Shengxiao (Animal Signs) is a folk method used for naming the years in Chinese zodiacal calendar. The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, representing a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time. Every year is assigned an animal name according to a repeating 12-year cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar. 2009 is the Year of the Ox, and 2010 will be the year of the Tiger.  


The Year of Obama


Coincidentally, President Barack Obama was born under the sign of the ox in 1961. Obama is more specifically a metal ox, since each animal of the Chinese zodiac has a corresponding element (1961 was a metal ox, 1973 was a water ox, 1985 was a wood ox, 1997 was fire ox, and those born in 2009 will be earth oxen). According to Chinese astrology, those people born in a Metal year will generally fare better than others of their animal sign in an Earth year. So let’s just wait and see what fortune Obama’s first year in office will offer! 


Other famous people born in the Year of the Ox include Catherine Freeman, Heather Locklear, Jane Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Margaret Thatcher, Meg Ryan, Meryl Streep, Princess Diana, Vivien Leigh and George Clooney. 


Cultural Sidelight

In ancient China, it was believed that people would have the characteristics of the element and the animal that ruled the year of their birth, much like monthly horoscopes in the West have been developed for the different moon signs, Pisces, Aries, etc. For example, those born in the Year of the Ox are characterized as natural-born leaders, dependable, calm, methodical, patient, fair minded and good listeners. They are considered to be most compatible with Roosters, Rats, and Snakes. Could you be friends with President Obama?   


Social Function

The animal signs also serve a useful social function for finding out people’s ages. Instead of asking directly how old a person is, people often ask what his or her animal sign is. This would place that person’s age within a cycle of 12 years, and with a bit of common sense, we can deduce the exact age. More often, though, people ask for animal signs not to compute a person’s exact numerical age, but to simply know who is older among friends and acquaintances. 




According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.


All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox’s back, and won the race. The boar, which was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second and the boar last.


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Find Your Animal Year!


Born in 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008.


Born in 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009.


Born in 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010.


Born in 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011.


Born in 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012.


Born in 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013.


Born in 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014.


Born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015...


Born in 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016...


Born in 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017...


Born in 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018...


Born in 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019...

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