by Robert Wilkinson
Today we continue our adventure in learning about another kind of astrology that's been practiced by billions of people across many centuries. Welcome to Chinese Astrology!
First, some context: Most articles on this site approach the art and science of life cycles through the lens of “Western Astrology,” i.e., astrology generally derived from the Greco-Roman-Babylonian model used thousands of years ago. Over the centuries, Western Astrology has greatly evolved beyond those roots in that era so that what we now call "Western Astrology" bears zero resemblance to what the ancients studied and practiced.
Every culture has had its form of astrology, and there are many other types of astrology practiced in our world. The two most prominent forms of "Eastern Astrology" are Vedic Astrology, derived from the Vedas, ancient Holy books of India, and Chinese Astrology, supposedly the elaboration of the twelve creatures who first made obeisance to the Buddha, indicative of the twelve types of natural human characteristics.
Eastern systems are more based in Lunar cycles, whereas Western Astrology has a much different focus and is primarily a Solar based system. However, most systems have 12 “signs” of some sort, and Chinese Astrology is no exception.
Chinese Astrology offers us 12 different animals than the 12 figures in Western Astrology, in the following order: the Rat is the first sign, followed in order by the Ox, the Tiger, the Rabbit/Hare/Cat, the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Sheep/Goat, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog, and the Boar/Pig.
Regarding these 12 animals, I've found that the character descriptions for each of the Chinese signs often approximate the character descriptions for the corresponding Western signs, and there are interesting parallels. And I'll also note that within these 12, there are sympathies and antipathies that exactly parallel the Western signs.
In one significant difference, besides just naming the animal associated with the birth year, Chinese Astrology also gives an animal for what month, what day, and what hour we are born. That gives us a blend of many different energies that describe the complexities of our nature. However, a thorough exploration of that branch of the craft is beyond the time and space we can give it here.
So like other systems, Chinese Astrology has twelve "signs." However, in another significant difference with Western Astrology, Chinese Astrology gives us five elements, rather than the four elements of Western Astrology. In Chinese Astrology, people born in years ending in 0 or 1 are said to be Metal; those born in years ending in 2 or 3 are Water; those born in years ending in 4 or 5 are Wood; those born in years ending in 6 or 7 are Fire; and those born in years ending in 8 or 9 are Earth.
This gives a natural cycle of 60 years, which is a very significant number in both Chinese and Vedic Astrology, and symbolizes the halfway point in an archetypal human life. Each element plus animal gives a specific quality to that human characteristic, and so the possibilities are quite extensive.
2011 is said to be the Year of the Metal Rabbit, or Cat. This year is a bit peculiar, because it's one of the few with multiple creature names. Depending on which Asian system one uses, the new year is called the year of the Metal Rabbit, or Hare, or Cat, and will begin with the New Moon 6:31 pm PST February 2, and 2:31 am Greenwich, 10:31 am Hong Kong on February 3. The reason it begins then is because that is the New Moon, and Chinese Astrology is a Lunar-based system.
As an aside, if you're searching the internet for more about the coming year, you may encounter sites that use other descriptors, such as Silver Rabbit, or White Rabbit, or Silver or White Cat. These are the extensions of the element quality, so a White Rabbit is also a Metal Cat.
In coming articles we'll explore more Chinese Astrological indicators regarding the quality of recent past years as well as the year to come. This can help us get a broader perspective on how the year ahead will have similar energies to the past year, but also how the year ahead will be different than the energies of the past.
© Copyright 2011 Robert Wilkinson