Year of the Sheep? Goat? Ram?

Though used to predict fortune and luck, the Chinese zodiac is more than just a horoscope. See what the year of the sheep means in terms of the economy as well as population change.


According to some major news sources like CNN, there is some confusion this year as to what year it is. The year of the sheep? The goat? The ram? The Chinese population isn’t quite sure either. As you can see, decorations depicting various species are shown below.

The problem lies in the name of the zodiac. The term “羊 (yáng) can mean many things. 绵羊 (mián yáng) means sheep, specifically the kind that is raised for wool. 山羊 (shān yáng) means goat. 公羊 (gōng yáng) means ram. 羚羊 (líng yáng) means antelope.

Professor Ho Che-wah, a leading Chinese Linguist, says that it's most likely the Year of the "Goat." If you examine the "羊" character closely, the two dots at the top were once horns for a goat's head. Check out an animation of the character history below!



The Chinese zodiac is based on a twelve year cycle, with each year represented by a different animal. Last year was the year of the horse. The next year will be the year of the Monkey.

For those of you born in the year of the sheep (1919, 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003) , this year is your 本命年 (běn mìng nián). The 本命年 is thought to bring challenges and bad luck for an entire year. However, there are things you can do to ward off bad luck. You can readjust your furniture to face the northeast. Wearing red is another popular way to keep bad luck away, such as red bracelets or red underwear. Jade pendants are also thought to help ward off bad luck. These also make excellent gifts for anyone going through their 本命年.

Though this may seem like trivial beliefs, zodiac signs are extremely important in Chinese culture.

In fact, zodiacs signs are so important that they may be used as a predictor of population increase. Many mothers were rushing to induce labor so that they could have their child while it was still the year of the horse, reports CNN. According to fortune tellers, infants born in the year of the horse tend to be livelier than those born in the year of the goat. Along the same vein, some families will delay having children until next year, the Year of the Monkey, which is another favorable year for children.

Some companies even use zodiac years to predict economic growth and sales figures. As the Year of the Sheep rolls around, Doris Ingber, a feng shui and astrology consultant advises her corporate clients to be cautious. “This is not a year for risk,” she says. Other companies and corporations may adjust their marketing strategy based on the year. It is not that the companies themselves are actually superstitious, but rather that they cleverly use the zodiac horoscope as a predictor of mass consumer behavior.

The Sheep zodiac is considered one of the meeker, more docile creatures, which usually means slower growth and a calmer year in general.

What are your hopes for the New Year? Do you plan to follow the superstitions at all?

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