The 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs & Their Meanings, Explained

Which animal sign are you?

chinese zodiac wheel Lukas Kurka / Shutterstock

The Eastern Zodiac, also known as Chinese astrology, is based on 12 Chinese zodiac signs based on the archetypal temperaments of 12 different animals.

Like in Western astrology, each Chinese zodiac sign, or animal sign, includes both negative and positive personality traits and characteristics.

Eastern astrology is constellation-based, whereas Western astrology uses the solar system. The position of the sun in regards to constellations provides insight into how you relate certain things universally.


Eastern astrology is centered on the foundations of principle and order.

It also considers synchronicity, also referred to as the theory of meaningful coincidences. Eastern astrology contends that the greater the separation of the personality and spiritual essence, the darker one’s character will be. Eastern astrology emphasizes spirituality and integrates one's spirituality with their character.

RELATED: Chinese Zodiac Compatibility Chart For The 12 Animal Signs


While the zodiac signs in Western astrology vary on a monthly basis, Chinese astrology is a little different. Chinese zodiac animals change year to year, alternating between each of the 12 animals over a cycle of 12 years that starts each Lunar New Year.

Chinese Zodiac Signs & Meanings

Your Chinese zodiac sign is determined by your birth year.

The Rat: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960

Year of the Rat personality traits: charming, creative, resourceful

Element: Water

Energy: Yang

This is the first sign of the Eastern zodiac and indicates you love new adventures.

If you fall under the rat sign, you are considered to be charming, creative, and have excellent survival skills. You are analytical and highly intelligent. You are always on alert in terms of your surroundings and it may make you appear nervous or anxious at times. You are warm-hearted, passionate, and strive to always live in the moment.


You are a natural in social settings and situations. You are the most comfortable when you are socializing with your closest friends. You have a unique innate sense of human nature. You enjoy relaying knowledge and information to those who care to listen. You are ambitious and extremely resourceful.

Worry, excitability, and a quick temper are some of your downfalls. You can be covert and secretive. You’ll misguide and deflect when it will benefit you in some way.

At times, you can be difficult to please and you have standards that are impossible for anyone to uphold. You have moments when you let your insecurities get the best of you. You become dishonest, agitated, and restless. You can also be aggressive, petty, and isolative.

The Ox: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961

Year of the Ox personality traits: responsible, conservative, determined


Element: Earth

Energy: Yin

This is the second zodiac animal and symbolizes strength and perseverance.

You are smart, responsible, stable, and dedicated to things in your life. You tend to walk the straight and narrow walk in life and are considered to be very conservative. You are known to be patriotic and credible to others. You are dependable and patient.

You have strong determination and you are tenacious. Your ability to overcome adversity and challenges is admirable and envious. You offer down-to-earth advice and are considered practical in nature. You are very competent and aware. You are grounded and you can’t be swayed very easily. You are very protective of those who are weak or inferior.


You can be overly stern, have terrible tempers, and become rigid to a point where no one can get you to budge even the slightest. You despise being contradicted and you can have sudden outbursts of rage and anger. You do not tolerate disloyalty and you are capable of holding grudges and taking them to the grave with you. You can be possessive, stubborn jealous, vengeful, and resistant.

The Tiger: 2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962

Year of the Tiger personality traits: independent, confident, affectionate

Element: Wood

Energy: Yang

The third sign of the Eastern zodiac is the rebellious and captivating tiger.

You have a hero mentality that symbolizes power, courage, and bravery. You seek new challenges and are fearlessly independent. You have a strong character. You are also quite resistant depending on the circumstances and context. You are brutally honest and some don’t like that about you because you’ll tell them whether they want to hear it or not. 


You are also tenderhearted, affectionate, and warm to those you care about and love in your life. It is in your nature to be energetic and confident. You are enthusiastic and passionate. You are very protective over those you cherish in your life. You enjoy socializing and attending parties. You have a personal aura that attracts and makes people gravitate toward you.

You have the capability of being careless, rebellious, and undisciplined. You often act without thinking first, which could have severe consequences. At times, you may suffer from excessive envy, haste, and toughness. You can also be quite bossy with a mindset that you are superior to others.

The Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963

Year of the Rabbit personality traits: creative, intuitive, fair

Element: Wood


Energy: Yin

This is the fourth sign of the Eastern zodiac that has good judgment and creativity.

