Chinese Language Blog

The Year of the Ox Posted by on Feb 3, 2021 in Culture

The Spring Festival is coming soon (春节快到了 chūn jié kuài dào le). This year, the Chinese New Year falls on February 12th. We’re entering the Year of the Ox (牛年 niú nián), which I’m pretty excited about as it’s my year! I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since I celebrated my first Spring Festival in China. In this post I’ll talk about the Year of the Ox, including some characteristics of people born in this year, suitable careers and partners,  as well as some famous people.

Image by Please Don’t sell My Artwork AS IS from Pixabay

The Ox in the Chinese Zodiac

It’s the 2nd year in the Chinese zodiac (生肖 shēng xiào) as the ox was tricked by the clever rat in a race. The rat actually hitched a ride on the ox’s back the entire time and jumped off at the finish line to steal first place. If you want to read the whole story, check out this post:

An Intro to the Chinese Zodiac

You can also watch this fun animated video on YouTube for a good Chinese reading & listening practice exercise. It tells the whole story of the Chinese zodiac calendar:

Not sure what animal you are on the Chinese zodiac calendar? I made this table that shows all the birth years for each animal back to 1948. I also included the Chinese name for each animal so you can build a little vocabulary list:

Rat (鼠 shǔ) 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020
Ox (牛 niú) 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021
Tiger (虎 hǔ) 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022
Rabbit (兔 tù) 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023
Dragon (龙 lóng) 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024
Snake (蛇 shé) 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013 2025
Horse (马 mǎ) 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014 2026
Goat (羊 yáng) 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015 2027
Monkey (猴 hóu) 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016 2028
Rooster (鸡 jī) 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017 2029
Dog (狗 gǒu) 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006 2018 2030
Pig (猪 zhū) 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019 2031

Keep in mind that you have to make sure your birthday was on or after the Spring Festival in that year. For example, a baby born on February 11th this year will still be born in the Year of the Rat, while one born the next day on the actual Chinese New Year will be in the Year of the Ox. If your birthday is in January or February, when the Lunar New Year usually falls, you’ll definitely want to double check.

Yours truly in the Year of the Ox 2009 in Nanjing.

Characteristics of the Year of the Ox

What do you think are the characteristics of a person born in the Year of the Ox? Just think of the animal itself to get some ideas! Here are a few of the characteristics of the Year of the Ox:

  • diligent (勤奋 qín fèn)

  • strong (强大 qiáng dà)

  • dependable (可信 kě xìn)

  • patriotic (爱国 Ài guó)

  • traditional (传统的 chuán tǒng de)

  • stubborn (倔强 jué jiàng)

  • persistent (持久的 chí jiǔ de)

  • loyal (忠实 zhōng shí)

  • hardworking/industrious (勤劳 qín láo)

As an ox myself, I think that’s a pretty accurate description. Obviously, these characteristics are not going to be true of every single person who is an ox. There are differences depending on which cycle you were born in, as each one is associated with one of the five elements (五行 wǔ xíng). I was born in 1985 which is associated with wood (木 mù), while someone born in the next cycle in 1997 is fire (火 huǒ).

Personally speaking, I’m definitely stubborn, loyal, and have known to be patriotic. I mean, just look at this picture of me at the Beijing 2008 Olympics:

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At the Beijing Olympics in 2008.


Relationships and Career

As I mentioned in the characteristics, those born in the Year of the Ox are known to be hardworking. This works to their advantage as they can be quite successful. However, they can also be workaholics and spend too much time working, thus creating stress and health problems.

Based on their characteristics, oxen are suited for industries such as agriculture (农业 nóng yè), engineering (工程 gōng chéng), education (教育 jiào yù), manufacturing (制造业 zhì zào yè), and politics (政治 zhèng zhì), among others. I’ve been an ESL teacher for over a decade now so I feel like that’s accurate! Oxen are also known to be writers (作家 zuò jiā), which is my other job.

Oxen are faithful and dependable and can thus earn the trust and respect of their boss or colleagues. They are known to like routines and respect traditions. Oxen can also be good leaders themselves. On the other hand, they might lack a sense of humor and passion. This can lead to problems with their career and personal lives.

Speaking of personal lives, it’s said that oxen pair well with those born in the year of the rat, monkey, or rooster. Apparently oxen do not make a good match with people born in the year of the horse, goat, dragon, or tiger. I’ll have to respectfully disagree with this last one, as I’m an ox and my wife is a tiger. We’ve been married for over 5 years and together for 11 so I think we’re proving that one wrong!

Famous People

The list of famous people born in the Year of the Ox is long and quite diverse. You’ll find US presidents Barack Obama and Gerald Ford on that list. Other notable politicians and leaders include Margaret Thatcher, Adolf Hitler, Princess Diana, Napoleon, King George V, and Saddam Hussein.

Other famous oxen include Walt Disney, Vincent van Gogh, Charlie Chaplin, Malala Yousafzai, and George Clooney. That’s pretty good company to be in!

Good and Bad Luck

There are lots of superstitions in Chinese culture. It’s why no one wants to live on the 4th floor, but everyone wants to live on the 8th floor. Four (四 sì) sounds like death (死 sǐ) and eight (八 bā) sounds like wealth (发 fā), in case you didn’t know. Of course, there are also things that are either lucky or unlucky for each of the signs on the Chinese zodiac.

For those born in the Year of the Ox, here’s a cheat-sheet for what’s lucky and unlucky:

  • Lucky Numbers: 1, 9
  • Unlucky Numbers: 3, 4
  • Lucky Colors: red, blue, purple
  • Unlucky Colors: white, green
  • Lucky Directions: north, southeast, south
  • Unlucky Directions: northwest


I hope you found this post about the Year of the Ox helpful and interesting. If any of our readers were born in the Year of the Ox, we’d love to hear from you! Do you find that these characteristics match your personality? Do you work in one of the careers mentioned in the post? Drop a comment and let us know! Also, I’d just like to say…

chūn jié kuài lè
Happy Spring Festival!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.

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