Chinese Zodiacs || Year of the Ox 🐂 (A Complete Guide)

The Year of the Ox 🐂 Everything You Need to Know || Luck, Culture and Compatibility

In this 12-part blog post series, we’re taking you on a tour of the different Chinese zodiac animals.

From what they represent to how they influence modern Chinese culture and language, we explain everything you need to know. 

Today, we’re continuing our journey through the zodiac with the story of the second animal in the lunar calendar cycle:

The Year of the Ox (牛年 niú nián)

Years of the Ox include:

2021 | 2009 | 1997 | 1985 | 1973 | 1961 | 1949 | 1937

Year of the Ox || Origin Story

Year of the Ox || The Ox in Chinese Culture

Year of the Ox || Ox Personalities

Year of the Ox || Celebrity Born in the Year of the Ox

Year of the Ox || Lucky and Unlucky Symbols

Year of the Ox || Work and Relationships

Year of the Ox || Chinese Medicine

Year of the Ox || Ox and Tourism

Year of the Ox || Language Impact: Names & Idioms

Year of the Ox || Chinese Cuisine

Year of the Ox || Global Impact

Year of the Ox || FAQs

The Year of the Ox || Origin Story 

If you’ve read our post about the Year of the Rat, you’ll know the Great Race didn’t quite go as planned for the Ox. 

For a while, it looked like he was going to claim victory. But just as he was about to cross the river, the cunning rat convinced the Ox to give it a lift. Being the kindest animal to join the race, the Ox agreed and gave the rat a ride. 

As they neared the shore, the Emperor was about to congratulate the Ox on winning the race when the rat jumped out from behind his ear and raced across the finish line. 

That left the dependable, hardworking Ox in second place. How disappointing!

Year of the Ox || The Ox in Chinese Culture

The Ox is known in China for its strength, diligence and reliability. This isn’t only a result of its action in the Great Race.

Lex the Lion

Oxen played an essential role in ancient Chinese agriculture, ploughing fields and carrying heavy loads.

Farmers would have struggled to do their jobs without them, making them vital in ensuring local communities’ nourishment and well-being. 

This made the animal a symbol of protection, benevolence and wealth – a reputation that remains today. 

Many homes and offices across the country display oxen figurines to attract abundance, and the animal is often used in branding – mainly in the finance sector – to convey reliability, stability, and financial success.

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Chicken in Chinese 🐔 Types, Foods, Insults You Never Knew!

Chicken in Chinese? WHAT!? Hear us out! Chicken is not only a delicious meal but also the 10th Chinese zodiac, and a lighthearted insult in Mandarin Chinese

Year of the Ox || Ox Personalities

A reputation for being strong, honest, down-to-earth and dependable makes the ox one of the most likeable zodiac animals.

Those born in the Year of the Ox are often considered people who can be counted on in both personal and professional relationships.

They are known for their strong work ethic, dedication and persistence, and their practical approach to life. They are also extremely traditional and conservative, and they love routine. 

If you know someone born in the year of the ox? Tell us about their personality in the comments!

While these traits are generally very positive, oxen are often resistant to change. They may be slow to embrace new ideas, technologies, or ways of doing things, even when a new approach is better. 

They don’t usually like taking risks and can be extremely stubborn when someone doesn’t agree with their ideas. 

Their kind-hearted, dependable nature also puts them at risk of being taken advantage of – as demonstrated by the sneaky rat. 

Do you know your Chinese Zodiac sign? Check it using our zodiac calculator.

Year of the Ox || Celebrities born in the Year of the Ox

Year of the Ox celebrities

If you were born in the year of the Ox, you probably want to know which famous faces your share a zodiac with.

Here’s some of the most notable people born in the year of the ox!

🐂 Barack Obama: 1961

🐂 Walt Disney: 1901

🐂 Vincent van Gogh: 1853

🐂 George Washington: 1732

Chinese Zodiacs || Year of the Rabbit (The Ultimate Guide) Thumbnail

Chinese Zodiacs || Year of the Rabbit (The Ultimate Guide)

The Year of the Rabbit 🐰 Everything You Need to Know || Luck, Culture and Compatibility In this 12-part blog post series, we’re taking you on a tour of the different Chinese zodiac animals. From what they represent to how…

Year of the Ox || Lucky and Unlucky Symbols

Auspicious symbols for the Year of the Ox

All zodiac signs are associated with certain lucky and unlucky signs, which are thought to bring good (or bad) fortune to people born in different years. 

If our calculator showed that you were born in the Year of the Ox, you’ll want to take note of these to maximise your luck this year!

SymbolsLucky 👍Unlucky 👎
Daysthe 13th and 27th of any month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar
Monthsthe 7th and 9th Chinese lunar monthsthe 4th and 11th Chinese lunar months
Numbers1 and 4 and any combination of numbers containing them5 and 6 and any combination containing them
Colourswhite, yellow, greenred, brown
FlowersMorning Glory, Tulip, Peach Blossom
Directionsnorth and southsouthwest

Did you know – According to Chinese astrology, certain combinations of zodiac signs are considered extra lucky. 

