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 influence modern Chinese culture and language, we explain everything you need to know. 

We’ve already looked at the 鼠 shǔ (Rat) and the 牛, niú (Ox).

Today, it’s the king of animals’ turn to take over: the 虎, hǔ (Tiger). 

Years of the Tiger include:

2034 | 202220101998198619741962 |  1950 | 1938

Year of the Tiger || Origin Story

Year of the Tiger || Tigers in Chinese Culture

Year of the Tiger || Tiger Zodiac Characteristics

Year of the Tiger || Year of the Tiger Celebrities

Year of the Tiger || Lucky and Unlucky Symbols

Year of the Tiger || Work, Relationships and Family

Year of the Tiger || Chinese Medicine

Year of the Tiger || Tigers and Tourism

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

Year of the Tiger || Zodiacs and Consumerism

Year of the Tiger || FAQs

Year of the Tiger || Origin Story

If you know the story of the Great Race (and if you don’t, click here!), you might wonder how a tiger could have been beaten by an animal as small as a rat or as heavy as an ox. 

Legend has it that the Tiger was exhausted after swimming through the river and clawing himself up onto the bank.

Although he tried to race to the finish line, the weight of his drenched fur slowed him down, and third place was the best he could do. 

But did you know the Great Race isn’t the only story of how the Tiger was awarded the third position? 

According to one folklore, he didn’t even feature in the original Zodiac.

Instead, the lion did. 

Legend has it that the Jade Emperor decided the lion was too cruel. He wanted to strip the beast of its zodiac status and replace him with another animal that could calmly control the rest. 

At that time, the Tiger was a trusted guardian of the Emperor’s Heavenly Palace. 

But chaos broke out in the animal kingdom while he was absent from Earth. So, the Jade Emperor sent the Tiger back down to restore order and promised to reward him for his success. 

As far as Lex is concerned, every year is the year of the lion!

The Tiger arrived back on Earth to discover that the lion, the bear and the horse had taken his place as the most powerful animals on Earth.

He didn’t like that. So, he fought back, defeated the three animals and reclaimed his position as king. 

His reward? Three horizontal lines were drawn on his head to mark his three victories. 

Later, the Tiger was called on again to restore order when a monster arrived on Earth.

After successfully defeating it, he was awarded a fourth vertical stripe on his forehead, connecting the other three and forming the Chinese character 王 wáng – king. 

Finally, he was awarded the lion’s position on the Zodiac and the title ‘King of all animals’. 

A race sounds a bit easier, doesn’t it?

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

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

Everything You Need to Know About the Year of the Dragon🐉 Personality, Compatibility and Lucky Symbols 2024 is coming and that means one thing: it’s the Year of the Dragon (龙年 lóng nián)! In this 12-part blog post series, we’re…

Year of the Tiger || Tigers in Chinese Culture

Brave, strong and fierce, the Tiger symbolises protection in Chinese culture.

Tigers are a native species of China, particularly in the south and northwest and so have been revered by local people since ancient times.

Adding to their high status, the stripe pattern at the top of tigers’ heads looks like the character 王 (wáng), which means king.

In Chinese folklore, they were referred to as “The King of the Beasts“.

They were believed to ward off evil spirits and fires- so much so that even today you may still find paintings of tigers facing the entrance in buildings to keep evil spirits at bay.

That’s why you’ll often see statues of tigers sitting outside temples, ancient gates, city walls or pavilions. They’re there to ward off evil spirits. 

Fun Fact: Yin and Yang are often depicted by tigers and dragons, with tigers representing the darkness of Yin.

So, what does this mean for people born in the Year of the Tiger?

Year of the Tiger || Tiger Zodiac Characteristics

People born in the Year of the Tiger share many traits with this brave warrior. They have dominant personalities and are typically charming, popular and well-trusted. 

Does that sound like you? Check what your Chinese zodiac sign is using our calculator. 

Despite being incredibly loyal and protective, tigers have a less-than-positive reputation for being unpredictable, impulsive, reckless and hot-tempered. Not to mention overprotective – where do you think the phrase “Tiger Mom” came from?

See if you can recognise any traits in these celebrities born in the Year of the Tiger.

Year of the Tiger || Celebrities

Ok tigers, you might want to know who out there shares your warrior traits. You might be pretty impressed with your celebrity list!

🐯 Queen Elizabeth II: April 21, 1926

🐯 Tom Cruise: July 3, 1962

🐯 Leonardo DiCaprio: November 11, 1974

🐯 Lady Gaga: March 28, 1986

Year of the Tiger || Lucky and Unlucky Symbols

Like the other zodiac animals, the Tiger has its own auspicious symbols. Anyone born in the Year of the Tiger should pay close attention to these, as they bring good or bad luck. 

As the saying goes, luck and fortune can change over time, 时来运转 (shí lái yùn zhuǎn). So, as well as knowing your lucky symbols, you should also take note of the things that can lead to misfortune. 

