Chinese New Year is coming up, and this year (2020) is the year of the rat! Read on to learn about the Chinese zodiac, and to find out what your Chinese zodiac animal is, what it means, and how to say it in Chinese!


What is the Chinese Zodiac?

You’ve probably heard a little about the Chinese zodiac before. Basically, the Chinese zodiac is made up of 12 animals and are called 生肖 (shēngxiào) in Chinese. These animals each represent a year in a repeating 12-year cycle, based on the traditional Chinese lunar calendar. The Chinese lunar new year usually starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice, around January or February. Each new year is represented by an animal, following this order: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, pig.

You may be wondering where this tradition came from. There are many stories that explain the origin of the Chinese zodiac. The most common myth has to do with a great race that is said to have taken place in ancient times. According to the story, the Jade Emperor ordered a meeting and announced that the years on the calendar would be named according to which animals got to the meeting first. The animals raced to the meeting, crossing a river to get there. In the end, the rat got there first, followed by the other animals.

What’s Your Chinese Zodiac Animal?

If you want to ask someone what their Chinese zodiac animal is using Chinese, you can ask them: 你属什么? (Traditional: 你屬什麼?) Nǐ shǔ shénme? This translates literally as “What do you belong to?” People sometimes also use this as a subtle way to ask how old someone is, since they can calculate it using this. To respond to this question, you can say: 我属 (wǒ shǔ) + your Chinese zodiac sign. For example, I’m a Rooster, so I would say: 我属鸡  (wǒ shǔ jī).

Look at the picture below to find your Chinese zodiac animal and learn its Chinese. Note that the Chinese zodiac is based on the lunar calendar, which begins between January 21 and February 20. If you were born between these dates, make sure to double check which lunar year your birth date falls under! After you find your animal, scroll down to check what it means.

What Does Your Chinese Zodiac Animal Mean?

Just like Western astrology signs, certain personality traits are associated with each Chinese zodiac sign. Some signs are also said to be more compatible in relationships or friendships. While these traits don’t match everyone, it’s still fun to see whether your personality happens to match with your sign! Find your Chinese zodiac animal in the list below and see what kind of personality your animal is said to have.

Rat: 鼠 (shǔ)

Personality: Clever, efficient, opportunist, nosy, cunning, deceptive
Compatibility: Dragons, Monkeys, Oxes

Ox: 牛 (niú)

Personality: Reliable, patient, down-to-earth, wise, persistent, stubborn
Compatibility: Rats, Snakes, Roosters

Tiger: 虎 (hǔ)

Personality: Courageous, confident, passionate, possessive, argumentative, impulsive
Compatibility: Horse, Dog, Rabbit

Rabbit: 兔 (tù)

Personality: Gentle, kind, considerate, careful, indifferent
Compatibility: Tiger, Goat, Dog, Pig

Dragon: 龍 (lóng)

Personality: Strong, energetic, driven, proud, self-centered, irrational
Compatibility: Rat, Monkey, Snake

Snake: 蛇 (shé)

Personality: Intellectual, independent, organized, suspicious, deceptive, gluttonous
Compatibility: Ox, Rooster, Dragon

Horse: 馬 / 马 (mǎ)

Personality: Ambitious, efficient, lively, ill-tempered, forgetful
Compatibility: Tiger, Goat, Dog

Goat: 羊 (yáng)

Personality: Graceful, empathetic, good-natured, honest, timid, cowardly
Compatibility: Rabbit, Horse, Pig

Monkey: 猴 (hóu)

Personality: Competitive, inquisitive, keen, charming, self-centered, vain, jealous
Compatibility: Rat, Dragon, Rooster

Rooster: 雞 / 鸡 (jī)

Personality: knowledgeable, decisive, logical, aggressive, stubborn
Compatibility: Ox, Snake, Monkey, Dragon

Dog: 狗 (gǒu)

Personality: clever, helpful, open-minded, practical, belligerent, stubborn
Compatibility: Tiger, Horse, Pig

Pig: 豬 / 猪 (zhū)

Personality: generous, optimistic, patient, diplomatic, lazy, gluttonous
Compatibility: Goat, Rabbit, Dog

Resources to Speak Better Chinese!

Glossika offers language training in both Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese, with programs for Chinese used in Beijing and Chinese used in Taiwan. So no matter which form of Chinese you’d like to learn, Glossika has you covered.

Whether you are a beginner or an advanced language learner, Glossika's audio-based training improves your listening and speaking at native speed. Sign up and get 7-day free access:



You May Also Like:

  1. Differences Between Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese
  2. Make the Right Word Choice When Speaking Chinese
  3. How to Get The Chinese Word Order Right
  4. Free Download: Glossika Chinese Pronunciation & Tone Training
  5. Follow Glossika on YouTube / Instagram / Facebook