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The Chinese Zodiac

Illustration image

Thursday, February 19, 2015 marks the start of the Year of the Sheep.

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Chinese New Year is on Thursday, February 19, 2015. It marks the start of the Year of the Wood Sheep in the Chinese zodiac.

The sheep is one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac (Shēngxiào, or 生肖), which is based on a 12-year cycle.

What people do on Chinese New Year

How does the Chinese zodiac work?

Each of the 12 years in the Chinese zodiac cycle is represented by an animal associated with five elemental signs. The animals are:

  • Zi (rat)
  • Chou (ox)
  • Yin (tiger)
  • Mao (rabbit)
  • Chen (dragon)
  • Si (snake)
  • Wu (horse)
  • Wei (sheep)
  • Shen (monkey)
  • You (rooster)
  • Xu (dog)
  • Hai (boar/pig)

The zodiac traditionally starts with the Year of the Rat and cycles continuously. These animal signs are calculated in accordance with the Chinese calendar, which is lunisolar and predates the Gregorian calendar. The Chinese calendar is based on exact astronomical observances of the sun’s longitude and the moon’s phases.

How the Chinese Calendar works

Zodiac animal and human connections

According to the Chinese zodiac, your birth year tells you more than just your age. It is believed that there is a special relationship between people and the animals in the Chinese zodiac. This belief, which can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), is based on the idea that one's personality is affected by the animal their birth year is associated with.

It is also believed that some relationships are more compatible than others depending on one’s zodiac (like the western astrological zodiac based on months). Unlike the western zodiac, the Chinese zodiac animals are not associated with constellations.

There are also 5 elements in the zodiac associated with the animals and their personalities:

  • Wood
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Water
  • Metal

As the year 2015 is the Year of the Wood Sheepe, it is believed that those born under under this sign are going to have a good year, with plenty of luck and opportunities ahead.

The Year of the Sheep

The Year of the Wood Sheep (Wei) starts on February 19, 2015, and ends on February 7, 2016, in the Gregorian calendar. It comes after the Year of the Horse and before the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese calendar. During Spring Festival, people put up symbols of the sheep, as well as the "happiness" sign, in their homes.

Sheep personalities

People born in the Year of the Sheep are thought to be loyal, good natured and kind. They are belived to be introverts who can easily be overtaken by emotion.

Careers and Compatibility

According to superstition, those born in the Year of the Sheep tend to be adaptable and highly motivated and commited to their work. It is also believed that the Sheep is most compatible with the Pig and the Dragon, but least compatible with the Rooster and the Tiger.

Famous people born in a Year of the Sheep include:

  • Michelangelo (architect, sculptor, painter)
  • Mark Twain (author)
  • Thomas Edison (inventor)
  • Julia Roberts (actor)

What year were you born in?

This table shows which animal sign you are, based on the year you were born in.

