Chinese Astrology: More than 12 Animals
Chinese Astrology: More than the Twelve Animals
Chinese astrology is a complex subject. There is much more to it than the twelve
animal signs that you often see on placemats in a Chinese restaurant. Some of
the other influences that come into play are the Five Elements and the
yin/yang duality. You also need to understand something about Chinese
philosophy and thought in order to really understand how to apply Chinese
astrology to your life.
First, there are the twelve animal signs, one for each year in a twelve-year
cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster,
Dog, and Pig. 2008 is the Year of the Rat; 2009 is the Year of the Ox; 2010 is
the Year of the Tiger; 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit (Hare); 2012 is the Year
of the Dragon; 2013 is the Year of the Snake, 2014 is the Year of the Horse;
2015 is the Year of the Sheep (Goat). Each sign
has its own personality characteristics. See the
characteristics of the Chinese Zodiac
Yin and Yang
Next, you must consider the concepts of yin and yang. In the Chinese worldview,
everything is either yin or yang. Yin represents passive, cold, feminine,
yielding, dark energy. Yang represents active, hot, masculine, aggressive, light
It is important to remember that yin and yang each contain the seed of the
other. Everything is seen to go in cycles. If you start with yin, it will grow
and grow until it reaches fruition, at which point the seed of yang appears. The
energy then slowly turns more and more toward yang, until the yang energy
reaches its peak. Then the yang energy wanes and the yin energy starts to grow
Yin and yang will be used along with the Five Elements in the 60-year cycle of
The Five Elements
The traditional Five Elements of nature are used in various ways in China,
including medicine, astrology, and feng shui. The elements are Water, Wood,
Fire, Earth, and Metal.
The elements are not seen in isolation. They form a cycle. Water creates Wood
because water is necessary for plants to grow. Wood creates Fire, because fire
needs wood to burn. Fire creates Earth in the form of the ashes that are created
in the burning. Earth creates Metal because metal is mined from the earth.
Finally, Metal creates Water because water condenses on metal.
This cycle is called the "Creative Cycle" because each element is said to create
the next one. There is also the "Destructive Cycle", where each element controls
or limits the next. The Destructive Cycle goes in this order: Water, Fire,
Metal, Wood, Earth, and back to Water.
The Destructive Cycle is used to correct for imbalances where there is too much
of a certain element. The controlling element is used to counteract the excess
of another element.
Wood produces Fire, Fire produces Earth, Earth produces Metal, Metal produces
liquid (Water), and Water produces Wood.
Water destroys Fire, Fire destroys Metal, Metal destroys Wood, Wood Destroys
Earth, and Earth destroys Water.
Wood exhausts Water, Water exhausts Metal, Metal exhausts Earth, Earth
exhausts Fire, and Fire exhausts Wood.
What element are you?
The year of birth in which you were born corresponds to one of the five
elements. An easy way for determining your element is to consider the last
numeral in your year of birth and find your element below:
0 or 1: Metal
2 or 3: Water
4 or 5: Wood
6 or 7: Fire
8 or 9: Earth
So for example if you were born in 1977, your element is Fire; if you were
born in 1950, your element is Metal, and so forth.
The 60-Year Cycle
The Constructive Cycle is the one used in the 60-year cycle of Chinese
astrology. Because both the yin and yang aspects of each element are used, the
result is a cycle of ten phases, called stems.
The ten stems are:
• Yang Wood
• Yin Wood
• Yang Fire
• Yin Fire
• Yang Earth
• Yin Earth
• Yang Metal
• Yin Metal
• Yang Water
• Yin Water
Each year, one of the ten stems is paired with one of the twelve branches
(animals) in sequence, starting with Rat: Yang Wood. Since there are only ten
stems and twelve branches, when you get to Dog (the 11th branch), you start over
with the stems, giving Dog: Yang Wood.
This keeps going and the cycle does not repeat until the 61st year, when you are
back to Rat: Yang Wood.
2008 is called the year of the Earth Rat. It is a yang Earth year, since we have
just had two Fire years in the past two years (yang Fire and yin Fire).
The Chinese use the lunar calendar, not the solar calendar that we use in the
West. Therefore, the Chinese year of the Earth Rat starts on February 7, 2008
and ends on January 25, 2009. These dates are calculated by the phases of the
2009 is called the year of the Earth Ox, and began on January 26, 2009, and
ends on February 13, 2010.
2010 is called the year of the Metal Tiger, and begins on February 14, 2010,
and ends on February 2, 2011.
2011 is called the year of the Metal Rabbit, and begins on February 3, 2011,
and ends on February 3, 2012.
2012 is called the year of the Water Dragon, and begins on January 23, 2012,
and ends on January 27, 2013.
2013 is the year of the Water Snake, 2014 is the year of the Horse, 2015 is
the year of the Goat, 2016 is the year of the Monkey, 2017 is the year of the
Rooster, 2018 is the year of the Dog, 2019 is the year of the Pig, and 2020 is
the year of the Rat.
Using Your Chinese Horoscope
You will be able to better interpret your Chinese horoscope if you put yourself
into a more Chinese frame of mind. Chinese philosophy draws heavily on Buddhism,
where a person is encouraged to accept whatever happens without fighting against
This is in great contrast to our Western frame of mind, where we are always
trying to influence or change events to our liking. In Eastern philosophy, you
go with the flow. In Western thought, you are always trying to swim upstream
According to Chinese thought, every person's life goes through periods of good
and bad times. This is the whole idea behind the cycles of yin and yang, the
Five Element cycles, and the 60-year cycle of the Chinese calendar.
The fact that the Chinese use the lunar calendar based on the cycles of the moon
shows their respect for the cycles of nature. Chinese culture is much more in
tune with nature than our Western culture. The Five Elements of nature are
integral to their philosophy, medical practices and many other aspects of their
There is a great peace in reading your Chinese horoscope because you come to
realize that if you are having bad luck, it is not necessarily your fault. It
might just be a bad year for you. Often the Chinese solution to having a bad
year is just to wait until things get better. It is no use fighting your fate.
Still, there are things you can do to make life less difficult for yourself.
When you are reading your Chinese horoscope, don't try to fight it. Take the
suggestions calmly. Do what you can, but don't expect miracles. You might need
to wait until it is a more auspicious year for you, before your desires will
Now that you know more of the background and thinking behind Chinese astrology,
you should be able to use the information to help you plan your strategy for the
year. You will be able to see whether this year should be a year of action or a
year of riding out difficulties.
Remember, if it looks like a challenging year for you, there are still things
you can do to make things easier for yourself. 2008 was the most difficult
for you if you are a Goat or a Horse. It is the best year for the Ox. So, if you
are a Goat or a Horse, you can carry a small figure of an Ox with you to help
you through this year.
See also: Understanding Chinese
Astrology: Introduction and
Astrology: The New Year and Calendar (2013).
Oracle, which is based on fortune telling with playing
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