Chinese Zodiac

Ben Ming Nian

The term “Ben Ming Nian” in Chinese means a year that shares the same zodiac animal as the year you were born. You’d think this is good fortune, but not so in traditional Chinese culture. Instead, this is bound to be a year of unstable luck and setbacks in every area of your life. But fear not, because there are also several ways, according to tradition, that you can protect yourself from bad luck and put yourself in favor with the gods, even if it is your Ben Ming Nian.

What is Ben Ming Nian?

Unlike in western astrology, where each sun sign governs one month of the year, in Chinese folklore, there are twelve zodiac animals, each taking charge of a whole year. These are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and finally Pig. The year you were born would have had a zodiac animal, and when that zodiac animal comes around again, you are said to be in your Ben Ming Nian.

Since there are twelve zodiac signs, your Ben Ming Nian will come once every twelve years. An easy way to remember is that when your age is a multiple of 12—for example, 24, 36, 48 and so forth—it will always be your Ben Ming Nian.

Although the calendar for each lunar new year starts a little later—sometime in January or February of the Gregorian calendar—the zodiac animals still roughly correspond to years in the western calendar. The year 2024, for example, is the Year of the Dragon, while 2025 will be the Year of the Snake. Check out the chart below to see what zodiac animal is associated with your birth year.

Zodiac Sign Chinese Name Zodiac Years
Rat 鼠 (shǔ) 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020
Ox 牛 (niú) 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
Tiger 虎 (hǔ) 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022
Rabbit 兔 (tù) 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011, 2023
Dragon 龙 (lóng) 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024
Snake 蛇 (shé) 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025
Horse 马 (mǎ) 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, 2026
Goat 羊 (yang) 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, 2027
Monkey 猴 (hóu) 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, 2028
Rooster 鸡 (jī) 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, 2029
Dog 狗 (gǒu) 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030
Pig 猪 (zhū) 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019, 2031

Why is Your Chinese Zodiac Year Bad Luck?

Unfortunately, being in your Ben Ming Nian is not an occasion for celebration, but traditionally believed to be a year of setbacks and delays at best and disasters at worst. This is because in addition to the zodiac animal, each year also has a governing god, called the God of “Tai Sui” in Chinese. To understand this peculiarity, you might consider that back in the days of emperors, it was considered taboo to share the same name as the emperor—so it isn’t surprising that the God of the Tai Sui might not look kindly upon your sharing their zodiac!

According to folklore, people in their Ben Ming Nian are most susceptible to incurring the wrath of Tai Sui for that year, which could lead to tricky luck in everything you do even in the most optimistic interpretation. Some believe worse could befall those in their Ben Ming Nian. In love, for example, tradition dictates that you’d do best to avoid getting married or engaged in these years, otherwise the marriage may not last.

In terms of work, switching jobs or starting businesses in Ben Ming Nian could lead you to severe financial difficulties. Even other major ventures like moving house, traveling great distances and such are generally advised against. Basically, it is best to lay low on Ben Ming Nian and try to fly under the radar of Tai Sui to avoid serious calamity.

But of course, it isn’t always possible to live strictly by those rules, especially in today’s fast-moving world. If you expect major life changes to take place in your Ben Ming Nian, you can be thankful that tradition has also passed down a few practical ways you can curry favor with Tai Sui and cautiously ask for their blessing for the year.

How to Get Good Luck in Your Zodiac Year

A Shrine for the God of Tai Sui

If it is your zodiac year, it will also be your year of Fan Tai Sui—offending the God of Tai Sui. To turn this around, you might want to set up a shrine in your house and ask for their forgiveness, even before anything happens. Each Tai Sui favors a direction, therefore, that will be your best bet for placing the shrine. In 2021, you’ll want to place the shrine in the northeast corner of your house, and avoid constructions and such activities that might disturb Tai Sui’s peace.

Avert Your Eyes from Tai Sui

Similarly, it is considered irreverent to look directly at Tai Sui. Therefore, in your Ben Ming Nian, it is advised that you place the beds, desks, couches and such in your house, so that they face away from the direction favored by Tai Sui. This means that in 2021, you’d do best to face the southwest. This will not only avoid angering Tai Sui, but may even convince them to bless you with some extra good fortune. This is an important idea in the Chinese art of Feng Shui.

Wear a Talisman of Your Zodiac Animal or Pixiu

You could also wear a pendant or a bracelet bearing a talisman of your zodiac animal, or the mythical creature of Pixiu, which is believed to bring the wearer wealth. Chinese people will usually choose to wear talismans made of jade, because they believe the stone to possess the power to draw out impurities from your body—including any blight of ill fortune.

Dress in Red

Red is a favorite color of the Chinese because it signifies prosperity and bliss. It is worn for weddings, birthdays and major holidays in China. Since your Ben Ming Nian is not bringing you good tidings, you could wear red—for example, a red belt or a red scarf—for a bit of extra luck. In addition, you can also wear the talisman of your choice on a red string. Chinese people will also usually have a set of red underwear and red socks ready to put on for the lunar new year, especially if it is your Ben Ming Nian, to bind yourself to good fortune.

A Note About Ben Ming Nian Gifts

By the way, it's important to note that zodiac talismans and red clothes are most effective when they are gifts from your close friends and family, instead of purchased by yourself. This is because in gifting you with these red items, your loved ones are giving you pieces of their own luck, which can do wonders to “suppress” any ill omens in your year of disrupted luck.

Ben Ming Nian in 2024 and Beyond

2022 is the Year of the Tiger. Zodiac Tigers tend to be brash, blunt and to the point in their dealings with others, and thus in their Ben Ming Nian, should watch out for inadvertently making enemies. Also, Zodiac Tigers should try to practice a healthy lifestyle, as their health will be one of their most affected areas in 2022. While their finances will be one of the safer areas, they should still be prudent, especially with large investments this year.

The year of 2023 will be the Year of the Rabbit. Zodiac Rabbits, above all, should eat healthy food without anything too spicy or flavorful this year. In addition, because they tend to give up easily when facing difficulties, in 2023 they should try to practice perseverance. Even though 2023 is still a while away, it’s never too early to start preparing for your Ben Ming Nian so you are not caught off-guard when it comes!