Today, we’re sharing our (very informal) guide to Chinese zodiac compatibility! If you grew up in a Chinese family, chances are that over the years you’ve had parents and relatives drop cryptic hints about your zodiac animal sign, whether it’s about your personality or your future partner.
We’re no different, and this post is a starting point to figuring out your compatibility with others, complete with embarrassing personal reflections and anecdotes!
Chinese Zodiac compatibility: A fool’s errand?
At best, astrology, tarot cards, etc. are just gut checks against your innermost feelings and intuition. After many years in search of romance, I’ve bounced between skepticism, apathy, and outright superstition—boldly declaring my need to find a driven Dragon or say to heck with those crazy Tigers.
It’s a familiar struggle for many Chinese folks, because while you may not be 100% sure that any of this is worth the time of day, why not try for a little bit of luck in this big game of life?
Hence, there are plenty of Chinese folks out there clamoring for an auspicious animal match. (On a related note, who remembers the year of the Golden Pig baby boom of 2007? There was a run on baby-making in China thanks to everyone wanting their kid to be born under the auspices of that sweet lucky piggy.)
So what about that feeling when you feel sparks fly, but then you realize they’re a Rat… Can two Dragons make it work?
Are Tigers and Monkey really as doomed a pairing as they say?
If you’re a Dog and you find yourself with a Dragon, are you fated to a loveless existence?!
We’ll be trying to answer these questions and will almost certainly fail, sharing some of what we’ve heard and what we’ve seen—also what we definitely don’t know to be true, because at the end of the day, this is just astrology.
Consider this a starting point, and later in the post we’ve got some recommended reading for anyone interested in a deeper dive!
A not at all comprehensive guide to Chinese zodiac compatibility
Last year, I googled something about Chinese astrology, tapped on the first link that popped up on my phone, and had to blink a few times before I realized I was reading our own post.
While we may be wizards of SEO, I’m no Chinese face reader or fortune teller hidden away in an ancient Hong Kong temple. (The image at the top of this post is a very skilled fortune teller from Wong Dai Sin temple in Hong Kong!)
Heck, when I do my party trick tarot card readings, I still need to consult the guide book. But as a single 30-something woman, I think I’ve heard my fair share of advice on what to look for, what not to look for, and also have begun to wonder how much stock I should really put into the Chinese zodiac or whether it’s all just a bunch of hooey.
There are 12 signs in the Chinese zodiac. Be sure to check the exact dates that apply to each animal year, as Lunar New Year falls on different days each year. It doesn’t simply start on January 1 and end December 31. You can find a basic overview here!
Is the Chinese Zodiac still a useful dating tool? My thoughts on the matter
There does seem to be a general feeling in the air that the Chinese Zodiac is deeply irrelevant. From a poll of my dad’s gaggle of married cousins, no one seemed very invested in their animal sign, and it was a conversation deemed to be for the elders, as no one knew much about it.
The consensus seemed similar among our Instagram followers too, with only 10% following tradition and actively considering it. Of course, it doesn’t help that we millennials are also factoring in personality tests, horoscopes (Gemini men, keep away!), and all the other strange litmus tests of compatibility. The Chinese zodiac can feel like another absurd token device to add to the heap.
And yet, haunted by my own singledom, I have sought out all of these devices when faced with the uncertainty of romantic relationships.
(To be clear, being single is not in and of itself a bad thing, and everyone should enjoy the hell out of their independent and single years. But like Jo March in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, one does get lonely!)
If you’re at all interested in this topic like me, you’ve probably seen many of these kinds of charts online. They range from pretty basic:
To pull-no-punches terrifying. Behold the emotive power of a single red and pink heart, the crushing disappointment of a heartless “X,” and the dramatic finality of a skull and bones inexplicably next to a red heart. (Can’t anyone be a “good match or enemy”?!)
Haunted by such diagrams in late night doom scrolling sessions, I cobbled together this hare-brained reference guide, see screenshot below. In other words, a guide to the signs I was allegedly compatible with and corresponding ages that could be quickly cross-referenced in a dating context.
