Rat (zodiac)

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Zodiac rat
Stone monument with a carving of a mouse, at Mount Hôrai-ji Buddhist Temple, Aichi Prefecture, Japan

The Zodiacal Rat is the first of the repeating 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac, constituting part of the Chinese calendar system (with similar systems in use elsewhere). The Year of the Rat in standard Chinese is (Chinese: 鼠年; pinyin: shǔ​nián); the rat is associated with the first branch of the Earthly Branch symbol (), which starts a repeating cycle of twelve years. The Chinese word shǔ​ () may refer to rat, mouse, or other muroid-type animal. There is also a yearly month of the rat and a daily hour of the rat (Chinese double hour, midnight, 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.). Years of the rat are cyclically differentiated by correlation to the Heavenly Stems cycle, resulting in a repeating cycle of five years of the rat (over a sixty-year period), each rat year also being associated with one of the Chinese wu xing, also known as the "five elements".

Years and the Five Elements[edit]

Sexagenary cycle years

People born within these date ranges can be said to have been born in the "Year of the Rat", while bearing the following elemental sign:[1][2] The following is a chart of the dates of the Gregorian calendar.

Start date End date Heavenly branch
11 February 1804 30 January 1805 Wood Rat
23 January 1816 16 January 1817 Fire Rat
14 February 1828 3 January 1829 Earth Rat
2 February 1840 22 January 1841 Metal Rat
20 February 1852 3 February 1853 Water Rat
8 February 1864 26 January 1865 Wood Rat
26 January 1876 12 February 1877 Fire Rat
12 February 1888 30 January 1889 Earth Rat
31 January 1900 18 February 1901 Metal Rat
18 February 1912 5 February 1913 Water Rat
5 February 1924 23 January 1925 Wood Rat
24 January 1936 10 February 1937 Fire Rat
10 February 1948 28 January 1949 Earth Rat
28 January 1960 14 February 1961 Metal Rat
15 February 1972 2 February 1973 Water Rat
2 February 1984 19 February 1985 Wood Rat
19 February 1996 6 February 1997 Fire Rat
7 February 2008 25 January 2009 Earth Rat
25 January 2020 11 February 2021 Metal Rat
11 February 2032 30 January 2033 Water Rat
30 January 2044 16 February 2045 Wood Rat
15 February 2056 3 February 2057 Fire Rat
3 February 2068 22 January 2069 Earth Rat
22 January 2080 8 February 2081 Metal Rat
7 February 2092 26 January 2093 Water Rat

Popular culture[edit]

A sign in Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, 2016

In popular culture, the zodiacal idea of year of the rat is associated with various beliefs about prognostications for the upcoming year, lucky numbers, lucky colors, auspicious romantic connections, similarities between persons born in those years, correlations between Chinese astrology and Western astrology and the like.

Basic astrology elements[edit]

Popular culture links many aspects of the zodiac rat various ways:

Earthly Branches: Zi
The Five Elements: Water
Yin Yang: Yang
Lunar Month: Eleventh
Lucky Numbers: 2, 3, 6, 8; Avoid: 4, 5, 9
Lucky Flowers: Lily of each and every species
Lucky Colors: gold, blue, green; Avoid: yellow, brown
Season: Winter
Closest Western Zodiac: Sagittarius

Famous and infamous people[edit]

In popular culture, much attention is directed towards supposed similarities of personalities of persons born in the year of the rat. Supposed likenesses between persons born in the year of the rat are pointed to, with some similarity between the persons on the list being claimed. For example, Al Gore, Richard Simmons, William Shakespeare, T. S. Elliot, and George Washington, and more, are all presented as examples of some sort of theme based upon being born in the year of the rat.[3]


In popular culture, matches good or ill of a romantic or occupational nature between persons born in the year of the rat or otherwise are traditionally surmised:

Sign Best Match/ Balance (1st Trine Group) Match No Match/ Rival-Enemy-Obstacle (Opposite Sign)
Rat Rat, Dragon, Monkey Snake, Rooster, Ox, Pig, Rabbit, Goat, Dog, Tiger Horse

Cycle: (Trine Group) Rat needs Dragon, Dragon needs Monkey, Monkey needs Rat; (Opposite Sign) but his rival opposes the Horse.

The Jade Emperor and the race for zodiacal place[edit]

A popular modern story has it that the order of the animals in the twelve-year cycle was due to a competition between animal candidates, held by the ruler of Heaven, Earth, and Hell—the Jade Emperor. According to one version of this tale, the emperor's advisors selected twelve candidates from among the animal types, including the rat and the cat. The winner was to be selected based upon merit, as to personal appearance, lifestyle, and contributions to the world. Before the competition, the cat asked the rat for a wake up call in order to get to the show on time; however, the rat apprehensive of the competition, especially as to the cat's apparent beauty, did not wake the cat, who then overslept (and, ever afterwards, the embittered cat became a ratter and a mouser). The Jade Emperor mystified as to why there were only eleven candidate animals to show up inquired of his servants. These servants hastily acquired the first possible replacement animal which they encountered, (a pig). After the start of the competition, the rat achieved first place by performing on the flute while upon the back of the ox. Impressed, the Jade Emperor placed the rat at the beginning of the twelve-year cycle (and the ox second, for being so generous as to allow the rat to play the flute upon the ox's back). Then the other animals were placed in order according to the Jade Emperor's judgment.[4]

People born in Year of the Rat[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chinese New Year". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Chinese Zodiac - Rat". Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  3. ^ numerous sources for this can be easily found on the World Wide Web (many of them of a commercial nature), or in books such as Wu, Shelly (2005). Chinese Astology. Pompton Plains, New Jersey: Career Press. ISBN 978-1-56414-796-7, p. 29
  4. ^ Alston, Isabella and Kathryn Dixon (2014). Chinese Zodiac. (China: TAJ Books International) ISBN 978-1-84406-246-1, pp. 14-15

Further reading and references consulted[edit]

  • Alston, Isabella and Kathryn Dixon (2014). Chinese Zodiac. (China: TAJ Books International) ISBN 978-1-84406-246-1
  • Hale, Gill (2002). The Practical Encyclopedia of Feng Shui. New York: Barnes and Noble Books. ISBN 0-7607-3741-X
  • Wu, Zhonxian and Karin Wu (2014, 2016). Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches:TianGan DiZhi. London and Philadelphia: Singing Dragon. ISBN 978-1-84819-208-9