The Chinese zodiac is a classification scheme based on the lunar calendar that assigns an animal and its reputed attributes to each year in a repeating 12-year cycle. The 12 year cycle is an approximation to the 11.85-year orbital period of Jupiter.

Why Learn About the Chinese Zodiac?

Exploring the significance of the Chinese zodiac and the personality traits represented by each animal can be a fun and engaging activity for students of the Chinese language.

More importantly, understanding the beliefs and traditions that underpin the Chinese zodiac provides insight into the complex and always-fascinating world of Chinese culture.

Overview of the Chinese Zodiac

The Chinese Zodiac, or 生肖 (shēng xiào) in Chinese, is an ancient belief system considered to be a tool for deciding one’s destiny. Following the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, this scheme is based on a 12-year cycle in which each new year is represented by one of 12 Zodiac animals.

This upcoming spring, families across the Middle Kingdom and throughout the Chinese diaspora will gather to celebrate Spring Festival on February 12, 2021. As they do so, they’ll welcome the second animal in the 12-year rotation, the Ox (牛 niú).

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 Your Chinese Zodiac

One important aspect of Chinese culture is the Chinese zodiac, a 12-year astrological cycle in which a zodiac animal is assigned to each year of this ever-repeating rotation.

With the passing of each Chinese New Year—itself considered the most important annual Chinese holiday—the given year’s zodiac animal progresses to the next in the 12-year lineup.