It felt absurd and a little bit desperate if I’m being totally honest with you, but when you’ve been dating for 10 years with very little to go on, it is tempting to put things in the hands of fate! I could almost feel the eyes of generations of my ancestors—undoubtedly far more superstitious than me—spurring me on.
While it could be considered a little bit of a dating low point, it did make me far more intentional! Specifically, it proved to be an interesting exercise to see how old of a person I should be open to. If left to my own devices, I don’t think I would actively seek out someone pushing 41, but if it were an amicable Dog (a friendly and amicable match for a Monkey), perhaps I could hold off on making snap judgments.
All that said, I don’t particularly recommend those horoscope blogs filled with terrifying diagrams like the ones above. We much prefer the more measured words of Theodora Lau and Laura Lau, who wrote perhaps the most comprehensive English-language guide to all things Chinese astrology in The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes.
They recently released the 40th Anniversary Edition. We read through it to help us develop this post, and for each animal sign, you can read just the ways you are and are not compatible.
The book also goes into far more detail on the different personalities of the animals by element (Fire, Wood, Earth, Metal, and Water) and offers insight on how the time of day you were born affects how strongly your animal sign drives your personality and your compatibility with other signs.
The most and least compatible animal signs of the Chinese zodiac!
These were pulled from The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes (40th Anniversary Edition) by Theodora Lau and Laura Lau. We recommend grabbing a copy if you’re interested in greater detail!
Most compatible: Monkey, Dragon
Fairly compatible: Ox, Snake, Pig
Some limitations: Rat, Tiger, Rabbit, Rooster, Dog
Least compatible: Horse, Sheep
Most compatible: Snake, Rooster
Fairly compatible: Dragon, Snake, Dog
Some limitations: Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Monkey, Pig
Least compatible: Sheep, Horse
Most compatible: Horse, Dog
Fairly compatible: Dragon, Sheep, Pig
Some limitations: Rat, Tiger, Rabbit, Snake, Rooster
Least compatible: Monkey, Ox
Most compatible: Sheep, Pig
Fairly compatible: Rat, Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Monkey, Dog
Some limitations: Tiger, Dragon, Horse
Least compatible: Rooster
Most compatible: Rat, Monkey
Fairly compatible: Rabbit, Snake, Horse, Rooster
Some limitations: Ox, Tiger, Dragon, Sheep, Pig
Least compatible: Dog
Most compatible: Ox, Rooster
Fairly compatible: Rat, Dragon, Snake, Dog
Some limitations: Rabbit, Horse, Sheep, Monkey,
Least compatible: Pig, Tiger
Most compatible: Tiger, Dog
Fairly compatible: Dragon, Horse, Sheep, Monkey,
Some limitations: Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Rooster, Pig
Least compatible: Rat
Most compatible: Rabbit, Pig
Fairly compatible: Tiger, Horse, Sheep, Dog
Some limitations: Dragon, Snake, Monkey, Rooster
Least compatible: Ox, Rat
Most compatible: Dragon, Monkey
Fairly compatible: Rat, Horse, Dog, Pig
Some limitations: Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Sheep, Rooster
Least compatible: Tiger
Most compatible: Ox, Snake
Fairly compatible: Dragon, Rooster, Dog, Pig
Some limitations: Rat, Tiger, Horse, Sheep, Monkey
Least compatible: Rabbit
Most compatible: Tiger, Horse
Fairly compatible: Rat, Rabbit, Snake, Monkey, Dog, Pig
Some limitations: Ox, Sheep, Rooster
Least compatible: Dragon
Most compatible: Sheep, Rabbit
Fairly compatible: Rat, Tiger, Dragon, Monkey, Rooster, Dog
Some limitations: Ox, Horse, Pig
Least compatible: Snake
A few tips and rules of thumb
Beyond the basics of how each sign interacts, here are some rules of thumb on Chinese zodiac compatibility that I’ve picked up on over the years that you too can apply to your search for a romantic partner!
