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Zodiac
Intro & Characters
Words
In one of my first Chinese lessons I was taught vocabulary for animals. Frankly, I thought it wasn't the best use of my time and I should first learn some more common characters. However, know that these animals are very important because they serve as components in the most common characters.
shǔ
1691
rat, mouse
A mouse, with two paws to the left and the tail to the right
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
niú
1016
ox, cow, bull
An ox's horned head
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
1081
tiger; brave, fierce; surname
A tiger  standing on a rock  also provides the pronunciation
oracle
bronze
seal
2359
rabbit, hare
A rabbit
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
lóng
(Simpl.)
695
dragon; symbol of the emperor
A dragon facing left and bending downwards
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
shé
1687
snake
(Simpl.)
276
horse; surname
A horse galloping to the left
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
yáng
1335
sheep, goat
A sheep's head with horns
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
hóu
2182
monkey, ape; like a monkey
oracle
seal
(Simpl.)
1389
chicken
oracle
seal
gǒu
1279
dog
zhū
(Simpl.)
1760
pig, hog, wild boar
Other important animals
xiàng
300
elephant; ivory; figure, image
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
niǎo
(Simpl.)
1261
bird
A bird
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
(Simpl.)
1242
crow, rook, raven; black, dark
A crow; compare 
bronze
seal
mnemonic
māo
(Simpl.)
1671
cat
Onomatopoeic. Compare 喵 (miāo, “meow, the onomatopoeic cry of a cat”).
(Simpl.)
850
fish
A fish swimming upwards
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic
néng
35
can, may; capable, full of energy
A bear's head , body ⺼, and claws 
oracle
bronze
seal
A strong, able, bear 厶 represents it's head, eating some meat
lóng
(Simpl.)
695
dragon; symbol of the emperor
A dragon facing left and bending downwards
oracle
bronze
seal
mnemonic