Chinese Zodiac Tattoo Symbols

Chinese zodiac tattoos are gaining attention among tattoo buffs – Westerners and Easterners alike – worldwide. While all are primarily used for divination, zodiac signs are distinctly unique and vary from one culture to another. What sets Chinese zodiac symbols apart from the others is that they do not match up to cycles within the year; neither do they correspond to constellations. Instead, Chinese zodiac signs correspond to a longer cycle of twelve years.

Furthermore, Chinese zodiac signs integrate the elements of metal, wood, fire, earth, and water. These five elements are associated with a zodiac sign, and as such, provide sixty possible personality variations for interpretation. This, above other reasons, makes Chinese zodiac tattoos more individualized and just the right thing for a very personal tattoo.

Aside from having elements and animals, the Chinese zodiac also assigns a different color for each year. The colors are sorted by the stems and relate to the elements. Metal is white, Water is black, Wood is green, Fire is red, and earth is brown.

Another distinguishing characteristic of the Chinese zodiac is that it refers to the lunar calendar cycle. It takes into account the monthly phases of the moon and incorporates them to further typify zodiac personalities, daily horoscope, and prediction of events. The only aspect that makes it similar with the more widely known Roman zodiac is its use of twelve animals as signs. They are, however, illustrated as Chinese characters.

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The following are the twelve Chinese zodiac animals:

Rat: 1912, 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

Ox – 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997

Tiger – 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998

Rabbit – 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999

Dragon – 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000

Snake – 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001

Horse – 1918, 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002

Goat – 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003

Monkey – 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004

Rooster – 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005

Dog – 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006

Pig – 1923, 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007

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However, very interestingly, some web sites assert that there is only one character for the term zodiac. This symbol is modified by the proper birth month of the person who wears it to reflect the true zodiac sign. The variation is likened to how an English pronoun is modified by a pronoun.

Choosing a Chinese zodiac tattoo gears more towards identity symbolism and expression, rather than a manifestation of what we value in life because it caters closely to an individual, leaving very little room for generalization. As a tattoo design choice, a Chinese zodiac symbol would represent your birth year, your element, and can mean nothing else. It does not matter if you are Chinese, Asian, or Caucasian. It also does not matter whether or not Chinese astrology is part of a personal belief system. All the same, choosing Chinese zodiac signs as tattoo designs can oftentimes be surprisingly revealing – it provides a vivid glimpse of how the bearer of the tattoo views his own personality.


by Romeo Rodriguez