Year of the monkey
Javan langurs eat food from a festive-themed pouch ahead of the Lunar New Year of the monkey during feeding time at the Wildlife Reserves Singapore zoological garden in January 2016Getty

The Lunar New Year is just around the corner and communities around the world are preparing to welcome the year of the monkey. It marks the first day of the Chinese calendar which this year falls on Monday 8 February.

The monkey is the ninth animal in the cycle, which will not take place again until 2028. It is part of an ancient tradition in which the Chinese zodiac, Shēngxiào, attaches animal signs to each lunar year in a cycle of 12 years. It reflects a similar concept in western astrology and means "circle of animals" – and remains popular worldwide.

The animal signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each animal is associated with an "earthly branch" such as fire, water, metal or wood.

What is the history behind the zodiac animals?

There are many myths and legends related to the Chinese zodiac, but it is known that the animals of the zodiac have been popular since the Han Dynasty. Pottery artefacts dating back to the Tang Dynasty, 618 to 907 AD, show the animals were popular at that time – but they have also been found on relics from the Warring States Period, 475 to 221 BC.

Some historians say the animals of the Chinese zodiac were brought to China via the Silk Road, the central Asia trade route that brought Buddhism from India to Han China in the 1st or 2nd century BC.

Others argue that the belief predates Buddhism and has origins in early Chinese astronomy that used Jupiter as a constant – due to its 12-year orbital period around the Earth. Some suggest the use of animals in astrology began with ancient Chinese nomadic tribes, who developed the calendar to calculate the seasons for agriculture and hunting.

Last year marked the year of the goatReuters

What are the Chinese zodiac animals?

Goat (1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015). People born in the year of the goat are associated with kindness, sensitivity, politeness and creativity.

Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016). People born in the year of the monkey are associated with wit and intelligence.

Rooster (1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017). People born in the year of the rooster are associated with independence and punctuality.

Dog (1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018). People born in the year of the dog are associated with honesty and loyalty.

Pig (1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019). People born in the year of the pig are associated with friendliness and laziness.

Rat (1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020). People born in the year of the rat are associated with adaptability and intuition.

Ox (1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021). People born in the year of the ox are associated with conscientiousness and morality.

Tiger (1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022). People born in the year of the tiger are associated with courage, unpredictability and stubbornness.

Rabbit (1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023). People born in the year of the rabbit are impulsive, compassionate and modest.

Dragon (1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024). People born in the year of the dragon are associated with confidence, wit and dominance.

Snake (1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025). People born in the year of the snake are associated with intelligence, wisdom and privacy.

Horse (1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026). People born in the year of the horse are associated with popularity, a free spirit, hard work and intelligence.