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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.

Animal Signs

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 signs here.

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 energy.

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 again.

Yin and yang will be used along with the Five Elements in the 60-year cycle of Chinese astrology.


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.

Chinese Elements: Creation or Creative Cycle

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.

Chinese Elements: Destructive or Destruction Cycle

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 moon.

2009 is called the year of the Earth Ox.

2010 is called the year of the Metal Tiger.

2011 is called the year of the Metal Rabbit.

2012 is called the year of the Water Dragon.

2013 is the year of the Water Snake.

2014 is the year of the Horse.

2015 is the year of the Wooden 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 it.

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 instead.

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 lives.

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 come about.

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 Chinese Astrology: The New Year and Calendar (2015).

See Also The Year of the Sheep 2015 for the Western Zodiac

Try our Love Oracle, which is based on fortune telling with playing cards.

Read about each zodiac sign


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