One of the most harmonious pairings for the Year of the Ox is with the Rat and the Rooster. These three signs are known as the 三合 “San He” or ‘Three Harmonies’ because their traits complement each other. 

For example, the Ox provides stability and reliability, the Rat brings cleverness and quick thinking, and the Rooster adds a sense of order and precision. This is believed to create a balanced environment that’s perfect for work and personal relationships.

Chinese Zodiacs || Year of the Tiger (A Complete Guide) Thumbnail

Chinese Zodiacs || Year of the Tiger (A Complete Guide)

The Year of the Tiger 🐯 Everything You Need to Know || Luck, Culture and Compatibility In this 12-part blog post series, we’re taking you on a tour of the Chinese zodiac animals. From what they represent to how they…

Year of the Ox || Work and Relationships

Ox Zodiac at Work

Conservative, hardworking and serious, oxen are said to fare best in traditional work environments. Given that they’re not natural risk-takers, they’re unlikely to be found in creative positions or entrepreneurial roles. 

Although it may come as a surprise, the Ox is said to work best with the same animal that tricked it into coming second in the Great Race: the rat! 

Their personalities are said to gel because the ox is happy to follow the rat’s lead. Some even say it was due to the rat’s instruction that the ox even ended up coming close to winning the race! 

Ox Zodiac in Relationships

Zodiac signs also influence romantic relationships, and many young Chinese people consider them an important indicator of compatibility. 

Chinese families are known for getting overly involved in their children’s love lives, and many consider zodiac signs to be a deciding factor in who their kids should date. Some even consider the compatibility of the potential matches’ zodiac sign with the entire family. Imagine!

Thanks to the ox’s association with financial stability, it’s considered an attractive sign for many as it represents security and traditional values.

Oxen are also seen as caring and nurturing and able to resolve conflicts. These traits make them a perfect match for the sociable Snake, the loyal Rooster and the intelligent Rat. 

However, the sign isn’t a good match for the more argumentative and sneaky zodiac signs, such as the Tiger and the Sheep. 

Bad Matches

Tiger, Dragon, Horse Sheep

Perfect Matches

Rat, Snake, Rooster

Year of the Ox || Chinese medicine

The influence of the Chinese zodiac can even be felt in Traditional Chinese Medicine, albeit indirectly. 

Thanks to the ox’s reputation as a strong, dependable character, the animal symbolizes wellness, balance and vitality.

As a result, beef is said to improve the immune system, strengthen muscles and bones and repair tissue damage.  

Although you won’t find it in pill form, TCM practitioners may prescribe a hearty bowl of beef blood soup to anyone suffering from illnesses such as anemia. 

Chinese Food Therapy 食疗 shí liáo // A Beginner's Guide Thumbnail

Chinese Food Therapy 食疗 shí liáo // A Beginner’s Guide

What is Chinese Food Therapy? There are many things to love about living in China, and one of them is of course, the food (see below)! There seem to be an unlimited amount of food options in China. Shanghai alone…

Year of the Ox || Ox and Tourism

Some people also use their zodiac signs to choose travel destinations. This has become a popular trend among travel companies, especially at the start of a new year.

Their strength, persistence and patience make oxen particularly suited to destinations that present a physical challenge. They’re not deterred by trivial things such as weather, yet they like to have a plan to follow. 

Our advice for anyone born in the Year of the Ox? A hike up Huangshan in Anhui Province, a trek along the Great Wall or a visit to Zhangjiajie. Anywhere on this list of scenic destinations will also make for a true adventure. 

Year of the Ox || Language Impact: Names and Idioms 

Unlike the rat, the ox has quite a positive reputation in the Chinese language. Here are some examples of places you might see or hear the ox spring up in conversation. 

Chinese Slang


Meaning: awesome

The word 牛 niú is slang in China for ‘awesome’. You’ll often hear young Chinese people using it to express appreciation for something, such as an achievement. It’s usually used in sentences such as “太牛了!” (tài niú le!).



Meaning: badass, super cool

This term is often used to show admiration for someone’s skills, achievements, or actions.

Just be careful not to use it at work – it’s very informal and may not be appreciated by your boss!

成语 (Chéngyǔ)

When learning Chinese, Chengyu are unavoidable! In fact there’s actually Chengyu out there for all 12 zodiac animals.

👉 If you don’t know what Chengyu are, make sure you first check out our ultimate Chengyu guide here.


Chī de shì cǎo ,jǐ de shì nǎi

Meaning: Grass fed, milk produced. 

This chengyu uses the Ox to convey the idea that you can create valuable things from ordinary resources. It highlights the importance of hard work and dedication. The famous Chinese writer Lu Xun coined it in his book of poems, Wild Grass.

If you’d like to practice using these Chengyu with native speaker teachers, make sure to check out our online Chinese Flexi Classes


Lǎo niú shì dú 

Meaning: An old cow licking her calf. 

This idiom is used to portray a parent’s love for their children. 


jiǔ niú yì máo

Meaning: One hair from nine oxen. 