SymbolsLucky 👍Unlucky👎
Days16th and 27th*
Chinese Lunar Months3rd, 7th, and 10th1st, 4th, 5th, and 11th
Numbers1, 3, and 4 and numbers containing them (like 13 and 43)Unlucky numbers: 6, 7, and 8 (and any combination)
ColoursBlue, grey, orangeBrown
FlowersYellow lily, cineraria
Direction**East, North, SouthSouthwest
* Of any month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar
** Did you know – each zodiac animal has lucky and unlucky cardinal directions (North, South, East, West, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest). These influence how you should arrange your living space or – for some people – how to choose which apartment to live in. 

Unfortunately, setting yourself up for a lucky zodiac year isn’t as simple as wearing blue and living in a north-facing apartment. 

Each Zodiac sign interacts differently with the elements – wood, fire, earth, metal and water – which, in turn, interact with yin and yang energies to determine just how fortunate you’ll be… 

And some years are better than others. 

According to Chinese astrologists, 2022 was an incredibly unlucky year for the Tigers.

The zodiac sign was said to have offended the God of Age, meaning Tigers had to work extra hard to enjoy a prosperous year by doing things such as visiting temples and wearing red. 

Chinese Superstitions // How Many Do You Know? Thumbnail

Chinese Superstitions // How Many Do You Know?

Chiense Superstitions can seem down right crazy to some of us. We cover the number 4, your year of birth, turtles and facial hair. Something for everyone!

Year of the Tiger || Work, Relationships and Family

Just how important is the Zodiac in modern-day China?

Although it dates back centuries, the Chinese Zodiac is still widely respected, and its influence can be felt in everything from personal relationships to work. 

Tiger Zodiac at work

While some people take the Zodiac more seriously than others, it’s still extremely common for people to ask what your sign is. Or if you’re applying for a job, they might check it themselves. 

According to the China Youth Daily, one-third of graduate job hunters had been discriminated against based on their Chinese zodiac sign. 

Sometimes, this isn’t even down to people’s assumptions about your character. It could be because your sign isn’t compatible with the employer’s. 

So, who are tigers compatible with?

As natural charismatic leaders – who are often overconfident – tigers are said to work best with pigs, horses or dogs. 

Keep that in mind next time you’re searching for jobs in China! 

Tiger Zodiac in Relationships

Much like zodiac signs can influence decisions in the workplace, they often play a role in relationships, too. 

Even now, some Chinese dating apps use algorithms to match people based on the compatibility of their zodiac signs, and dating show contestants regularly accept or reject matches according to their 生肖 (shēngxiào).

Compatibility aside, tigers’ magnetic charisma, confidence and charm give them an edge in the dating pool. In case Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Cruise weren’t enough of a giveaway, people are said to be naturally drawn to tigers, despite their inability to flirt!

 If you’re lucky enough to bag yourself a tiger, you can expect them to be passionate, loyal and protective. 

However, their love for freedom, spontaneity and adventure means they often act on their impulses, making them a terrible match for the routine-loving Ox. 

Perfect matches: Horse, Dog, Dragon, Goat, Rat, Rabbit
Worst matches: Monkey, Snake, Ox and other Tigers

The Year of the Tiger’s Influence on Birth Rates

Many people from Asian communities around the world purposely plan to have children during the more auspicious zodiac years, like the Year of the Dragon. 

Despite being seen as a symbol of strength and bravery, the Year of the Tiger is actually one of the least desirable years to have a child.

Why? Because children born during this year are said to be challenging and unruly. 

This causes birth rates across Asia to fluctuate dramatically, with significantly more babies born during the Year of the Dragon than in the Year of the Tiger. 

The effect of this can be seen in Taiwan and Singapore, where birth rates have consistently declined during the last few Tiger years, causing concern for the healthcare and education systems!

Year of the Tiger || Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is another area heavily influenced by the Zodiac, although this one’s not so positive for tigers. 

Because tigers are considered symbols of strength, power and vitality in Chinese culture, practitioners have long believed the animals hold medicinal qualities that benefit humans. 

As a result, their bones, eyes, whiskers and teeth have been used for thousands of years to treat things like ulcers, typhoid, malaria, dysentery, burns and rheumatism.

Although the Chinese government has taken action to curb the practice and protect tigers from extinction, the black market trade continues today. 

Year of the Tiger || Tigers and Tourism

Relationships, work, culture and Medicine – it all seems logical up to this point. 

But would you believe some travel companies offer zodiac-inspired recommendations on holiday destinations? 

It’s unclear whether or not people actually take this seriously, but if you’re a tiger looking for somewhere to visit, you might want to consider adventure hotspots like the Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 hǔ tiào xiá) in Yunnan Province. 

The Tiger Leaping Gorge really is a force of nature!

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

It goes without saying that the Zodiac has influenced the Chinese language in several ways. You’ll find references to the zodiac animals everywhere, from idioms to names to food. Here are just a few that involve the Tiger. 

Tiger-related idioms

The zodiac has had a huge influence on Chinese idioms, known as Chengyu.

If you’re not sure what a Chengyu is, check out our Chengyu Guide here.

