Design Tools

The Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac

Exploring the Animals of the Chinese Zodiac: Meanings and Characteristics

The Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao, is a fascinating and intricate system that combines animal signs, astrology, and ancient Chinese mythology. Rooted in a 12-year cycle, each year is represented by a specific animal, each bearing unique characteristics, personality traits, and fortune predictions. Unlike the Western Zodiac, which changes monthly and is based on constellations, the Chinese Zodiac revolves around a 12-year cycle, with each year linked to a specific animal. This system is deeply embedded in Chinese culture, influencing people's lives, decisions, and relationships. Let's delve into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, uncovering their meanings, characteristics, and the legends behind them.

Rat (鼠 - Shǔ)
Years: 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, etc.
Traits: Intelligence, adaptability, quick-wit, charm, artistic, sociable.
Compatibility: Dragon, Monkey
Legend: The Rat was the first to arrive at the Jade Emperor's party by tricking the Ox into giving him a ride, then jumping off to claim the first spot.

Ox (牛 - Niú)
Years: 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, etc.
Traits: Diligence, dependability, strength, determination, loyalty, honesty.
Compatibility: Rat, Snake
Legend: The Ox, hardworking and reliable, was tricked by the Rat but still secured the second place with its steady determination.


Tiger (虎 - Hǔ)
Years: 2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, etc.
Traits: Bravery, confidence, competitiveness, unpredictability, powerful.
Compatibility: Dragon, Horse
Legend: The Tiger, with its brave and competitive spirit, claimed third place by crossing the river through sheer willpower.


Rabbit (兔 - Tù)
-ears: 2023, 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, etc.
Traits: Elegance, compassion, prudence, artistry, good manners.
Compatibility: Sheep, Pig
Legend: The Rabbit, clever and quick, hopped across stones and logs to arrive fourth, showcasing agility and strategic thinking.


Dragon (龙 - Lóng)
Years: 2024, 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, etc.
Traits: Strength, luck, health, harmony, intellect, enthusiasm.
Compatibility: Rooster, Rat
Legend: The Dragon, the only mythical creature in the zodiac, flew and brought rain to help the people, securing the fifth position.


Snake (蛇 - Shé)
Years: 2025, 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, etc.
Traits: Wisdom, mystique, sensuality, thoughtfulness, sophistication.
Compatibility: Ox, Rooster
Legend: The Snake, cunning and strategic, hitched a ride covertly with the Horse to claim the sixth spot.

Horse (马 - Mǎ)
Years: 2026, 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, etc.
Traits: Energy, independence, impatience, love of travel, innovation.
Compatibility: Tiger, Dog
Legend: The Horse, galloping freely, arrived seventh, just a moment after the Snake revealed itself.


Ram (or Sheep) (羊 - Yáng)
Years: 2027, 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, etc.
Traits: Creativity, thoughtfulness, perseverance, amiability, empathy.
Compatibility: Rabbit, Pig
Legend: The Goat, with assistance from the Horse and Deer, arrived eighth, demonstrating teamwork and mutual support.


Monkey (猴 - Hóu)
Years: 2028, 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, etc.
Traits: Innovation, enthusiasm, strategy, agility, curiosity, playful.
Compatibility: Rat, Dragon
Legend: The Monkey, intelligent and resourceful, used its cunning to navigate the challenge and secure the ninth place.


Rooster (鸡 - Jī)
Years: 2029, 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, etc.
Traits: Hard work, resourcefulness, courage, talent, and confidence.
Compatibility: Dragon, Snake
Legend: The Rooster, with its keen observation and hard work, arrived tenth, demonstrating punctuality and diligence.


Dog (狗 - Gǒu)
Years: 2030, 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, etc.
Traits: Loyalty, honesty, intelligence, straightforwardness, reliability.
Compatibility: Tiger, Horse
Legend: The Dog, honest and loyal, took its time to enjoy the journey and arrived eleventh.


Pig (or Boar) (猪 - Zhū)
Years: 2031, 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, etc.
Traits: Generosity, diligence, bravery, patience, peace-loving.
Compatibility: Rabbit, Goat
Legend: The Pig, good-natured and not in a hurry, finished last but demonstrated the virtues of endurance and enjoyment of life's pleasures.

The Chinese Zodiac not only provides insight into personality traits and compatibility but also reflects the rich tapestry of Chinese cultural beliefs and the importance of harmony between humans and the cosmos. Each animal's story and characteristics offer a unique perspective on life's challenges and the virtues that can lead to success and happiness. Whether for fun or serious contemplation, the Chinese Zodiac remains a captivating aspect of Chinese heritage, offering wisdom and guidance through the ages.

If you'd like to incorporate the Chinese Zodiac into your tattoo designs, you've got to check out our Chinese Zodiac flash stamp set by Trey Barnett!

Chinese Zodiac is a collection of 50 traditional Chinese flash stamps for the iPad, including each zodiac animal in two variations (head and full body). This set also contains tattoo flash stamps of Chinese Opera characters like Ou Yang Chun, Yu Ji, Shi Zhong Yu, Qing Long, and Han Chun. Trey has also provided designs of mythical creatures like Chi-chi, Chan chu, Bai zhe, and Yinglong, along with traditional Chinese birds. 

Buy with confidence! Tattoo Smart offers a 10-day money back guarantee!


All US Postage Stamps Images: Copyright The United States Postal Service. Retrieved from The Smithsonian, National Postal Museum. For Educational Purposes Only. 

Reading next