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Detailed Information About the Chinese Zodiac Symbols and Meanings

Chinese Zodiac Symbols and Meanings
Chinese Zodiac signs are subdivided into inner animals -- representing months of the year, and secret animals -- representing each hour of the day. This enables the 12 basic animal signs to be interpreted in 8,640 possible combinations! Read on to learn more about these signs and their meanings.
Gaynor Borade
Last Updated: Mar 28, 2018
The Shengxiao, called the Chinese Zodiac colloquially, is a traditional Chinese system that relates the birth year of a person to an animal and its characteristics. The word 'Sheng' means 'year of birth' and the word 'Xiao' means 'resemblance'. Based on the lunar calendar, this system is a twelve-year cycle as opposed to the monthly cycle of western zodiac signs, although both have a twelve-part time cycle. This twelve-year cycle is a sub-cycle of the larger 60-year cycle, which is formed by the amalgamation of each one of these twelve earthly branches with ten heavenly stems.

The animals in the Chinese zodiac are believed to be created in order to count years. The time division in ancient China (during 200 A.D.) was mostly related to the number twelve: one ji = 12 years, one year has 12 months, and one day has 12 time periods called shi chen. Each of these time divisions is also named in the same manner as the twelve years.
The Twelve Signs of Chinese Zodiac
The twelve animal zodiacs are the base of Chinese astrology. Here we have listed each zodiac and its unique characteristics. The birth year correspondence for the people born in January, or February should be double checked as the Chinese new year changes each year, usually falling between the end of January and the start of February. So, for example, if your birthday falls on January 13, 1900, and the Chinese new year that year is on January 29, your zodiac is Pig and not Rat, even though the table shows the people born in 1900 to be "Rat" people.
Rat 1900 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020 2032
Ox 1901 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021 2033
Tiger 1902 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022 2034
Rabbit 1903 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023 2035
Dragon 1904 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024 2036
Snake 1905 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013 2025 2037
Horse 1906 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014 2026 2038
Ram 1907 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015 2027 2039
Monkey 1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016 2028 2040
Rooster 1909 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017 2029 2041
Dog 1910 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018 2030 2042
Pig 1911 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019 2031 2043
The Rat
Rat Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: zi
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: shui/Water
Yin Yang: Yang
They are quick to spot potential and put their creative and clever ideas into effect. As the first sign of the zodiac, Rats make great leaders and enjoy being in authoritative positions. Their restless nature pushes them into taking the lead of situations around. At times, they may appear to be unyielding, greedy, and self-centered as their manner is aggressively enthusiastic. Intelligent, charming, and ambitious, they are more often than not triumphant as businessmen. Rats are self-contained and do not discuss their problems with others. Even though they can be talkative sometimes, they never confide in anyone. They are energetic and great organizers; so if you want something done, call in a Rat. They are suited to careers in shopkeeping, sales, buying and selling, or accountancy. Rats shine in managerial positions. In partnership, Rats are faithful if their partner is able to provide safety, assurance, and love that they need. They are not romantic by nature, but are very caring and loving.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: Northeast, Southeast
Colors: Green, Blue, Golden; Avoid: Brown and Yellow
Numbers: 2, 3; Avoid: 5, 9
Flowers: Lily of the Valley, African Violet, Lily
Match: Dragon, Ox, Monkey; Avoid: Rabbit, Ram, Horse
The Ox
Ox Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: chou
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: tu/Earth
Yin Yang: Yin
The Ox builds plans and ideas on resolute reasons. People under this Chinese zodiac are steadfast, dependable, honest, and compassionate. They are very family-oriented, conservative, and faithful. They achieve success after lots of patience and hard work. For them to work through with their ideas and thoughts, they need complete peace and harmony. They enjoy being in positions of power and are satisfied with the position of a boss, or decision maker. However, limelight does not attract them. They are best left alone to work as they have a tendency to turn hotheaded, inflexible, and stubborn when pushed. They are logical and do not forgive easily if cheated upon. They prefer truthfulness, loyalty, and commitment in a partner. They are often very skilled with their hands, making them good with the practice of medicine. They do well in careers related to archaeology, geology, visual arts, farming, estate management, cooking, and religion.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: Due North, Southeast, and Due South
Colors: Red, Purple, Blue; Avoid: Green and White
Numbers: 9, 1; Avoid: 3, 4
Flowers: Peach Blossom, Evergreen Tulip
Match: Rat, Snake, Rooster; Avoid: Horse, Dog, Ram
The Tiger
Tiger symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: yin
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: mu/Wood
Yin Yang: Yang
