The Lunar New Year animal signs are usually translated as the Chinese zodiac signs in English. However, in Chinese culture, this set of animals is known as the twelve-birth resemblance.
These animals rotate over a 12-year cycle. Each animal also rotates with the Five Elements, in the following order – fire, earth, metal, water, wood. In 2022, the year of the tiger arrives with the celebration of the Lunar New Year. It is the year of the water tiger.
With the 12-year cycle, the next tiger year after 2022 will come in 2034. However, the next water tiger year will arrive 60 years after this one in 2082. These animals come in order and each has its own characteristics.
The Meanings and Order of the 12 Chinese Animal Birth Signs
It is important to know the order of the 12 animals’ birth signs. Do you know Chinese people use it to calculate one’s age sometimes? Keep that in mind. In addition, it is fun to know your own animal birth sign and its personality traits. Let’s see if you find any similarities?
Characteristics: creative and smart
Born in 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020, 2032
Characteristics: diligent and patient
Born in 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021, 2033
Characteristics: adventurous and fair
Born in 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022, 2034
Characteristics: driven and graceful
Born in 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Characteristics: brave and honest
Born in 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Characteristics: artistic and charming
Born in 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Characteristics: articulate and happy
Born in 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Characteristics: caring and kind
Born in 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Characteristics: active and smart
Born in 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Characteristics: charming and courageous
Born in 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Characteristics: honest and devoted
Born in 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Characteristics: considerate and sweet
Born in 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031
There are many stories and folktales about how the animals made their way to be included in the calendar. Many children have asked why the dog is on the list but the cat is not. Good question!
It all started from the Great Race hosted by Jade Emperor, the God of all Gods. A long long time ago, Jade Emperor announced that animal names would be added to the calendar according to their arrival order to the big meeting. From there, the news got out and the race began shortly. CAT and MOUSE were the first ones to head out. Then the kind COW showed up. Followed by the TIGER, and RABBIT… now we know, CAT actually was in the race but something happened and Cat did not make it to the final. Explore this story with the book, The Great Race.
Variations of the Animal Birth Signs
The animal birth signs originated from the Chinese culture have influenced some East Asian and Southeastern Asian countries, such as Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand,…etc. But, there are similarities and differences. Here is a comparison.
The animal signs that are used in Japan, Korea, and Singapore are almost identical to the 12 Chinese animal signs.
- Japan: The only difference is that the pig is replaced by boar. Japan is one of the Asian countries that does not celebrate the Lunar New Year. in 1873, it began using the Gregorian calendar and started celebrating the New Year on January 1st.
- Cambodia: The only minor difference is that the dragon is interchangeable with sea snake (Nāga).
- Nepal: There are several differences here. Rabbit is replaced by CAT. Dragon is replaced by EAGLE. Chicken is replaced by BIRD and DEAR takes the place of the pig.
- Thailand: The 12 animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Naga, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. Have you noticed that NĀGA replaced the dragon once again?
- Myanmar: The Burmese animal signs are from ancient monks of Myanmar. The animals are used for directions and the days of the week. The eight animals are Garuda (Sunday), Tiger (Monday), Lion (Tuesday), Elephant with tusks (Wednesday AM) – Elephant without tusks (Wednesday PM), Rat (Thursday), Guinea pig (Friday), and Dragon (Saturday).
For the curious young mind, you now can share that there are different lists and CAT is actually on the list!
Explore More with the Lunar New Year
If you want to explore more about the Chinese Lunar New Year, you can start at the Chinese Lunar New Year Guide – Tradition, Taboos, and Celebration.
Lunar New Year is celebrated not only in China and Taiwan but also in Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mongolia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia and around the world.
About Miss Panda Chinese
Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett “Miss Panda” makes Chinese language learning accessible, simple, and fun! She guides learners to experience the joy of learning and provides Chinese language and culture resources to parents and educators through her website, videos, podcast, and books. First Mandarin Sounds an awesome Chinese word book is her debut children’s picture word book to guide readers to interactively read and play to naturally learn the first Chinese words and get familiar with essential Mandarin sounds.