Twelve Chinese Zodiac Signs

Every Chinese people has a zodiac animal sign that represents the year in which he or she was born. If you are in China, you might be asked “你属什么(nǐ shǔ shén me)?” What are they asking and how should you answer? Before we release the answer, let’s first learn the meaning of the Chinese character “属(shǔ)”. In Chinese, 属 means “to belong to”, so literally the question means “What do you belong to?” But actually the person is asking “In which Chinese year were you born?” When somebody asks you “你属什么(nǐ shǔ shén me)?”, you answer with “我属…” which means “ I was born in the year of ….”
Chinese Zodiac System
China has a zodiac system based on twelve different animals which are called 十二生肖(shí èr shēnɡ xiāo). These twelve animals sequentially mark twelve years, which form a cycle. For instance, according to the zodiac signs, 2014 is the year of the horse, then in anther twelve years (2026) we’ll have another year of the horse. The twelve animals in the cycle are in a set order, so if you know the order of the twelve animals and the current zodiac year, then you can actually predicate a person’s age without asking “你今年多大 (How old are you)?” which may be rude in some occasions.
Twelve Chinese Zodiac Animals in Order
So what are the twelve zodiac animals and the order? The twelve animals in a sequential order are: “鼠shǔ" (mouse), “牛niú" (ox), “虎hǔ" (tiger), “兔tù" (rabbit), “龙lóng" (dragon), “蛇shé" (snake), “马mǎ" (horse), “羊yáng" (sheep), “猴hóu" (monkey), “鸡jī" (rooster), “狗gǒu" (dog), “猪zhū" (pig). Among the twelve animals, eleven of them are real animals. only dragon is fantastical. Dragon in Chinese culture is never seen as a raging, murdering beast like how western dragons are often portrayed. In China, it is a symbol of power, a force for good.

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