Chinese horoscope and animal symbolism

ethnic china

Chinese horoscope and animal symbolism

We have already mentioned in another post, some aspects related to the philosophy of the Chinese horoscope. Here we will gather posts that involve a reflection on the role that the animals to which the twelve signs are assigned, and other animals in general, have played in the culture of the peoples of China.

Animal symbolism in Chinese culture is older and more complex than the zodiac, and reflects a time when people’s lives were kept in close relationship with nature, extracting from it, its animals and plants, the motifs with which they represented their spiritual yearnings, political concerns and social institutions. In the book The Tiger in China: Image and Symbol, one can discover the tiger symbolism in China, which makes it one of the most important animals of their ancient culture.

Below we present some aspects of the symbolism of the animals present in the Chinese zodiac, as well as links (always more complete) to articles where they are described in more detail.


1. Because it is always near food, it is a symbol of wealth. There are myths that say that the rat brought the grain to the people, or helped it to reach this world, which justifies that it is allowed to eat part of the grain.

2. The Marriage of the rat was celebrated on different days of the year.


– It has a complex symbolism that related it to power, dominion of the earth, communication with the gods and the control of the waters.

– Bull fights were celebrated in some places.

– The ox can turn into a dragon.


One of the oldest animal symbols in China, pairing with the dragon appears over 4,000 years ago.

Symbol of strength, power and military valor. Everything powerful was called tiger.

Symbol of the west and therefore death, and rebirth, both physical and spiritual.

It is the creator of the world among some minorities.


Symbol of fertility and longevity.

It is said that a Jade Hare lives in the moon.

Because of its gentleness it also symbolizes the people.


The only imaginary animal in this set is at the same time the one that shows us the most ancient cultural remains.

Does it come from a sturgeon, an ox, dinosaur bones? It is the god of the waters.

The imperial animal par excellence, for the emperors were Sons of the Dragon, wore Dragon Clothes and sat on the Dragon Throne.


– Because it changed its skin, it was a symbol of rebirth after death.

– A feminine symbol, it did not begin to be frowned upon until patriarchy was fully imposed.

– If it enters a house it is not disturbed, it may be an ancestor.


– As a domestic animal it comes from the west. It is the symbol of military activity: warriors and horses.

– Not so much used in transportation, its search encouraged trade on the Silk Road.
– It is also the vehicle of shamans, at least among the Miao, in their journeys to the other world.


– Symbolizes the goodness of the people, docile, who allow themselves to be led by the ruler.

– Animal of Canton, where five wise men descended on goats.

– Among the Pumi, it shows the dead the way to the other world.


– In folklore the monkey is the little brother of man, the transformations between monkeys and people are continuous.

– Monkey Wu is the protagonist of the novel «Journey to the West».

– Tibetans descend from the marriage of a monkey and an ogress.


– The yang animal that calls every morning to the sun.

– It is the one that guarantees the oaths, because after the nine suns have been shot, the one who is left alone goes out because the rooster assures him that there is no danger.

– The most common sacrifice because of its ability to communicate with the other world.


– Guardian since time immemorial, and companion of the souls of the dead on the journey to the other world.

– The ancestral ancestor of peoples of northern and southern China, it holds that position among the Yao.

– Man’s best friend also in China.


– The quintessential meat for the Chinese, it must have been sacred in the remote past.

– The wild boar is one of the great enemies of farmers, who love the tiger that kills them.

To cite this post: Ceinos-Arcones, Pedro, "Chinese horoscope and animal symbolism," in Ethnic China, 7 mayo 2021,

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