Tigers are resolute, vehement, and positive with a dominant disposal. They are magnetic characters, and their inborn air of authority bestows a certain prestige on them. They explore the potential in unlikely situations. They like to see everything settled, rarely abandon projects, and will become self-centered and obstinate if they fail to achieve anything. Tigers tend to place themselves in leadership, or radical roles. They are revered for their undying bravery, even by those, who are against them. They may become aggressive if trapped, or kept in an isolated area for a long period. In love, they need a stable harmonious partner who quietly gets on with his/her own life. With a wide intelligence, they have chances of adopting diverse and colorful career options. Their varied experiences enrich their life, adding depth to their personality. These born leaders are suited to travel, designing, advertising, politics, or the military.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: South, East, Southeast
Colors: Blue, Gray, White, Orange; Avoid: Golden, Silver, Brown, Black
Numbers: 1, 3, 4; Avoid: 6, 7, 8
Flowers: Cineraria
Match: Horse, Dog; Avoid: Snake, Monkey
The Rabbit
Rabbit Zodiac Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: mao
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: mu/Wood
Yin Yang: Yin
Usually affable, generous, and serenely tamed by nature, rabbits prefer their life to be low-key and easygoing. They get anxious if forced to take risks. They enjoy detailing in their work and use it to create a peaceful aura in their lives. Rabbits, more often than not, prefer the easy road. Their ideal partner is loving with a kind heart who always fulfills their desires. They are outgoing creatures, who are diplomatic by nature and always polite to others. They are popular and loved by their friends and family. However, they are conservative and insecure too; and that explains why most of them don't like changes. Highly creative in their work, art is of extreme interest to them. Rabbits are suited to careers in literature, art, design, public relations, counseling, advisory occupations, and law. They also make good secretaries.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: East, Southeast, South
Colors: Red, Pink, Purple, Blue; Avoid: Dark Brown, Dark Yellow, White
Numbers: 3, 4, 9; Avoid: 1, 7, 8
Flowers: Snapdragon, Flower of Fragrant Plantain Lily, Nerve Plant
Match: Ram, Pig, Dog; Avoid: Rat, Dragon
The Dragon
Dragon Zodiac Symbols
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: chen
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: mu/Wood
Yin Yang: Yin
With a personality that is peppy, animated, and self-assured, dragons are good at creating an impression. They are interested in the realm around them that is filled with energy and are comfortable being the center of attention. Dragons make a very good judgment of situations and are experts at stepping in at the right moment to resolve things. They can be determined. With a great stroke of luck following them, they are quite reflective and noble in their approach. They can also be courageous, magnetic, and have an unwavering approach to life. They view their own selves as the knight in shining armor. In romantic endeavors, they want a partner who gives them ample amount of space and respect, yet is romantic and passionate by nature. Their careers can be in acting, law, religion, management, or arts. They enjoy responsibilities and do not tolerate being trapped in small-time jobs, or being at the grace of others.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: North, West, Northwest
Colors: Golden, Silver, Hoary; Avoid: Purple, Green, Red, Black
Numbers: 1, 7, 6; Avoid: 9, 8, 3
Flowers: Bleeding Heart Vine, Larkspur
Match: Rat, Monkey, Rooster; Avoid: Ox, Rabbit, Dog
The Snake
Snake Zodiac Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: si
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: huo/Fire
Yin Yang: Yin
Snakes enjoy being the one in control. They are fascinating and mesmerizing, yet calculative and orthodox. They have a high level of endurance and can keep working in adversity, too. They have the alertness of a snake and often exhibit an eerie viewpoint. Togetherness, love, and constant encouragement are important to a snake in intimate relationships. They prefer partners, who enjoy snuggled ambiance and close intimacy. They are patient when it comes to waiting for something. They may consistently observe for long periods and then attack at the precise moment. Their career options are in public relations, archeology, astrology, philosophy, catering, or law.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: Northeast, Southwest, and South
Colors: Red, Light Yellow, Black; Avoid: White, Golden, Brown
Numbers: 2, 8, 9; Avoid: 1, 6, 7
Flowers: Orchid, Cactus
Match: Ox, Rooster; Avoid: Tiger, Pig
The Horse
Horse Zodiac Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: wu
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: huo/Fire
Yin Yang: Yang
Horses are self-sustained, undaunted, filled with tenacity, and enterprising. They are also extremely truthful and trustworthy. They are constantly working to have their potential and skills recognized. They are dedicated and loyally devoted to their work, family, and home. Even in the face of problems, Horses have a penchant to work ahead, which is a hallmark of their stupendous self-determination. They are always ready to do their very best and are usually adherent to whatever they concentrate on. They are often very devoted to their work and seek a partner who will not only take proper care of them, but will also leave them unrestrained to take on their own prolific ventures if needed. In career pursuits, they will make good politicians, explorers, or artists.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: Northeast, Southwest, and Northwest
