Chinese Zodiac Signs: Animals and Elements Explained

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Chinese Zodiac Signs: Animals and Elements Explained

The Chinese zodiac, also known as Shengxiao, is a 12-year cycle where each year is associated with an animal sign. These animal signs are based on the Chinese lunar calendar and represent characteristics and traits believed to influence a person’s personality, compatibility, and destiny. In addition to the animal signs, each year is also associated with one of the five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. This combination of animal signs and elements creates a unique and intricate system that has been a part of Chinese culture for centuries.

The 12 Zodiac Animal Signs

The 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac include Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep (or Goat), Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Each animal sign corresponds to a different year in the 12-year cycle, with each year believed to have certain characteristics associated with that particular animal.

Animal Sign Years Traits and Characteristics
Rat 2020, 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960 Intelligent, resourceful, adaptable, ambitious
Ox 2021, 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961 Strong, reliable, determined, patient
Tiger 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962 Brave, confident, competitive, unpredictable
Rabbit 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963 Gentle, compassionate, sensitive, cautious
Dragon 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964 Powerful, charismatic, energetic, flamboyant
Snake 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965 Wise, intuitive, mysterious, cunning
Horse 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966 Adventurous, strong-willed, independent, energetic
Sheep (Goat) 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967 Gentle, kind, artistic, harmonious
Monkey 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968 Intelligent, witty, clever, mischievous
Rooster 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969 Confident, honest, hardworking, flamboyant
Dog 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970 Loyal, faithful, reliable, protective
Pig 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971 Generous, sincere, honest, optimistic

The Five Elements

In addition to the 12 animal signs, each year is also associated with an element. The five elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. The element is believed to further influence the characteristics and personality traits of an individual born in a specific year.

Here’s an overview of the five elements:

  • Wood: People born in Wood years are believed to be progressive, ambitious, and creative. They are natural leaders and have a strong sense of compassion and generosity.
  • Fire: Fire people are known for their passion, enthusiasm, and charisma. They are confident, energetic, and often seek excitement and attention.
  • Earth: Individuals born in Earth years are usually reliable, practical, and down-to-earth. They value stability, family, and hard work.
  • Metal: Metal people are organized, determined, and disciplined. They are often perfectionists and can be incredibly focused and detail-oriented.
  • Water: Water individuals are adaptable, intuitive, and empathetic. They can go with the flow and are often imaginative and creative.

Combining Animal Signs and Elements

The combination of animal signs and elements creates a more detailed and nuanced understanding of a person’s personality and compatibility. For example, someone born in the Year of the Rat, which corresponds to the element Water, may be adaptable and imaginative.

Not only do the animal signs and elements provide insight into personal characteristics, but they also play a role in Chinese astrology, fortune-telling, and compatibility assessments. Certain animal signs are believed to be more compatible with each other and may have a better chance of forming successful relationships or partnerships.


The Chinese zodiac signs of animals and elements have been a significant part of Chinese culture for centuries. The 12 animal signs and the five elements combine to create a fascinating and intricate system that helps individuals understand their own personalities, compatibility with others, and potentially even their destiny. Exploring the Chinese zodiac can be an exciting and enlightening journey, offering valuable insights into ourselves and the world around us.

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Chinese Zodiac Signs: Animals and Elements Explained