Your Chinese Zodiac Sign Explained

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).
Click through to discover your Chinese Zodiac sign. And after that, see how it compares with your tropical Zodiac sign.
1 of 12
The Rat
Past years: 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Much like Aries, the first sign of the tropical Zodiac, Rats are natural-born leaders. Their self-assuredness can easily be read as arrogance, but don't let that fool you. At their core, Rats are generous, intelligent folks who aren't afraid to let their ambition show.
2 of 12
The Ox
Past years: 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Like their namesake, Oxes are hard-working, dependable people. By that same token, however, they can also be rather stubborn. As much as they may stick to their own opinions, Oxes are incredibly patient and gentle with others.
3 of 12
The Tiger
Past years: 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Tigers are chiefly known for their bravery, but they also tend to be one of the flashier signs. Tigers are incredibly charismatic and often find themselves in leadership positions, even if they haven't sought them out.
4 of 12
The Rabbit
Past years: 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Rabbits are as sharp-witted as they come, but don't expect them to use their smarts to stir the pot. Conflict is Rabbit repellent — they value peace and tranquility above all else. In keeping with that, Rabbits are highly affectionate and great at making others feel welcome.
5 of 12
The Dragon
Past years: 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

Dragons are as enigmatic as their mythic symbol would suggest, but that doesn't mean they're totally inscrutable. More accurately, people born in years of the Dragon are creative and highly adaptable — their tastes may change dramatically, but they're still the same passionate people underneath.
6 of 12
The Snake
Past years: 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

To put it lightly, Snakes can come off as a little intense. Their perceptive nature, wisdom, and overall sophistication can certainly add up to a strong personality, but Snakes can make fantastic allies, too, thanks to their ability to look at problems objectively.
7 of 12
The Horse
Past years: 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

Horses are naturally charming and sincere, which makes them a pretty popular sign — and they don't mind that in the least. That said, Horses like to balance the company of others with ample alone time, too. They aren't loners, but absolutely crave independence.
8 of 12
The Goat
Past years: 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Also known as the Sheep, people born under this sign are known for their style and refinement. Despite what the symbol of the Goat may suggest, they're rarely stubborn and would rather move through life with serenity.
9 of 12
The Monkey
Past years: 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

In a word, this sign is tireless. Monkeys have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, adventure, and success. They're equally quick with an idea as they are with a question. This spirited sign likes to keep others on their toes.
10 of 12
The Rooster
Past years: 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

Roosters tend to be straight-shooters who appreciate the same practicality in others. They're highly efficient in their work and trustworthy in their friendships. Roosters are classic self-starters who, unsurprisingly, also happen to very punctual.
11 of 12
The Dog
Past years: 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Dogs are as amiable as they come — they're true collaborators with a generous and just attitude. Though loyal to a fault, they have a strong moral compass that they can rarely ignore. Dogs are both great shoulders to cry on and infallible sources of real talk.
12 of 12
The Pig
Past Years: 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007

The noble Pig (or Boar) may not be the most humble sign, but its generous, even philanthropic, attitude makes it one of the most respected signs. Pigs have remarkable drive and value honesty, but they're hardly cold — they're often quick with affection around those they're close to.

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