Shout-out to you pigs: Xin nian kuai-le (happy new year)!
Like its Western counterpart, Chinese astrology focuses on divining the future. Yet instead of monthly constellations, theirs is based on numerology, astronomy, the elements, animals … Let’s just call it complex.
The interweaving thread is a belief that all phenomena are mere differentiations of one infinity. Sounds as intriguing as it is ancient.
Today begins the Chinese New Year — the year of the pig. Next year’s will be the rat, followed by the ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat/sheep, monkey, rooster, and dog.
Most Westerners are vaguely familiar with those 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, corresponding with a 12-year cycle and based on a lunar, rather than our solar, calendar. That’s why each year begins on a different date in January or February.
Each animal’s characteristics are said to represent how others likely see us. Pigs are believed to be warm-hearted, good-tempered, loyal, honest, and gentle. Their weaknesses may be naiveite, gullibility, sluggishness, and a short temper.
But Chinese astrology is not that simple.
For example, based on my birth year, my zodiac animal is the “diplomatic” sheep. I’m also yin and the fire element — because the final digit of my birth year is a seven. My inner animal is a (loyal) dog, based on my birth month (10). It gets even more detailed; times of the day and month can introduce other influences on personality.
You may have read that yin (female aspects) and yang (male aspects) are about balance, so ideally each person has aspects of both. If not, that person is believed to be out of balance, and may have health problems. Think of yin and yang not as opposites, but as two inseparable aspects of the same person, illustrated by another principle in Chinese astrology and religion: “All antagonisms are complementary.”
Yin and yang are also applied to the five Chinese elements — metal, water, wood, fire, and earth — which modify the characteristics of the animal sign and affect qi (“chi” or essence).
1. Metal: Birth years ending in 0 — yang metal; ending in 1 — yin metal. Metal is associated with autumn, the color white, the respiratory system and lungs, self-reliance and persistence, and creature comforts. And the planet Venus.
2. Water: Birth years ending in 2 — yang water; ending in 3 — yin water. Water is associated with winter, black, the skeletal and excretory system, diplomacy, compassion, and flexibility. Planet: Mercury.
3. Wood: Birth years ending in 4 — yang wood; ending in 5 — yin wood. Wood is associated with spring, green, the liver and gall bladder, cooperation, growth-seeking, and idealism. Planet: Jupiter.
4. Fire: Birth years ending in 6 — yang fire; ending in 7 — yin fire. Fire is associated with summer, red, the circulatory system and heart, passion, restlessness, and leadership. And Mars.
5. Earth: Birth years ending in 8 — yang earth; ending in 9 — yin earth. Earth is associated with the change of seasons, yellow, the digestive system, patience, stability and service. And Saturn.
Note that because the lunar year typically begins the last few days of January or sometime in February, early births are assigned the previous Western calendar year. This newspaper’s editor was born in mid-January, so while his Western birth year ends in 6, in Chinese astrology he corresponds to the previous year’s sheep/goat (rather than that western year’s Monkey).
Inner animals, said to impact love life and inner persona, are based on lunar month and so vary by year (but roughly begin one to two months after Jan. 1, so a late October birthday would likely be early in the ninth month). Our editor’s is an ox. Inner animals in order of first to last lunar month are: Tiger (February or so), rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, rat, and ox.
These are just simplified drops in the large body of Chinese divination, relayed by an amateur. For a chart of birth years since 1924 see: https://bit.ly/2TncHp3
Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Send email to Sholeh@cdapress.com.