You need freedom away from chaos and disturbance. You are a wild one and it is difficult for you to be tamed. You’ll find it hard to find someone who can domesticate you.

Very rarely do you listen to the advice of others, especially when it's unsolicited. You trust your intuition and prefer to use that rather than advice from others. You have a unique ability to heal from psychological and physical damage.

Your friends find you kind and helpful. You have a strong sense of justice, equality, and fairness. They would also find you compassionate and devoted.


On the dark side, you appear secretive and are easily offended. You hate taking the blame and would rather project it onto someone else. You may be a little self-centered and in extreme forms, it could come off as narcissism and cowardice. 

The Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964

Year of the Dragon personality traits: charismatic, free-spirited, independent

Element: Earth

Energy: Yang

The dragon is the fifth in the zodiac and has a mysterious way about them.

The dragon is the sign with the most power as well as a powerful influence. You like to stay preoccupied and busy. You’re a natural-born leader. You have the ability to overcome obstacles back to back and you will if there’s something you’re looking to achieve. 


You are very enthusiastic about life and need the freedom to explore. You are free-spirited and see life as having endless possibilities. You need to have your own space and people better not get in your little bubble or they will get an earful from you.

Your dark side is not a pretty picture to imagine. You can be short-tempered and demanding. Try not to channel any negativity inward because the self-destruction you are capable of is very serious.

You can be overbearing and egotistical. You can come off quite judgmental as well. Try to avoid negative energy or vibes as it will lessen the likelihood of self-destructing.

The Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965

Year of the Snake personality traits: patient, intelligent, wise


Element: Fire

Energy: Yin

The sixth sign of the Eastern zodiac would be the patient, passive-aggressive and conservative snake.

You are charming and mysterious and that is exactly the way you like it. You prefer routine and like a stable environment. You like to think about concepts or ideas and formulate your own opinion rather than listen to those of others or others attempting to influence your perspective.

You are big on first impressions. You may seem mistrustful to others but it’s only because you are intuitive of those who are untrustworthy. You conceal your feelings and share on your own terms and limit the amount of information you divulge.


Your dark side can be portrayed as secretive, deceptive, and covert. At times you can be jealous and possessive and very protective of your things. You become dishonest, vengeful, and stubborn. You may start to procrastinate and use your energy in negative ways or ways that make you seem selfish.

RELATED: What 2022 Has In Store For You, Based On Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

The Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966

Year of the Horse personality traits: optimistic, sociable, energetic

Element: Fire

Energy: Yang

The horse, the seventh sign in the Eastern zodiac, is a natural-born leader.

You approach new challenges with a kind of optimism most would find dangerous. You are born to succeed and more often than not, you do. You are very sociable and oftentimes you are the center of the party.


You are lively and engaging. You are creative and artistic. You are honorable and intolerable of injustice. You are extroverted and energetic. You’re a great friend and loyal to those you love and care about in life. You are friendly, intelligent, and independent. You’re alert and perceptive to your environment and surroundings.

Your dark side is selfish and you believe everything in the world belongs to you. You can come off extremely entitled. At your darkest, you may appear egotistical and aggressive. You may exhibit ruthless and risky behaviors in your darkest moments.

The Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967

Year of the Goat personality traits: easy-going, free-spirited, compassionate

Element: Earth


Energy: Yin

Eighth in line for the Eastern zodiac is the goat.

You have a tendency to rely on others. You avoid confrontation and conflicts at all costs. You absolutely hate having to choose sides, especially when they involve your friends. You have a sense of understanding that comes naturally. You are happiest in a relaxed environment and avoid chaos when possible.

You are compassionate, kind, and loving. You are perceived by others as easy-going and caring.

You have a lot of projects going at once and can bounce from one to the other in a snap. You gravitate toward things that are free and ever-changing and you do not like to be restricted to a schedule or deadlines. You are naturally creative and artistic.


On a darker note, you exhibit behavior that is irresponsible and impulsive. When you are down and out, you are not good at making decisions and easily dissatisfied. You may start procrastinating, depending on others to do things, or become lazy. You will complain until no end when something doesn’t go your way when you are in a negative mindset.

The Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968

Year of the Monkey personality traits: inventive, resourceful, charming

Element: Metal

Energy: Yang

The monkey is the ninth sign in the Eastern zodiac and can’t be tamed.

