This is an adaptation of a longer article I wrote in 2003. All the pictures were on transparent backgrounds, but for some reason they went a bit weird once I went beyond "preview" to "publish post".
The first thing you need to know about Chinese astrology is that there are actually 60 year signs, not 12. There are 12 symbolic animal signs and 5 elements that together form a permutation cycle of 60 years. (There are also day and month signs, but we'll just stick with the basic 60 year signs here)
So how do you figure out your complete year sign? Well, the Chinese new year is a complicated event based on the first new moon at the end of winter/beginning of spring. If you're born in January or February you need to check with a good Chinese calendar to see which year you fall into.
To list all 60 sign combinations here isn't practical, so I'm simply going to give the 12 animals and the 5 elements and the basics on how those elements affect the signs.
The twelve animals, in order of appearance to Buddha Himself, are:
Rat - Intelligent, charming, ambitious, hard-working and hyperactive. Think Mickey Mouse combined with Bill Gates. Rats are born to achieve.
Ox (also called Buffalo) - Patient, persistent, clear-thinking, stubborn and powerful. The original "immovable object." Oxen are born hard-workers.
Tiger - Courageous, charismatic, Impulsive, generous and persuasive. All Tigers are restless at heart. Tigers are born to rebel.
Rabbit (also called Cat) - Diplomatic, intuitive, friendly, sensitive and peace-loving. Like Brer Rabbit, they can be cunning. Rabbits are born to adapt.
Dragon - Fearless, irresistible, idealistic, and self-sufficient. Dragons think they can conquer the world. Dragons are born to blaze ahead.
Snake - Sophisticated, sensual, wise, efficient and self-contained. Mesmerising and unique. Snakes are born to charm.
Horse - Cheerful, noble, energetic, unselfish and temperamental. Think of the wild mustangs of America. Horses are born to be free.
Goat (also called Sheep) - Creative, peaceful, imaginative, eccentric and disorganised. The "arty" types. Goats are born to be creative.
Monkey - Entertaining, likeable, witty, and resourceful. These people ARE the barrel full of monkeys! Monkeys are born to scheme.
Rooster (also called Chicken or Bird) - Honest, flamboyant, generous, thoughtless and critical. From the proud peacock to the strutting cockerel, Roosters are born to survive.
Dog - Loyal, idealistic, individualistic, faithful yet wary. Dogs are champions of the weak. Dogs are born to protect.
Pig (also called Boar) - Cultured, determined, trusting and kind-hearted. Sometimes excessive, Pigs are born to want the good things in life.
The elements and how they affect the 12 animal signs:
Water - called "Black" - this gives extra creativity and sensitivity. Combined with strong or forceful animals Water makes them more gentle and adaptable. Combined with mild animals Water makes them more creative, but more indecisive.
Wood - called "Green" - this gives warmth and humanity. Wood people enjoy working with their hands and are happiest when busy. Wood makes all the animal signs more caring and co-operative.
Fire - called "Red" - this gives energy and inspiration. Fire is more emotional and excitable than the other elements. All signs are more forceful with Fire as their element.
Earth - Called "Brown" - this gives patience and common-sense. Earth makes all signs more practical, but also more stubborn. Earth people are faithful and loyal, but demand praise and loyalty in return.
Metal - called "White" - this gives power and strength. Metal makes the signs bolder, but also more stubborn and intolerant of new ideas or change.
To use myself as the example. I'm born in 1963. So I'm a Black/Water Rabbit. A double combination of creative and sensitive with a strong tendency to drift off in mid-conversation. Water Rabbits aren't exactly "solid", but we are nice. :-)
1930~White Horse. 1931~White Goat. 1932~Black Monkey. 1933~Black Rooster. 1934~Green Dog. 1935~Green Pig. 1936~Red Rat. 1937~Red Ox. 1938~Brown Tiger. 1939~Brown Rabbit. 1940~White Dragon. 1941~White Snake. 1942~Black Horse. 1943~Black Goat. 1944~Green Monkey. 1945~Green Rooster. 1946~Red Dog. 1947~Red Pig. 1948~Brown Rat. 1949~Brown Ox. 1950~White Tiger. 1951~White Rabbit. 1952~Black Dragon. 1953~Black Snake. 1954~Green Horse. 1955~Green Goat. 1956~Red Monkey. 1957~Red Rooster. 1958~Brown Dog. 1959~Brown Pig. 1960~White Rat. 1961~White Ox. 1962~Black Tiger. 1963~Black Rabbit. 1964~Green Dragon. 1965~Green Snake. 1966~Red Horse. 1967~Red Goat. 1968~Brown Monkey. 1969~Brown Rooster. 1970~White Dog. 1971~White Pig. 1972~Black Rat. 1973~Black Ox. 1974~Green tiger. 1975~Green Rabbit. 1976~Red Dragon. 1977~Red Snake. 1978~Brown Horse. 1979~Brown Goat. 1980~White monkey. 1981~White Rooster. 1982~Black Dog. 1983~Black Pig. 1984~Green Rat. 1985~Green Ox. 1986~Red Tiger. 1987~Red Rabbit. 1988~Brown Dragon. 1989~Brown Snake. 1990~White Horse. 1991~White Goat. 1992~Black Monkey. 1993~Black Rooster. 1994~Green Dog. 1995~Green Pig. 1996~Red Rat. 1997~Red Ox. 1998~Brown Tiger. 1999~Brown Rabbit. 2000~White Dragon. 2001~White Snake. 2002~Black Horse. 2003~Black Goat. 2004~Green Monkey. 2005~Green Rooster. 2006~Red Dog. 2007~Red Pig. 2008~Brown Rat.