Year of the sheep

chinese character for sheep

Happy Chinese New Year!

It's New Year in the Chinese calendar, and this is the year of the sheep, sometimes called goat.

In the Chinese calendar, years are named after the animal of the Chinese zodiac that rules the year. The animals repeat on a 12-year cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig ( Travel China Guide website). Supposedly, the Chinese word for "sheep" and "goat" is the same, which leads to the confusion as to the naming of that animal in the zodiac (website of Paul Noll).

Many famous people were born in the Year of the Sheep (see sidebar). It would have been supremely fitting if Dolly the sheep had been cloned in the year of the sheep, but no such luck.


According to tradition, the animal of the Chinese zodiac that rules the year when a person is born has a profound effect on the person's character. Thus, people born in 1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991 and after 01-Feb-2003 are sheep people. I am a sheep.

For those who want to plan ahead and have sheep babies, if you miss the rest of 2003, your next opportunities will come in 2015, 2027, 2039, 2051, 2063.

I thought it would be fun to take some of the descriptions of sheep people and see how well they fit this sheep.



Gentle in spirit, Sheep desire a peaceful spot to exist undisturbed and unpressured.

Daydreaming all afternoon sounds heavenly to the Goat. This creative, esoteric sign needs plenty of time alone in which to feed its Muse. Goats are generally most comfortable in their own minds (which other, more linear-thinking signs may have trouble deciphering).

Is this me, or what?! For those who know the Myers-Briggs work on personality types, I am an INTJ, an extreme INTJ.

Perhaps it's that artistic temperament that so often causes Goats to feel insecure, but the result is that these high-strung creatures need to feel loved and admired lest they start worrying incessantly.

A bit of a worrier [Sheep] also have a tendency to complain about things.

[Sheep] have a tendency to be quite pessimistic, hesitant, and over-anxious.

Got that? It's all about me! And don't forget it.

I do sometimes worry, but I'd like to think that one of the reasons I worry is because some other people aren't doing enough worrying about the right things.

As for being pessimistic, I've learned that Prozac has a most salutary effect.

The Sheep is known for his gentle and compassionate ways. He can forgive easily and be understanding about others faults.

Sheep are the good samaritans of the Chinese zodiac. They are gentle mannered and on the shy side. Being very sincere they are easily taken by a sob story.

Some who know me as a real hard-ass may find this surprising, but it is basically true. I can be quite generous and enjoy helping others, but on the other hand I have no tolerance whatever for panhandlers and freeloaders. You have to be trying!



[Sheep] may be very skilled in [their] profession, but will never work for the sake of it, only if [they] enjoy it. [They] can get upset at first if people insist on trying to make [them] do things [they] don't really want to, but at the end of the day [Sheep] will dig in [their] heels. (I think this means to say, "roll up your sleeves")

Sheep like to set their own hours and will not tolerate too much discipline.... They cannot work well under pressure and must be allowed to do things at their own speed.

Some of my former bosses had a hard time learning this about me.

On the other hand, I do some of my best work under pressure. When push comes to shove, I will get it done, and the pressure helps to crystalize all the thoughts that have been swirling about in my mind.

[Sheep] will find their own natural solution to a problem when given space.

They have remarkable strength and patience in searching out facts and analyzing details when there is a good reasons, but they can be lazy and daydreaming sometimes.




Sheep overspend and should avoid dealing with money. They find it hard to be practical and would love a life of luxury and ease.

[Sheep] are just not bothered with the essentials of life like making money.... [they] need it, definitely, but it would be nicer if it just arrived!

They can be lazy sometimes. If Goats have any choices, they would definitely choose to marry a wealthy person and sit back for the rest of their lives.

I've always said I should have been born back in the good old days when people had patrons. But then, I suppose I would have chafed at the expectation to whip up a sonnet or a concerto at the whim of the patron..

As to my spending habits, I long ago stopped carrying cash, for if it's in my pocket, I spend it.



Sheep never come right out and discuss what's bothering them. You pry it out of them bit by bit. When all else fails, yell at them, and bang things around. They should be impressed and might unfold all their secret woes; then you can clear the air.

Yes, I've often been told that I shouldn't keep things bottled up inside and that I should let it out. However, I must observe that some of those same advice-givers don't much like it when one follows their advice.

[Sheep] are peaceable and calm, imaginative and inventive, and never bear a grudge. [They'll] do anything to avoid falling out with people, even giving up [their] own wishes to keep things pleasant.

"Never" may be too strong a word. There are two people — and they know who they are — toward whom I maintain and nurture an enduring grudge.

Sheep get their own way without force or violence. They have that passive endurance that drives you mad. Eventually they wear you down with their pleas. You just can't break them!

Sometimes clumsy in speech, [Sheep] are always passionate about what they do and what they believe it.

A lot of things I just don't care about, but if I do care, watch out — my middle name is spelled S T U B B O R N !

Goat people are likely to be well-mannered and exude good taste. Respectful towards elders and those in authority, the goat person is unlikely to rock the boat.

Goat people are very romantic, sensitive, sweet and darling. In relationship, they could be sometimes a little bossy and lazy, but with their gentle and caring nature, it will be hard to resist Goat people.

Except for the knack of always getting off on the wrong foot with people, the Goat can be charming company.

Well, that does sometimes happen, getting off on the wrong foot. And I can be charming — when I want to be.

However, as to being unlikely to rock the boat, perhaps some of my former bosses may beg to differ.



Affinities: Rabbit, Pig, Horse

Enmities: Ox

Suitable occupations

actor, gardener, beachcomber, craftsman, creative artist, fashion designer, writer, astrologer, fortune teller

Yeah, right! I'm the one with black thumb; who needs a color wheel to pick colors; paints by numbers; whose school clothes once included mustard-colored pants; and who didn't see the stock-market bust coming, neither in 2000 nor 1987!



Here are a few web sites with information about the Chinese zodiac and the personality types of the twelve animals.