Do You Know Your Chinese Zodiac Sign & Element? Here’s A Starter Guide

What is Chinese astrology?

The roots of the Chinese zodiac go back as far as written history. Oracle bones describe ancient calendar cycles, and animals have been used as symbols of the human spirit as long as there has been imagination. But the combination of the two, and the subsequent system for divining a person’s character and destiny, came into focus around 200 BC in the Han dynasty.

The five different elements and 12 animals (for a complete cycle of sixty combinations) was designed to map the natural cycle of seasons, days, and stars that the ancients observed moving all around them. Ever since, this cycle has been used to chart not only the year, but the month, day, and hour–like four hands on one prodigiously ancient clock.

And just as a person might look at the season and hour and make an informed prediction of the weather (winter cold, night dark) so it was understood that by knowing the animals and elements presiding over a person’s birth year, month, day, and hour, that person’s character and destiny could also be predicted.

The 12 Chinese Zodiac signs + how to find yours.

When most people talk about their Chinese zodiac sign, they’re referring to the sign of their birth year. While this is not the only sign used in Chinese astrology, it is by far the easiest to find and has made it the most well known by far.

For a more in depth look at your personal chart, the easiest thing to do is consult a Hsia Calendar or Bazi Calculator, which can both be found online–but for right now, let’s unpack the basics of the 12 Chinese zodiac signs.


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Years: 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020Month: 12/7 to 1/5Hour: 11pm to 1amAssociations: Problem-solving, lateral thinking, attention to detailHidden element: Yang WaterAllied with: Dragon, Monkey, Ox

Although each animal will come in all five elements over the years, each animal also has a hidden element that most matches their character. The Rat’s hidden element is Yang Water, and Rats embody this flexible and penetrating quality. Rats solve problems, not through force, but through cleverness, and finding the path of least resistance. If there’s a way through, the Rat can find it. They are also quick to spot disaster, and reluctant to place too many eggs in one basket.

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Years: 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021Month: 1/6 to 2/3Hour: 1am to 3amAssociations: Constancy, strength, traditionHidden element: Yin EarthAllied with: Rooster, Snake, Rat

Placid and stable, the Ox’s hidden element is the owl, <a href="" target="_blank" class="mbg-track-event" data-track-event-types="click" data-track-type="article-link" data-track-prop-element-id="in-body-link" data-track-prop-label="page_type

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