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A child laughs next to an illuminated tiger
A child celebrates the upcoming Year of the Tiger in in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, ChinaImage: Wang Zheng/Costfoto/picture alliance
CultureGlobal issues

2022: Year of the tiger

Brenda Haas
January 31, 2022

2022 marks the year of the tiger in the Chinese zodiac. We reflect on the diverse depictions in popular culture of tigers, among the most threatened of the world's big cats.


February 1 is the first day of the Chinese New Year this year. Also known as the Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, the festival marking the advent of spring is widely celebrated in China and several East Asian countries.

Families traditionally gather during this time to share sumptuous meals, while children are often given gifts of money in red packets known as "hong bao."  

The start of the Lunar Year also marks the rotation of the Chinese zodiac that runs over a 12-year cycle, each represented by an animal.

There are several stories explaining the zodiac: One legend goes that the Jade Emperor — an important Chinese deity — had invited all the animals to a "great race," with the first 12 winning his favor.

The 12 who made it in order of appearance are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. 

Star tigers

Thus, 2022 marks the year of the tiger, and if you were born in 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998 or 2010, you are a tiger.

Notable tiger personalities include Queen Elizabeth II, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga and Shawn Mendes. 

Each animal year is further associated with one of five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal, or water. So more precisely, 2022 is the year of the water tiger.

Threatened wild cats

The largest — and among the most threatened — of the world's big cats, tiger populations have been decimated from around 100,000 wild tigers a century ago, to as few as 3,200 in 2010. The main reasons are habitat destruction, hunting and poaching — though wild tiger numbers are rising slightly.   

The year 2022 has also been chosen as the deadline for the TX2 global commitment by 13 countries with tiger range — including Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam — to double their wild tiger populations. It is backed by the World Wide Fund for Nature.  

While it remains to be seen if this target has been met, this magnificent cat retains its place in music, literature, art, and film.

Edited by: Stuart Braun

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