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Introduction to Chinese Zodiac Animals

In Western culture, astrological horoscopes are not usually taken very seriously. 

You might look up your horoscope to see what’s in store for you this year, or what your personality traits are and if they’re compatible with your partner, but most people take it with a grain of sand. 

Think Chinese people regard the Chinese zodiac animals in the same way? Think again! 

The Importance of the Chinese Zodiac in China

The Chinese zodiac animals - 生肖 (shēng xiào), including the traits that people born in those years possess, are super important in Chinese culture. Chinese people REALLY use the zodiac animals of the year one was born in to make real decisions and draw real conclusions about people. 

For instance, when some people choose partners, they actually do consider whether they’re compatible together based on their zodiac animals. Some people even name their children based on the animal year that they were born. 

What’s even more surprising is that many people specifically plan to have children during the most favorable zodiac animal years, such as the year of the dragon, tiger, or horse, and specifically avoid having children in the year of the sheep, one of the least favorable years! What a huge decision to make, based on the zodiac animals! 

Needless to say, the Chinese zodiac animals are really important in Chinese culture, so knowing the names of the animals and being able to talk about your zodiac animal in Chinese will really have you impressing your Chinese partner, in-laws, or friends!

Breakdown of the Chinese Zodiac

With that in mind, we wanted to share the names of the Chinese zodiac animals in Chinese, as well as let you know some traits that each one holds!

This great infographic includes the zodiac animal names in Chinese, and the years associated with each one - make sure you find yours and commit it to memory! 

Zodiac Animals - In Order

There is also a specific order of the zodiac animals, so we’ve provided the names of each animal in order, complete with audio, from “first” to “last”.

  1. 鼠 (shǔ) - rat/mouse
  2. 牛 (niú) - ox/cow
  3. 虎 (hǔ) - tiger
  4. 兔 (tù) - rabbit
  5. 龙 (lóng) - dragon
  6. 蛇 (shé) - snake
  7. 马 (mǎ) - horse
  8. 羊 (yáng) - sheep/ram/goat
  9. 猴 (hóu) - monkey
  10. 鸡 (jī) - rooster
  11. 狗 (gǒu) - dog
  12. 猪 (zhū) - pig

Just getting started learning Chinese? The first 20 lessons of our Beginner Conversational Course are totally free - get started here.

Personality Traits - 性格特征 (xìng gé tè zhēng)          

Now that you know what your zodiac animals is, check out the below list of personality traits, and see what the traits of your zodiac are!

  • 勤奋 (qín fèn) - diligent 
  • 聪明 (cōng míng) - smart

  • 耐心 (nài xīn) - patient
  • 善良 (shàn liáng) - kind

  • 独立 (dú lì) - independent 
  • 勇敢 (yǒng gǎn) - courageous

  • 受欢迎 (shòu huān yíng) - popular
  • 温情 (wēn qíng) - compassionate

  • 有雄心 (yǒu xióng xīn) - ambitious
  • 大胆 (dà dǎn) - fearless

  • 聪明 (cōng míng) - smart
  • 大方 (dà fang) - generous                

  • 积极 (jī jí) - energetic
  • 独立 (dú lì) - independent

  • 温情 (wēn qíng) - compassionate
  • 善良 (shàn liáng) - kind

  • 积极 (jī jí) - energetic
  • 有进取心 (yǒu jìn qǔ xīn) - takes initiative

  • 独立 (dú lì) - independent
  • 努力 (nǔ lì) - hard-working

  • 忠诚 (zhōng chéng) - loyal 
  • 善良 (shàn liáng) - kind                                         

  • 开朗 (kāi lǎng) - optimistic 
  • 诚实 (chéng shí) - honest

** Want to learn EVEN more ways of describing people’s personalities and traits? Check out this lesson from our Intermediate Conversational Course.

Useful Chinese Zodiac Sentences

You know what your zodiac is, but now what do you do with that information? Here are a few useful sentences you can learn, to talk about or answer questions about your zodiac:

First off, an important word to know is 属 (shǔ), which means “to be born in the year of”.

Now, let’s see a few sentences and questions using 属 (shǔ):

你属什么 (nǐ shǔ shén me)? - What Chinese Zodiac animal are YOU? (literally: You born in the year of what?) 

我属 (wǒ shǔ) ___。 - I was born in the year of the ___. 

我属羊,你呢 (wǒ shǔ yáng, nǐ ne)? - I was born in the year of the sheep, and you? 

Want to learn more about the character 属 (shǔ)? Check out this lesson on the common use of 属于 (shǔ yú), meaning “to belong to”, from our Upper Intermediate Course:

That’s all for the Chinese zodiac animals! 

你属什么 (nǐ shǔ shén me)? Which Chinese zodiac are YOU? Do you think you possess the traits of your Chinese zodiac? Let us know in the comments below!