AnimalYear (Gregorian calendar)Personality characteristics
Rat
  • Feb 10, 1948 – Jan 28, 1949
  • Jan 28, 1960 – Feb 14, 1961
  • Feb 15, 1972 – Feb 2, 1973
  • Feb 2, 1984 – Feb 19, 1985
  • Feb 19, 1996 – Feb 6, 1997
  • Feb 7, 2008 – Jan 25, 2009
  • Jan 25, 2020 – Feb 11, 2021
Imaginative, generous, successful, popular, curious
Ox
  • Jan 29, 1949 – Feb 16, 1950
  • Feb 15, 1961 – Feb 4, 1962
  • Feb 3, 1973 – Jan 22, 1974
  • Feb 20, 1985 – Feb 8, 1986
  • Feb 7, 1997 – Jan 27, 1998
  • Jan 26, 2009 – Feb 13, 2010
  • Feb 12, 2021 – Jan 31, 2022
Confident, honest, patient, conservative, strong
Tiger
  • Feb 17, 1950 – Feb 5, 1951
  • Feb 5, 1962 – Jan 24, 1963
  • Jan 23, 1974 – Feb 10, 1975
  • Feb 9, 1986 – Jan 28, 1987
  • Jan 28, 1998 – Feb 15, 1999
  • Feb 14, 2010 – Feb 2, 2011
  • Feb 1, 2022 – Jan 21, 2023
Sensitive, tolerant, brave, active, resilient
Rabbit
  • Feb 6, 1951 – Jan 26, 1952
  • Jan 25, 1963 – Feb 12, 1964
  • Feb 11, 1975 – Jan 30, 1976
  • Jan 29, 1987 – Feb 16, 1988
  • Feb 16, 1999 – Feb 4, 2000
  • Feb 3, 2011 – Jan 22, 2012
  • Jan 22, 2023 – Feb 9, 2024
Affectionate, kind, gentle, compassionate, merciful
Dragon
  • Jan 27, 1952 – Feb 13, 1953
  • Feb 13, 1964 – Feb 1, 1965
  • Jan 31, 1976 – Feb 17, 1977
  • Feb 17, 1988 – Feb 5, 1989
  • Feb 5, 2000 – Jan 23, 2001
  • Jan 23, 2012 – Feb 9, 2013
  • Feb 10, 2024 – Jan 28, 2025
Enthusiastic, intelligent, lively, energetic, innovative
Snake
  • Feb 14, 1953 – Feb 2, 1954
  • Feb 2, 1965 – Jan 20, 1966
  • Feb 18, 1977 – Feb 6, 1978
  • Feb 6, 1989 – Jan 26, 1990
  • Jan 24, 2001 – Feb 11, 2002
  • Feb 10, 2013 – Jan 30, 2014
  • Jan 29, 2025 – Feb 16, 2026
Charming, intuitive, romantic, highly perceptive, polite
Horse
  • Feb 3, 1954 – Jan 23, 1955
  • Jan 21, 1966 – Feb 8, 1967
  • Feb 7, 1978 – Jan 27, 1979
  • Jan 27, 1990 – Feb 14, 1991
  • Feb 12, 2002 – Jan 31, 2003
  • Jan 31, 2014 – Feb 18, 2015
  • Feb 17, 2026 – Feb 5, 2027
Diligent, friendly, sophisticated, talented, clever
Sheep/ Goat
  • Jan 24, 1955 – Feb 11, 1956
  • Feb 9, 1967 – Jan 29, 1968
  • Jan 28, 1979 – Feb 15, 1980
  • Feb 15, 1991 – Feb 3, 1992
  • Feb 1, 2003 – Jan 21, 2004
  • Feb 19, 2015 – Feb 7, 2016
  • Feb 6, 2027 – Jan 25, 2028
Artistic, calm, reserved, happy, kind
Monkey
  • Feb 12, 1956 – Jan 30, 1957
  • Jan 30, 1968 – Feb 16, 1969
  • Feb 16, 1980 – Feb 4, 1981
  • Feb 4, 1992 – Jan 22, 1993
  • Jan 22, 2004 – Feb 8, 2005
  • Feb 8, 2016 – Jan 27, 2017
  • Jan 26, 2028 – Feb 12, 2029
Witty, lively, flexible, humorous, curious
Rooster
  • Jan 31, 1957 – Feb 17, 1958
  • Feb 17, 1969 – Feb 5, 1970
  • Feb 5, 1981 – Jan 24, 1982
  • Jan 23, 1993 – Feb 9, 1994
  • Feb 9, 2005 – Jan 28, 2006
  • Jan 28, 2017 – Feb 15, 2018
  • Feb 13, 2029 – Feb 2, 2030
Shrewd, honest, communicative, motivated, punctual
Dog
  • Feb 18, 1958 – Feb 8, 1959
  • Feb 6, 1970 – Jan 26, 1971
  • Jan 25, 1982 - Feb 12, 1983
  • Feb 10 1994 – Jan 30, 1995
  • Jan 29, 2006 – Feb 17, 2007
  • Feb 16, 2018 – Feb 4, 2019
  • Feb 3, 2030 – Jan 22, 2031
Loyal, honest, responsible, courageous, warm-hearted
Pig
  • Feb 8,1959 – Jan 27, 1960
  • Jan 27, 1971 - Feb 14, 1972
  • Feb 13, 1983 - Feb 1, 1984
  • Jan 31, 1995 - Feb 18, 1996
  • Feb 18, 2007 - Feb 6, 2008
  • Feb 5, 2019 – Jan 24, 2020
  • Jan 23, 2031 – Feb 10, 2032
Sincere, tolerant, hard-working, honest, optimistic

Did you know?

Leap years occur every 3 years in the Chinese calendar.

The Chinese calendar normally features 12 months but occasionally has a leap year consisting of 13 months. The next Chinese leap year will be in 2015, the Year of the Sheep.

Disclaimer: This is a general interest article based on traditions and beliefs, and not on scientific evidence.

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