You are one of action and you always have to be doing something because being bored doesn’t sit well with you. You need mentally stimulating activities to feel fulfilled. You are smart and inventive. You have the ability to get a lot done in a short amount of time. Some say you are hyperactive at times.


You have an eagerness to learn that is enticing. You have an extraordinary memory and are very resourceful. You are a charmer and your curiosity takes you on some adventures. You are popular and usually optimistic but you do have times where you get down and out.

When you are in a negative mood, you seem a bit opportunistic. You also have a sense of distrust toward others when you’re not your usual self. You exhibit arrogant and suspicious behavior as if you are up to no good. If you allow your negativity to take over, you may experience serious problems with the relationships in your life, so be careful.

The Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969

Year of the Rooster personality traits: hard-working, brave, patient

Element: Metal


Energy: Yin

Here is the tenth sign in the Eastern zodiac: the rooster.

You have learned that in life, there are only a few instances where you will receive instant gratification. You look toward the future a lot and you enjoy seeing the rewards for your hard work. You are brave in both your professional and personal life. You are very critical at times as well as hardworking.

You dress well and are very polite. You despise hypocrites and liars. You have a tendency to speak your mind at any given moment. Once you are settled in professionally, you will experience a sense of emotional stability. You have the greatest joys but on the other hand, you experience deep sorrow and regret.


You can be sarcastic but sometimes that comes off rude and mean. In extremely negative roosters, they can be almost sadistic. Your dark side can be overly critical and obsess about yourself and how you may look or feel. Your dark personality is centered around one theme: egocentrism.

The Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970

Year of the Dog personality traits: loyal, altruistic, trustworthy

Element: Earth

Energy: Yang

The dog is in the eleventh position in the Eastern zodiac.

You are extremely loyal to those you love and care about but vicious to your enemies. You possess some of the most altruistic and genuine traits in human nature. If someone does you wrong, you believe it is your right to retaliate. You are a big believer in equality and justice.


You make a hell of a friend and you tend to have friendships that have lasted quite long. You have an animated and attractive personality that naturally makes people want to be around you. You are trustworthy, non-materialistic, and have a firm stance on what is right and wrong. You are also not an egomaniac, thankfully.

The dark side of your personality involves being agitated, secretive, and paranoid. You can become possessive and engage in poor, unhealthy, and dysfunctional relationships. Your negative energy portrays anxiety, pessimism, depression, and dependent behaviors.

The Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971

Year of the Pig personality traits: compassionate, accepting, intelligent

Element: Water


Energy: Yin

Last in the Eastern zodiac is the pig.

You have the capacity to accept people for who they are despite things they have done or engage in. You have a keen understanding that you have minimal control for things in life and to let nature take its course. You can be described as a passive observer of life. You rarely actively contribute throughout life. You are highly intelligent and enjoy intellectual conversations with smart people.

You have a dry sense of humor that a few understand. You are tolerant and genuine in life. You do not have a huge group of friends but you have a few friends that you remain with for long periods of time or for a lifetime.


It is hard to imagine you even have a dark side, but every sign does. You avoid making decisions and use the excuse of being accepting to do so. You may intentionally seek neurotic or controlling partners to balance everything out but it usually backfires. When you exhibit negative vibes, you can seem defeated and lack motivation.

RELATED: Year Of The Pig — Chinese Zodiac Personality

What Chinese zodiac sign is lucky?

Of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs, five are considered to be exceptionally lucky:

1. Dragon

2. Monkey

3. Pig

4. Rat

5. Horse

What Chinese zodiac sign is bad luck?

In traditional Chinese culture, The Goat animal sign is bad luck.

In fact, Washington Post reported in 2014 that Chinese couples were rushing to give birth before the 2015 Year of the Goat in order to avoid having a baby during that unlucky year.


Goats, also called Sheep or Rams in Chinese astrology, are known to be passive followers rather than leaders. Those born in the Year of the Goat are said to be destined for heartbreak and failure, with folklore claiming that "only one out of 10 people born in the Year of the Sheep finds happiness."

Try not to let your Goat zodiac sign get you down, though. 

“It’s an unfair and outdated superstition,” Dong Mengzhi, honorary president of Beijing’s Folk Literature and Art Society, told Washington Post, calling the superstition “a convenient way for many to explain an unpredictable world.”

RELATED: Which Chinese Zodiac Signs Are Most Compatible


Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.