Tip #1: Large animals + Small animals make for complementary matches
There’s a heavy element of agrarian reasoning to the Chinese animal zodiac. For example, Ox are hardworking and may have a bitter life. Pigs don’t work and just eat and prosper with an easygoing life.
Depending on the two animals in question, usually large animals will respect other large animals, albeit they may handle things very differently.
Tip #2: Two large animals may fight more than prosper
There actually is a notion of two dragons being one too many for a harmonious household. Imagine two dragons in one household. After a while, it might start to get a bit cramped! My grandparents on my mom’s side / Judy’s parents were both Dragons, and every day from issues big and small, arguments broke out!
One of our readers noted that she has THREE Dragons in her household, and the headstrong opinions go flying!!
The same goes for tigers: 一山容不下二虎. Two tigers can’t share one mountain!
Tip #3: Check your element
Within any one animal sign, there are 5 elements: Fire, Wood, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each zodiac sign can be affected by the element one was born under. The elements also can determine compatibility.
Water corrodes Metal or Metal can trap water, but perhaps they’re more similar than we think: Metal can liquefy and become purer and stronger as a result.
Fire may scorch Wood, but Wood feeds the flame and keeps it alive. Fire shapes Metal.
Earth channels Water, and Water tames Fire.
Metal decisively controls Wood, reigning it in and shaping it into more than it was before.
There’s truly a wonderful poetry to it all, so don’t overlook this component of your compatibility!
Tip #4: Check your birth time
Yes the joke goes: run for the hills if someone you’re dating inquires about your time of birth. But different hours of the day are ruled by different animal signs, and you may find that if you never quite associated so strongly with the animal sign of the year you were born, it may be because of the time of day you were born in!
For example, I’m a water monkey born during the hours of the monkey, so there’s no identity crisis here!
So what about our family’s Chinese zodiac compatibility?
The burning question—how does compatibility shake out in our family? There’s romantic compatibility of course, but you can also use the Chinese zodiac to identify ideal friendships, business partnerships, and parent-child relationships.
So here’s how everyone lines up:
Judy: Fire Sheep
Bill: Wood Dragon
Sarah: Metal Horse
Justin: Earth Dragon
Ethan: Water Rabbit
Kaitlin: Water Monkey
Hilariously, for Bill and Judy, the Sheep and Dragon pairing is tenuous at best, relying on the Sheep to let the Dragon take the lead—a disastrous pairing depending on who you consult!
But it’s my personal observation that where our family shines is in the elements. Every element is represented. So, while a Sheep and Dragon may not be so compatible on the surface, and a Sheep may need to eat humble pie and step aside for a Dragon to shine, Wood keeps a Fire toasty.
For Sarah and Bill, Sarah’s metal tendencies can shape Bill’s sometimes disorganized ways, while Judy’s motherly Fire steps in to check any older sister energy that may be running rampant through the household. As for me, the missing piece may have always been Earth, which is why Sarah’s husband Justin makes for such a complementary and seamless addition to the family. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a fresh set of eyes to bear witness to our sisterly squabbles and serve as referee!
You may notice the newest member of the family represented here under the auspices of the Water Rabbit. Chinese folks are as much about compatibility between parent and child as between romantic partners.
For a while, Sarah was gunning to have a baby in 2022 so she would have the purported treat of the Horse mother’s pride and joy: a Tiger baby. While that timing didn’t work out, Justin won out in the end with a father’s son: Dragon parents and Rabbit children are thought to get along well.
We hope you enjoyed this informal guide to Chinese zodiac compatibility!
And we would love to hear your stories in the comments section: Who you’re partnered with if you are partnered, successes, failures, personal reflections, and any old wives’ tales about the zodiac that you may have heard from relatives or friends!
While the validity of Chinese astrology may be questionable, we still want to preserve the stories and thinking around it!
Happy Lunar New Year, everyone!