There are Chengyu for each of the 12 zodiacs and tigers are no exception, with several famous Chengyu including the character for tiger: 虎 hǔ

First up is one of the Chengyus almost all beginners will study.

Literally translating to ‘horse horse, tiger tiger’, this phrase is easy to remember and a foreigner favourite in China. 


mǎ mǎ hū hū

Careless or so-so

It’s said to have come from a painter who was midway through drawing a tiger when a man asked him to draw a horse instead. Rather than starting again, he finished the piece with a tiger’s head and a horse’s body. 

Next up is one you could use when telling a particularly dramatic story:


hǔ kǒu yú shēng 

To escape the tiger’s mouth

This idiom describes a narrow escape from a dangerous or life-threatening situation, just like wriggling free from a tiger’s jaws and living to tell the tale.

If you’re keeping a particularly close eye on someone, you could use this idiom:


hǔ shì dān dān

Watch someone very closely

This idiom refers to a person closely watching someone else, like a tiger keeping a keen eye on its prey.

The next Chengyu is one you might find a use for in a toxic work or classroom environment…


hú jiǎ hǔ wēi

A fox borrowing the Tiger’s might

This idiom describes someone who uses other people’s influence or power to intimidate or bully others.

And last but certainly not least, is a Chengyu that inspired perhaps one of the most famous Chinese movies of all time:


wò hǔ cānglóng 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Probably one of the best-known Chinese idioms, this phrase describes someone with hidden talents. 

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Ever wondered how you say Chinese onomatopoeia words like “boom”, “tick tock” or “meow”? Then we have the perfect blog for you!

Naming Tiger Children

Most parents around the world choose a baby name based on its meaning. The same is true in China; only here, parents may also choose their children’s names based on their zodiac sign’s auspicious characters.

For zodiac tigers, that includes characters with the following radicals:

山 (shān) – Mountain

林 (lín) – Forest

王 (wáng) – King

君 (jūn) – Monarch or ruler

令 (lìng) – Command or order

大 (dà) – Big or great

肉 (ròu) – Meat

月 (yuè) – Moon

心 (xīn) – Heart or mind

Note: Chinese names can also be influenced by the particular year, as the element may change.

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

Chinese Dishes Named After the Tiger

While many Chinese dishes are named after the time or place they were created, others are named after the zodiac animals – whether it’s because of their appearance or cultural significance. 

Here are a few worth trying.

Tiger Skin Peppers (虎皮尖椒 – hǔpí jiānjiāo): 

This Hunanese dish is said to have been named after the appearance of the cooked peppers.

They’re seared until the skins are slightly burnt, making them look somewhat like a tiger’s stripes. Because of this, they’re a popular dish to celebrate the Year of the Tiger.

Dragon Phoenix Tiger Soup (龙虎凤大烩 – lóng hǔ fèng dà huì)

Don’t worry, this isn’t actually a soup made from this odd mix of animals!

Instead, it includes snake meat, chicken meat and pork ribs, which represent the dragon, phoenix and Tiger, respectively.

The importance of these animals in Chinese culture makes this soup a special dish that’s often served at events like weddings and national holidays. 

Tiger Skin Tofu (虎皮豆腐 – hǔ pí dòufu)

This is another dish named after its tiger-like appearance.

It originates from Anhui Province and is made from small pieces of deep-fried fermented tofu stewed with soy sauce. 

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. No awkward time-zone challenges and no awkward fixed schedules. 

Year of the Tiger || Zodiacs and Consumerism

Another, more obvious area that the zodiac influences is shopping. One of the most important times for this is, of course, Chinese New Year.

In the months leading up to China’s biggest national celebration, shops across the country are kitted out with zodiac-themed products, and brands launch huge Spring Festival ad campaigns that feature the animal of the year. 

Even during less positive years, the animals are still celebrated with colourful statues, decorated hongbao and shop displays. 

So, if you’re ever in China around this time of year, you’re in for an exciting trip!

Shanghai, 2022: Lantern Festival in the Chinese New Year (Tiger year) in Yuyuan Garden.

What is your Chinese zodiac? Let us know in the comments ⬇️

Year of the Tiger || FAQs

When is the next Year of the Tiger?

The Chinese zodiac calendar is 12 years long, which means the next Year of the Tiger will be 2034. 

What is my Chinese Zodiac sign?

Use our Zodiac calculator to find out!

What signs is the tiger not compatible with?

People born in the Year of the Tiger are not compatible with the Monkey, Rat, Ox and Snake due to its adventurous nature and unpredictability. 

Why is the year of the tiger unlucky?

Although the Tiger symbolizes strength and bravery in Chinese culture, it’s not considered a lucky year to be born. 

That’s partly because those born in the year of the tiger are said to be unruly children.

What does the year of the tiger represent?

Those who are born in the year of the tiger are said to be confident, strong and brave – if not a little unpredictable and competitive!

What comes after the year of the tiger?

Following the year of the tiger is the year of the rabbit and then the year of the dragon.

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