one, each one different until they repeat after 12 years.

The animals are similar to the constellations and were created to mimic the stars as seen in the sky. So, while it's not so far off from the Western method, it's still "astrological" and based on planetary movement.

The date and time of one's birth are key to the knowledge in the Chinese horoscope. And in the same way that Western astrology offers us traits, houses, rising signs, ruling planets, elements and conjunctions, Chinese astrology gives us the science of how the animals of the zodiac affect us.

RELATED: The Best (And Worst!) Parts Of Your Personality, Based On The Chinese Zodiac

The Zodiac is broken down into different parts.

First come the 12 Earthly Branches, which are the animals of the zodiac: Zi (rat), Chou (Ox), Yin (Tiger), Mao (Rabbit), Chen (Dragon), Si (Snake), Wei (Sheep), Shen (Monkey), You (Rooster), Xu (Dog) and Hai (Pig).

Next, we have the 10 Heavenly Stems: Jia, Yi, Bing, Ding, Wu, Ji, Geng, Xin, Ren, Gui.

Thirdly, we have Yin Yang. Yin is negative and feminine, and Yang is masculine and positive. (Some old Chinese dude wrote this, no doubt.) Yin is associated with Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Sheep, Rooster and Pig; Yang is associated with Tiger, Dragon, Monkey and Dog.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Join now for YourTango's trending articles, top expert advice and personal horoscopes delivered straight to your inbox each morning.

Then comes the 5 elements of Chinese astrology. The Chinese believed that all things great and small belong in 5 different categories: Metal (Monkey, Rooster), Wood (Tiger and Rabbit), Water (Rat and Pig), Fire (Snake, Horse), and Earth (Ox, Dragon, Sheep and Dog).

Lastly, we have the 12 Shi Chen.

This is the day split into 12 parts, which gives us 2-hour periods of time. Those periods are call Shi Chen. Each two-hour slot is represented by an animal. For instance, the midnight hour is called Zi Hour and is associated with the Rat.

Why Chinese astrology and not traditional Western Astrology?

Most of us are somewhat familiar with Western astrology. We've grown up on daily horoscopes, love readings, and predictions of the future according to the stars; it's a world we are familiar with to a degree, and whether we believe in astrology or not, it's most definitely "home."

Chinese astrology, on the other hand, is foreign and takes on an entirely different flavor. And for those of us who are attracted to things like the occult, esoterica, spirituality, the I Ching, cartomancy and astrology, Chinese astrology provides us another look, another perspective.

With Chinese astrology comes Chinese philosophy, and that allows us a profound vision of knowledge and insight. Confucius? He was the man! And his words are here, today, for all of us to learn from.

So, basically, you turn to Chinese astrology because you're interested in other forms of divination, brought to us by other cultures

What is my Chinese zodiac sign?

It's easy to find out what your sign is if you follow this mini-chart.

If you were born during the years mentioned next to the zodiac animal, that is what your sign is. Say, for instance, you were born in 1980. Your Chinese zodiac sign ix the Monkey.

  • Rat (shǔ): 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032
  • Ox (niú): 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033
  • Tiger (hǔ): 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034
  • Rabbit (tù): 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023, 2035
  • Dragon (lóng): 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024, 2036
  • Snake (shé): 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025, 2037
  • Horse (mǎ): 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026, 2038
  • Sheep (yáng): 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027, 2039
  • Monkey (hóu): 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028, 2040
  • Rooster (jī): 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029, 2041
  • Dog (gǒu): 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042
  • Pig (zhū): 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031, 2043

RELATED: Which Chinese Zodiac Signs Are Most Compatible

My Chinese sign of the Zodiac is the Dog, so I would venture forth with this information if I wanted to do my Chinese chart. My sign has nothing to do with the month I was born, only the year.

In Chinese astrology, what is your best love match?

The best match for each sign is:

  • Rat: Monkey, Dragon, Ox
  • Ox: Rat, Rooster, Snake
  • Tiger: Horse, Pig, Dragon
  • Rabbit: Sheep, Monkey, Dog, Pig
  • Dragon: Rat, Rooster, Monkey
  • Snake: Rooster, Dragon
  • Horse: Tiger, Sheep, Rabbit
  • Sheep: Rabbit, Horse, Pig
  • Monkey: Rabbit, Ox
  • Rooster: Ox, Snake
  • Dog: Rabbit, Tiger
  • Pig: Tiger, Sheep, Rabbit

What is your worst love match in Chinese astrology?

  • Rat: Horse, Rooster
  • Ox: Dragon, Tiger, Sheep, Horse
  • Tiger: Ox, Tiger, Snake, Monkey
  • Rabbit: Rooster, Snake
  • Dragon: Ox, Sheep, Dog
  • Snake: Tiger, Rabbit, Sheep, Pig, Snake
  • Horse: Rat, Ox, Rooster, Horse
  • Sheep: Ox, Tiger, Dog
  • Monkey: Pig, Tiger
  • Rooster: Rat, Rabbit, Horse, Dog, Rooster
  • Dog: Dragon, Sheep, Rooster
  • Pig: Monkey, Snake

RELATED: What The 'Red String Of Fate' Means — And How To Find Your Threads

Ruby Miranda is a New Yorker who learned astrology, I Ching and all types of cartomancy and numerology from her crazy, gypsy mother. She currently writes for a wide range of esoteric publications.