Chinese Astrology: More Than just 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. 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. 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Each sign has its own personality characteristics.
Yin and Yang
In addition to the animal signs, 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 a 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. This cycle is called the "Constructive Cycle" because each element is said to create the next one.
Chinese Astrology: A 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, and, finally, 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.
2018 is called the year of the Earth Dog. 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 16, 2018 and ends on February 4, 2019. These dates are calculated by the phases of the moon.
How to interpret your Chinese Horoscope
You will be able to better interpret your Chinese horoscope if you think of it from an Eastern point-of-view. 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, whereas here in America, you try 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.