As much as we adore tropical astrology (the system that's typically followed in the West), Chinese astrology can tell you just as much, if not more, about yourself. This astrological system is based on the lunar calendar, so its signs are determined by the year, as opposed to the months. The moon repeats its cycle every 12 years, so there are 12 signs (just like in tropical astrology). You might be familiar with some of them — the Dragon, the Monkey, the Dog — but, in celebration of the year of the Pig, which begins next week, we thought we'd take a closer look at the signs that make up the Chinese Zodiac.
Bear in mind that the Lunar New Year, on which the Chinese Zodiac is based, doesn't have a fixed date, like the New Year in the Gregorian calendar (January 1st). It can happen as early as mid-January or as late as the end of February. And yes, this will affect which sign you identify with.
For example, if you were born in 1993, your sign would be the Rooster — unless you were born before January 22, the lunar new year that year. In that case, you'd be a Monkey, as most 1992 babies are, since the lunar year technically hadn't changed yet. (Not sure where you land? Here's a handy Chinese Zodiac sign calculator.)
With that in mind, we've rounded up the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac, their defining characteristics, and the past years they've each ruled. For more in depth info on your sign, we recommend Theodora Lau's book, Children of the Moon, and astrologer George Tang's work (our descriptions are based on their writing).