Colors: Brown, Yellow, Purple; Avoid: Blue, White, Golden
Numbers: 2, 3, 7; Avoid: 1, 6, 5
Flowers: Calla Lily, Jasmine, Marigold
Match: Tiger, Ram, Dog; Avoid: Rat, Ox, Rabbit
The Ram
Ram Zodiac Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: wei
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: tu/Earth
Yin Yang: Yin
Rams are considered patient and prefer to have everything in restraint and foresight in all aspects of their lives. They are bearers of immense pressure, yet they remain sturdy and steadfast. They are characteristically hard workers, who go on accomplishing a lot and can easily take on more than their share of work. Often, they will remain in the backdrop of an undertaking, reluctant of any attention, or prominence. Good at team work, their coherent nature makes them very dependable. In love, they are bent towards a partner who will defend and safeguard them and yet give them room for their creativity. They can have abstract careers in the field of arts, research, outdoor work, emergency relief work, in libraries, or in design.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: East, Southeast, South
Colors: Green, Red, Purple; Avoid: Golden, Coffee
Numbers: 3, 9, 4; Avoid: 7, 6, 8
Flowers: Carnation, Primrose, Alice Flower
Match: Rabbit, Horse, Pig; Avoid: Ox, Dog
The Monkey
Monkey Zodiac Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: shen
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: jin/Metal
Yin Yang: Yang
These are the most active of all the signs of the zodiac and are born with a sense of passion that comes from within. They have a mental gift of being brilliant and are fast learners; they come up with creative ideas and like to grasp more and more knowledge. They enjoy playing games and are always ready to pester, or pull pranks. Their fast-moving spirit sometimes makes them appear uncaring and inconsiderate to others. Thus, many a time, for this reason, they find it difficult to settle with one person. Often, Monkeys will find themselves born into families that are financially well-settled. They can be very determined and compliant, too. As far as their career is concerned, they are good at design, media management, public relations, and planning.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: North, Northwest, West
Colors: White, Golden, Blue; Avoid: Red, Black, Gray, Dark Coffee
Numbers: 1, 8, 7; Avoid: 9, 2, 5
Flowers: Chrysanthemum
Match: Rat, Dragon, Snake; Avoid: Tiger, Pig
The Rooster
Rooster zodiac symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: you
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: jin/Metal
Yin Yang: Yin
Roosters are people, who are very tenacious, defiant, and insightful. They enjoy singing and music, and often tend to be very creative. They have a very powerful sense of imagination. They have a unique strength of perseverance and often exhibit firm immediate power -- always knowing what they want. They are very good talkers and are excellent at dissuading people. In relationships, they frequently yearn for companionship or friendship and make clever observers of what happens in a partnership. Career-wise, they can be skillful in politics, public relations, arts, creative work, and scientific endeavors.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: West, Southwest, Northeast
Colors: Golden, Brown, Brownish Yellow, Yellow; Avoid: White, Green
Numbers: 5, 8, 7; Avoid: 9, 3, 1
Flowers: Gladiola, Impatiens, Cockscomb
Match: Ox, Dragon, Snake; Avoid: Rat, Rabbit, Dog
The Dog
Dog Zodiac Symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: xu
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: tu/Earth
Yin Yang: Yang
This is the most forthright, friendly, and sincere sign of all. People born under this zodiac always seem to be up for work and fun equally. This quality earns them respect from everyone around them. They are prone to being brave and courageous, and they rarely take back any commitment or betray the trust of a loved one. Their inner strength and physical intensity make them an excellent choice to have in a workplace environment. They are very truthful and honorable, and in relationships, they will settle with someone who stands up for them completely. They work hard for the welfare of others and are patient listeners. They can be very faithful when it comes to their partners and to others around them. They are good at teaching, social work, counseling, medicine, research, public campaigning, and law.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: East, Southeast, South
Colors: Green, Red, Purple; Avoid: Blue, White, Golden
Numbers: 3, 4, 9; Avoid: 1, 6, 7
Flowers: Rose, Oncidium Orchids, Cymbidium Orchids
Match: Tiger, Rabbit, Horse; Avoid: Ox, Dragon, Ram, Rooster
The Pig
Pig zodiac symbol
Earthly Branch of Birth Year: hai
Wu Xing/The Five Elements: shui/Water
Yin Yang: Yin
People under this sign are hospitable, honorable, and mellow. They have a really high threshold of tolerance. They are well-liked for their truthfulness and warmth. They are always finding qualities in people and believe that everyone has a right to hold their own point of view. They are often overflowing with the blessing of wealth and the support of their friends and colleagues. However, they are not bothered about accumulating wealth. They can be satisfied with a modest lifestyle. They rarely find faults in others and are not vengeful; thus, they don't have any enemies. They accept the lifestyle that they have and are content with that. They do not demand extravagance. They enjoy simple and natural happiness. In relationships, they are often the giver of love and affection and believe that they will receive the same. They have a strong sense of determination and if they set their minds on a task, they tend to pursue it and attain it. Good career options are in music, food, writing, social work, gardening, and nursing.
