The year of the monkey and how goats became inauspicious

When my husband and I started thinking about having kids and when we’d like to have them, he always cautioned against having one in the year of the goat. Allegedly 9 out of 10 people born in the year of the goat suffer from bad luck throughout their lives. Now, maybe my husband wouldn’t be one to really believe in this kind of stuff were it not for his father. When my husband was little, his father had surgery and needed to take medicine, the combination of which caused a paralysed leg. More than 30 years later, and my father-in-law still suffers from pain on a daily basis. Nevertheless, he doesn’t complain much and seems quite content with how things have worked out for him. It could be worse, right? So back to the year of the goat. Due to this reason, my husband didn’t want me to become pregnant in the year of the goat. We went for the year of the horse, the one preceding the year of the goat, instead.

Empress Dowager Cixi

But recently he told a different story about why the year of the goat might get such a bad rap – the explanation of which he got from an article online (I haven’t read it and can’t find the article, so no link). From 1861 to 1908, Empress Dowager Cixi effectively ruled China. Because her son was still little when the emperor died, she was the one pulling the strings and taking over power. Cixi was born on 29 November 1835 in the year of the goat in a town called Yehe, just south of Siping, the city in Jilin province my husband is from. We visited Yehe sometime last year and while it made for a nice walk on a sunny day, there wasn’t much to see except for some prints of old photos and a few buildings that have been built from scratch to show what Cixi’s home looked liked. Some say Cixi’s enemies were responsible for planting the rumour about goats being inauspicious animals. Who would have thought?

year of the monkey

The year of the goat has made place for the year of the monkey, a supposedly much more favourable animal, on 8 February 2016. Some people forecast a baby boom for this year because not only is it the year of the auspicious Fire Monkey, but also are all married Chinese couples now allowed to have two children instead of just one. We’ll still have to see if these predictions are true, but no matter in which year you’ve been born, I hope the year of the monkey will be a positive one for you!

Have you ever heard of this story? I’d love to read your comments.

Follow me on Facebook.


Hi, I'm Ruth, welcome to China Elevator Stories! I have been living in Kunming and Shenzhen in the past and am now staying in Northeast China with my Chinese husband and our baby and toddler son. Join us on our journey bridging worlds!


    • The year of the dragon is when most Chinese people strive to have babies. There was a baby craze in 2012 because it was the year of the dragon and the cycle made it a golden something or other, which I can’t remember now because I’m a bad Chinese person, but it was a once in 60 year cycle so people were scrambling to make things happen.

    • Yeah, in general the dragon is considered the most auspicious one. Dragons are considered the king of animals here. 2012 was the Year of the Water Dragon, but I’m not sure how that one is different from other elements. The next dragon will be 2024, still a few years to go.

      • OH NO, hahaha, does this mean lots of Asian people were especially trying to have babies because they thought it was a Golden Dragon year back in 2012 and it wasn’t? It was such a THING in my community that year.

      • DavidfromHK

        I just came across this post today, thus my late comment. The reason the year of the dragon is the most popular year to have a baby with Chinese is that, in the mind of Chinese, “dragon” is the most majestic “animal”. I put the word animal in quote because the dragon is not a real animal, which Chinese in the old, old days did not know. If you ask any Chinese which animal they do not like, I seriously doubt they would say dragon. According to Chinese mythology, all Chinese are descendants of a dragon. There was a Chinese song with the name, descendants of a dragon, that was popular about 30 years ago. The dragon is also a symbol for all emperors in China. The names of any objects associated with the emperors are preceded with the word dragon. For example, the emperor’s bed was called the dragon bed. The official gown worn by the emperor was called the dragon gown. Boys born in the year of the dragon are believed, according to Chinese folklore, to have a successful life ahead of them (the apparently wishful connection with “emperor”). However, girls born in the year of the dragon are not believed to mean as much (because the mystical, majestic power of “dragon” was not linked to the empress). Somewhat sexist, I guess.

  1. Is Cixi different from Wuzetian? I thought there was only one empress of China?

    Man I didn’t know the year of the goat was so awful. I heard snake is pretty bad, too. What’s the worst one?

    What sign are you and your husband btw? 😉

    I’m a tiger, and I guess that’s really bad for the year of the monkey (since that’s my greatest enemy). According to the zodiac I’m going to have a real crap year, haha… I’m hoping it’s all just superstition!

  2. I am a goat! I hope this is not true, I don’t want a unlucky life haha
    But… my mother is goat too, and she has been living a really hard life… but I really don’t know if we should believe this kind of things or not.

    I love your blog! Greetings from Chile

  3. Happy New Year, Ruth, to you and your family.

    As someone born in the year of the goat, I think I’ve had pretty good luck. In fact, so did Cixi. She rose from humble beginnings to become the dowager empress.

  4. Happy new year! I had never heard of this origin of the “bad sign”, I had only heard that it was related to goats being animals that follow instead of lead, or something like that.

    BTW, it is interesting that both empresses in the Chinese history (Wu Zetian and Cixi) have a bad reputation. I am sure it has nothing to do with sexist historians (eye roll).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *