Set of twelve zodiac animals


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 207

By the Eastern Han dynasty (9–220 CE), the conventional order of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals was well established—rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. Subsequently, they began to be paired with ten other calendrical elements to form a rotating cycle of sixty, which continued to be used as a way of counting the years until the twentieth century. The animals, along with this calendrical system, were also adopted by many other East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

As burial practices became more elaborate, pottery figures of the creatures wearing official robes became popular tomb offerings, presumably as symbols of renewal and regeneration. These figures were once painted with colorful pigments, but only the white slip, which usually served as a base for decoration, has survived.

Set of twelve zodiac animals, Earthenware with white slip, China

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.