Stroke of Luck!
Directions: Southeast, Northeast
Colors: Yellow, Gray, Brown, Golden; Avoid: Red, Blue, Green
Numbers: 2, 5, 8; Avoid: 3, 1, 9
Flowers: Hydrangea, Pitcher Plant, Marguerite Daisy
Match: Ram, Rabbit; Avoid: Snake, Monkey, Pig
The Ten Heavenly Stems and Five Elements
The ten heavenly stems first appeared in the Chinese culture as characters to help count the days of the week. Each heavenly stem is a combination of the five elements of Chinese astrology with yin and yang. Thus, they give us ten elements. Subsequently, the heavenly stems lost their original function as names for days of the week and acquired many other uses; the most prominent and long-lasting of which is their use together with the Earthly Branches as a 60-year calendar cycle.

Heavenly Stem Yin-Yang Wu Xing Direction
Yang 木 - Wood 東 East
Yang 火 - Fire 南 South
Yang 土 - Earth 中 Middle
Yang 金 - Metal 西 West
Yang 水 - Water 北 North

In Chinese Astrology, the idea of Wu Xing is used extensively. Here the word "Wu" stands for "five". The word "Xing" is a short form of a phrase that means elements that dominate life at different times. Understanding of these elements is very essential to astrology.
Five Elements in Chinese Zodiac
The working of these five elements can be described as two cycles -- a beneficial cycle and a hostile cycle. The beneficial cycle is also referred to as the "grandfather-grandson" cycle, whereas the hostile cycle is referred to as the "mother-son" cycle. This description is much like an everyday life situation, where a child is in constant argument and hostility with his parents but has a friendly rapport with his grandparents.
The Twelve Earthly Elements
Earthly Branches can be used to count the time of years, months, and hours. When counting years, people use them with the 12 Chinese zodiacs and strictly one Earthly Branch corresponds to one fixed zodiac. The entire day has been divided into twelve sections and each has been named as a 'shi chen', which is equal to two hours and has a fixed Earthly Branch name. The first two hours are called 'zi shi', the second two hours are called 'chou shi', and so forth. The point to note here is, the Chinese hours begin at 11 p.m. standard time.

Earthly Branches Zodiac Names Season Month Hour
Rat Winter December 23:00 - 01:00
Ox January 01:00 - 03:00
Tiger Spring February 03:00 - 05:00
Rabbit March 05:00 - 07:00
Dragon April 07:00 - 09:00
Snake Summer May 09:00 - 11:00
Horse June 11:00 - 13:00
Sheep July 13:00 - 15:00
Monkey Autumn August 15:00 - 17:00
Rooster September 17:00 - 19:00
Dog October 19:00 - 21:00
Pig Winter November 21:00 - 23:00

Each individual earthly branch is paired with a stem. The essential point is that only even-numbered stems are paired with even-numbered branches, and odd-numbered stems with odd-numbered branches. For example: the second heavenly stem can be paired with the second, fourth, or the sixth earthly branch, etc., but cannot be paired with the first, or third branch, etc. Thus, we get 60 combinations instead of 120 combinations.
The Four Pillars of Astrology
Extensive Chinese zodiac not only considers the animal correspondent of your birth year, but also of your birth month, day, and time. Each of these together make up the Chinese concept of the "Four Pillars". Also known as the Eight Characters, these pillars are used for fortune telling and astrology. In Chinese, the four pillars are known as "BaZi".
Four Pillars of Astrology
The Chinese Zodiac meanings are derived from the Four Pillars. These are basically columns designed during the reign of the Han Dynasty between 206 BC - 220 AD. Each pillar represents a branch and relates to the hour, day, month, and year of birth, for readings according to Chinese astrology. The first pillar represents the allotted element and animal of the specified year of birth, the second refers to the element and animal of the specified month, the third relates to the element and animal of the specified day, while the fourth denotes the element and animal of the specified hour of birth. While the year column offers information on ancestry, the month column relates to parentage, and the day and hour columns offer an insight into characteristics of a spouse and children, respectively. Each animal sign of the Chinese Zodiac is also linked with the traditional agricultural calendar.
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Chinese Zodiac Rat Sign
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Chinese Zodiac Dog Sign
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Chinese Zodiac Symbols
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Chinese Zodiac Characters
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