The Elements Of The Chinese Zodiac, Explained

If you're a Cancer, you're a water sign, and thus in touch with your emotions. If you're a Taurus, you embody the sturdiness of your ruling element, earth. In tropical, or Western, astrology, four elements (fire, earth, air, and water) are used to better understand how each sign of the Zodiac behaves.

The role that the natural elements play in Chinese astrology isn't too different. In both systems, the elements are viewed as an influential force on the signs (if you don't know your Chinese Zodiac sign, find out here). Also, as Chinese astrologer Laura Lau writes in The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, certain elements are associated with — or "rule" — certain signs. But that's where the similarities end. In Chinese astrology, there are actually five elements in total: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. And they don't just interact with the signs in a vacuum — they affect the year and its corresponding Zodiac sign, too.

Today kicks off the year of the Dog — specifically the year of the Earth Dog. This is another way of saying that the energy associated with the Dog will be, in essence, put through an earth filter. Lau says that, in general the Dog is moral, loyal, and smart, but, under the influence of earth, this sign will behave more gently and less emotionally — and you can expect to see these effects in the people born this year.

No element will radically change a sign, but it will help astrologers better understand people's personalities, behavior, likes, and dislikes. Ahead, Lau gives us the lowdown on all five elements. Read on to find out which element is associated with your birth year and how that might affect you.

Wood

Wood
Properties: growth, vitality

Lau says that people born during wood years tend to be highly ethical and live with a great sense of purpose. They like things orderly and, when inspired, can work tirelessly.

Recent wood years: 1964, 1965, 1974, 1975, 1984, 1985, 1994, 1995, 2004, 2005, 2014, 2015

Fire

Fire
Properties: energy, motivation

Lau says that people born in fire years are usually very decisive — they like to move swiftly and are often described as aggressive. In other words, they aren't too far off from the fire signs of Western astrology.

Recent fire years: 1966, 1967, 1976, 1977, 1986, 1987, 1996, 1997, 2006, 2007, 2016, 2017

Earth

Earth
Properties: moderation, authority

"People born in an earth years are focused and organized," Lau says. They may come off as serious, but that's only due to their sense of responsibility and desire to succeed.

Recent earth years: 1968, 1969, 1978, 1979, 1988, 1989, 1998, 1999, 2008, 2009, 2018

Metal

Metal
Properties: resolution, self-reliance

You can tell someone was born in a metal year by how rigidly they hold to their beliefs and convictions, Lau says. Some can be so stubborn that they abandon relationships, but others express their metal element through a particularly magnetic personality.

Recent metal years: 1960, 1961, 1970, 1971, 1980, 1981, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2001, 2010, 2011

Water

Water
Properties: stillness, creativity

Lau says this element's influence is best seen in how people born during water years communicate. Their empathetic and observant approach allows them to connect with others easily — and, in turn, get them to see matters from their perspective.

Recent water years: 1962, 1963, 1972, 1973, 1982, 1983, 1992, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2012, 2013

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