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30 Animals Symbolism in Chinese Culture

Updated on January 7, 2012

In Chinese culture, various animals have different symbolic meanings, most of which are usually used to describe someone with bad qualities. This passage mainly summarizes the profound symbolism of them when they are used to describe a person.

dragon is the totem of Chinese
dragon is the totem of Chinese | Source
phoenix | Source
phoenixrobe or the queen' s robe
phoenixrobe or the queen' s robe | Source
Stone Lions often stand outside the palace or the government
Stone Lions often stand outside the palace or the government | Source
long life span tortoise
long life span tortoise | Source

NO.1 Dragon

Unlike your western culture, dragon is not evil but our totem in our eyes. Chinese are believed to be the offspring of the dragon. Dragon stands for power in ancient China. Ancient emperors of China called themselves the son of the dragon and all the emperors wore the imperial robes with dragon pattern on it. Dragon stands for emperor, power, or dignity.

NO.2 Phoenix

Phoenix always describes a powerful lady with beauty, dignity and elegant. The ancient queens used to be called the phoenix.

NO.3 Tiger

Tiger is the king of the animals who has power and high position.

NO.4 Lion

Lion stands for authority, mighty power, and majesty, especially to describe a king in the ancient China. You can find there are stone lions on either side of the door of the Chinese Local Government.

NO.5 Tortoise

Traditionally, It can be used to describe a person who has a long life-span, as we Chinese think tortoise can live for long. Nowadays, it put on another means. When we say he is a tortoise, we mean he is a returnee. Like a tortoise, this oversea students were born in China, and then went across the sea to further study, but one day the will come back to it motherland. Also Tortoise and Returnee have the same Chinese pronunciation.

NO. 6 Ox

Ox was very important in ancient agricultural China, at that time ox helped farmers plow the land. So ,traditionally, ox is someone who is always hardworking. Nowadays ox is someone who has achieved something worthy showing off or who is so talented that he is worthy praising. You are a real ox means you are great, you have done a good work or something like that.

NO.7 Horse

Horse was once the main transport in ancient China. It equals someone who is energetic, wild and hard to control.

NO.8 Sheep

Sheep is very weak compared to some dangerous big animals such as tiger, lion and wolf. We Chinese used to someone is as weak as a poor sheep.

NO.9 Dog

In China, dog is used as the house guard who is loyal to its master. The Chinese traitor who helped Japanese invaders fight Chinese were called Chinese dogs.

NO.10 Rabbit

Rabbit is someone who is peaceful, mild and docile. In Hong Kong nowadays, it means gay.

NO.11 Chicken

Chicken in old China can bring us some good luck. Nowadays, it means prostitute or whore.

NO.12 Duck

Duck is a pimp

NO. 13 Rat

Rat is a coward who is a timid guy. He is as timid as a rat.

NO. 14. Snake.

Snake stands for someone who is cold-hearted, dangerous, and always cheating others. So never be a snake.

NO.15 Monkey

Monkey is clever, flexible and lively. The kid behaves like a monkey.

NO.16 Pig

Pig in our eyes is happy lazy and gluttonous everyday. When Chinese often say you are as lazy as a pig.

NO.17 Fox

Fox is a cunning animal in Chinese fables. We hate someone who is as cunning as a fox. A fox can be a person who is sophisticated and crafty. But some guys love the female “fox” very much. Here fox is young lady who is pretty and coquettish.

NO.18 Eagle

Eagle is a person who has foresight and is ambitious to achieve something great.

NO.19 Elephant

Elephant is someone who is sedate dependably and can bring auspicious luck to others.

NO.20 Peacock

Peacock is someone who is beautiful but vainglorious and always showing off.

NO.21 Butterfly

Butterfly is a beauty.

NO.22 Bee

Bee is someone who is busy and hardworking. In China, farmers work like bees.

NO.23 Snail

Snail is very snow. Don’t snail walk or don’t walk as slow as a snail.

NO.24 Swan

Swan is someone who is elegant and graceful for pose. She is as elegant as a swan.

NO.25 Donkey

Donkey is stupid, and stubborn. Chinese often say you are as stupid as a donkey. Your head is kicked by the donkey means there is something wrong with you brain.

NO.26 Wolf

Wolf is someone who is savagery, destructive and greedy. Don’t eat like a hungry wolf.

NO.27 Magpie

Chinese like magpie. When a magpie sings, it will bring good luck and something happy to us such as wedding, childbirth or something like that.

NO.28 Crow

Chinese hate crow. When a crow sings, it will bring bad luck and something unhappy to us such as death of some siblings or other loss.

NO.29 Camel

Camel is the ship on the desert.

NO.30 Cat

Cat is a girl who is lovely mild and cute.


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    • agsuto profile image

      Agus Sutanto 6 years ago from Indonesia

      I love number 1

    • aboutchina profile image

      aboutchina 6 years ago from China

      It is hard to say, sometimes a timid rat, sometimes a lazy pig.

    • ShootersCenter profile image

      David 6 years ago from Florida

      which animal would you consider yourself to be?