Chinese zodiac: the Year of the Snake

Wrought iron articulated snake, Japan, mid-18th century. Museum no. M.38-1947

Wrought iron articulated snake, Japan, mid-18th century. Museum no. M.38-1947

The Chinese use the lunar calendar for festive occasions including the New Year which falls somewhere between late January and early February. The cycle of twelve animal signs derives from Chinese folklore as a method for naming the years. The animals follow one another in an established order and are repeated every twelve years - rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Each animal has particular characteristics and people born in a certain year are believed to take on these characteristics.

Snake characteristics

People born in the Year of the Snake are intelligent, wise and charming. They are usually good-looking and alluring. They are also deep thinkers, like to plan well and are determined in whatever they do. Snake people are quiet, reserved and are good at giving advice to others. However, they strongly distrust other people and choose friends carefully. They happily help people but often exaggerate the help they have given. They are financially fortunate and enjoy the good things in life. Snake people can be passionate, possessive and jealous and they need a lot of security.

Snake Years: 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, 2025

The following objects show examples of snakes from different parts of the V&A's collections. The snake has different meanings to different cultures and religions throughout the world.

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