This idiom is similar to the phrase ‘a drop in the ocean’. It implies that something is so small that it’s almost unnoticeable or inconsequential.

Naming Year of the Ox Children

Names hold deep cultural significance in China. Parents across the country give careful consideration to their children’s names, as they are believed to play a role in determining their future. 

Lex the Lion

Of course, the zodiac plays an important part in this decision.

Certain Chinese characters are considered more suitable for babies born in certain years than others. This is based on the characters’ meanings and the corresponding zodiac characteristics. 

For those born in the Year of the Ox, those radicals include 穴,门,广,册,田,口. These are considered lucky for oxen because of their roof-like shape, which is said to provide stability in an ox person’s career and relationships.

泰 (tài) – Peaceful or prosperous

字 (zì) – Character or word

水 (shuǐ) – Water

孝 (xiào) – Filial piety (respect and obedience to one’s parents and elders)

园 (yuán) – Garden or park

同 (tóng) – Same or identical

安 (ān) – Peace or safety

Some parents of ox babies may also consider the 三合 when choosing a baby name. It’s said to be lucky to select a combination of characters, including radicals like 丑、子、亥, which represent the Ox, the Snake and the Rooster.

Do you have a Chinese name already? If not, we’ve got you covered. Fill in our Chinese Name Generator, and we’ll carefully select one for you! 

Year of the Ox || Chinese Cuisine 

Unlike some of the other Chinese zodiac animals, the Ox doesn’t have dishes named after it for its strength. Mainly because the animal is widely consumed as part of the Chinese diet. 

So, instead of sharing some dishes that have been influenced by the animal, here are some of our favourite Chinese beef dishes that are well worth a try.

Vegetarian? You might want to skip this section, but here’s a guide to navigating Chinese cuisine as a vegan or vegetarian

Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉面 – niúròu miàn)

This has to be one of the most famous Chinese dishes among laowai – and with good reason. Warm, hearty and cheap, it makes for the perfect winter meal. It’s so popular that you’ll find it everywhere, from Dongbei to Taiwan.

Psst… Make sure to check out our 11 must-try types of Chinese noodles

Beef with Broccoli (芥兰牛肉 – jièlán niúròu)

Another simple yet delicious dish, this is pretty much exactly what it sounds like.

Tender beef slices are stir-fried with fresh broccoli florets in a garlic-based sauce.

It’s a simple yet classic dish often served with rice or several other dishes and something that you absolutely have to try in China! 

Cumin Beef (孜然牛肉 – zīrán niúròu)

Cumin beef is an aromatic Chinese dish made of thinly sliced beef that’s stir-fried with cumin seeds, garlic, and fresh chilli peppers.

While it’s served in restaurants across China, it comes from Xinjiang, whose cuisine is heavily influenced by the neighbouring countries of central Asia. 

Want to explore the influence of the zodiac animals on Chinese culture, chat about food or learn some new idioms? Check out our Flexi Classes for on-demand Chinese lessons you can take whenever you like.

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The Importance of Hot Pot 🍲 A Simple Guide

Hot pot: you know it, you love it, and you want more of it. The importance of hot pot is obvious in Chinese culture, but why is it so popular anyway?

Year of the Ox || Global Impact

China isn’t the only country that follows the Lunar Calendar. It’s celebrated across other Asian countries, such as Japan, Vietnam and Thailand, where the zodiac animals play an important role in culture and traditions. 

These cultures mostly view the zodiac animals in the same way as the Chinese. There, too, oxen are seen as strong, dependable and honest characters. The only difference is that the Vietnamese Lunar Calendar features the buffalo instead of the ox. 

This is because the buffalo is the national animal of Vietnam. Like the ox in China, these animals play an essential role in agriculture and are viewed as symbols of bravery and prosperity. 

There’s even a Vietnamese proverb that says, ‘having a buffalo allows one to start a business’ (con trâu là đầu cơ nghiệp).  

The Year of the Ox || FAQs

When is the next Year of the Ox?

The Chinese zodiac calendar is 12 years long, which means the next Year of the Ox will be 2033. Previous years included 925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021.

What is my Chinese zodiac sign?

Use our Zodiac calculator to find out! 

What signs is the Ox not compatible with?

People born in the Year of the Ox are not romantically compatible with the Tiger, Dragon, Horse, and the Sheep. This is due to their personality traits clashing in different ways, with the ox likely to be manipulated by the tiger and easily annoyed by the horse or the sheep. Steer clear!

What are people born in the Year of the Ox like?

dependable. However, they’re also thought to be quite stubborn, risk-averse and resistant to change. Despite this, they remain one of the most likeable of the zodiac animals.

What comes after the Year of the Ox?

Following the Year of the Ox is the Year of the Tiger, who came in third place in the Great Race.

Just how important is the Year of the Ox in modern-day China?

Although it dates back centuries, the Chinese zodiac is still widely respected in modern China, and its influence can be felt in everything from personal relationships to work. Here’s how the Ox zodiac sign influences modern-day life. 

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