Chinese astrology

Chinese Astrology is about more than animal characters assigned to each cycle in the lunar calendar, it is a complex representation of the seasons and elements.


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Beginners guide to Chinese Astrology


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With its origins dating back to the Zhou Dynasty (*1) (1046 - 256 BC) and the golden age of the Han Dynasty (*2) (206 BC - 220 AD) when there were great advancements in science and technology, Chinese Astrology is based on the ideology of cosmic order around the lunisolar calendar and the natural balance of the twelve-year cycle.

Ever since then, the Chinese Zodiac has become integral to the country’s culture and has been used to predict people’s fortunes through the traits of each of the zodiac animals and the analysis of the Four Pillars of Destiny.

It is often thought that Chinese Astrology revolves solely on the animals assigned to a specific year within the calendar, however it is a lot more than that with multiple layers of knowledge needed to truly understand its multifaceted order.

Historically, the system was created according to astronomers’ observations of the sun and stars and specifically to the orbit of the planet Jupiter around Earth.

This twelve-year orbit provided order to the celestial sixty-year cycle and established the Earthly Branches of what is now known as the traditional Chinese calendar. This in turn provided the twelve months calendar, the double twelve-hour day, and the association with the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

To consider all elements of Chinese Astrology, one must take into account the zodiac animals for year of birth but also in the context of hours, days and months as these are known to greatly influence personality, character traits, and compatibility in love.

Furthermore, the Ten Heavenly Stems of yin and yang and the Five Elements of feng shui, the movement of the planets and the trines of harmony all play key roles in the significance of its study.

The Chinese zodiac animals

The Chinese Zodiac animal

The legend of the animal signs is widely acknowledged as originating from the story of the Jade Emperor, the traditional Heavenly God, when unable to visit Earth requested that all animals in the world come to his palace for his birthday and partake in the ‘Great Race’ (*3). The 12 animals that would cross the finish line first would be designated as the representatives of the Chinese Horoscope by their final rankings. According to this myth, the race ended in the following order:

  • Rat
  • Ox
  • Tigger
  • Rabbit
  • Dragon
  • Snake
  • Horse
  • Goat
  • Monkey
  • Rooster
  • Dog
  • Pig
chinese year of the dragon statue

Four Pillars of Destiny, Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches:

The Four Pillars represent year, month, day and hour and aligning each with the 10 Heavenly Stems and the 12 Earthly Branches within the sixty-year cycle, the 24 solar terms and the lunar calendar provides us with the understanding of how to approach the study of Chinese Astrology by looking at all the forces that influence the cosmic order.

The 10 heavenly stems: Jia (甲), Yi (乙), Bing (丙), Ding (丁), Wu (戊), Ji (己), Geng (庚), Xin (辛), Ren (壬) and Gui (癸)

The 12 earthly branches: Zi (子), Chou (丑), Yin (寅), Mao (卯), Chen (辰), Si (巳), Wu (午), Wei (未), Shen (申), You (酉), Xu (戌) and Hai (亥).

Yin and Yang

Ying yang chineseThis is the subtle duality of the natural world order where balance is brought to the universe and the opposite energy flows complement each other to form a whole.

These forces interact to form a dynamic system where one cannot exist without the other. This fusion of two opposites creates the perfect circle. Finding that balance between yin and yang is fundamental to health and harmony.

  • Yin represents the female, passive and darker aspects of life, as well as winter and the moon. Yin is the spirit of all things.
  • Yang signifies the male, active and creative and where the light, summer and the sun dominate. Yang is the form of all things.

The Five Elements of Feng Shui (Wu Xing)

These are the philosophical principles of Chi energy around what are thought to be the fundamental elements and building blocks of life with each having a unique quality that work in symbiosis with each other.

Their characteristics, strengths and compatibility are core themes of Chinese Astrology. Each element generates one and controls another. The Five Elements in their natural cycle are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.

Five elements

  • Wood embodies kindness and benevolence with a sensitive outlook based on the collective good. It is associated with the planet Jupiter, Springtime, East, the Azure Dragon, the colour green, and in the body the liver and gall bladder. Wood generates Fire and controls Earth.
  • Fire represents power, strength and vibrancy. It is allied to the Mars, Summer, South, the vermillion Phoenix, the colour red, the heart and vascular system. Fire generates Earth and controls Metal.
  • Metal is strong and righteous although inflexible and stubborn. It is characterised by Venus, Autumn, West, the White Tiger, the colour white, and the lungs and respiratory system. Metal generates Water and controls Wood.
  • Earth epitomises honesty, solidity and stability, providing support and strengthening the feeling of comfort and security. It is associated with the planet Saturn, late Summer, Centre, the Yellow Dragon, the colour yellow, and the digestive system. Earth generates Metal and controls Water.
  • Water is defined by wisdom with emotional and sensitive character traits. They have a keen eye for talent but suffer from inconsistencies. It is associated with Mercury, Winter, the North, the Black Tortoise, the colours blue and black, and the skeleton and bladder. Water generates Wood and controls Fire.

The 12 Chinese Zodiac signs and their characteristics

Date of birth is the key principle to associate with the Zodiac animal, the day, the month and the year form part of the calculation, then if you know your time of birth you have all Four Pillars.

For people born in January or February, their zodiac animal might be the one of the previous year due to the Chinese New Year being in sync with the lunisolar calendar and the first of the 24 solar terms.

1. Rat (鼠) is Yang with its Earthly Branch being Zi (子) and people born in the year of the Rat are thought to be charming and have a lot of charisma. They are good with money in terms of being financially organised. They match best with Ox, least with Horse. Zodiac years 1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008, 2020.

2. Ox (牛) is Yin with has Chou (丑) as its Earthly Branch. Those born in the year of the Ox are believed to be strong and responsible. Although stubborn, they have a strong sense of purpose and know what they want. They match best with Rat, least with Goat. Zodiac years 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009.

3. Tiger (虎) is Yang with the Yin (寅) Earthly Branch. Strong, independent with high self-esteem. They are leaders and protectors however their bravery can sometimes be reckless. They match best with Pig, least with Monkey. Zodiac years 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010.

4. Rabbit (兔) is Yin and its Earthly Branch is Mao (卯). Polite and sincere, Rabbits are greatly respected because of their honesty and intelligent approach to life. They match best with Dog, least with Rooster. Zodiac years 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011.

5. Dragon (龙) is Yang with Chen (辰) as its Earthly Branch. The royal Dragon is adventurous, mysterious and romantic with no obvious flaws apart from stints of laziness. They match best with Rooster, least with Dog. Zodiac years 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012.

6. Snake (蛇) is Yin with its Earthly Branch being Si (巳). Wise, funny and creative, they are positive and determined with a strong sense of ownership which can sometimes work against them. They match best with Monkey, least with Pig. Zodiac years 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013.

7. Horse (马) is Yang with Wu (午) as its Earthly Branch. This easy-going zodiac animal is relaxed and independent however has a short attention span. They match best with Goat, least with Rat. Zodiac years 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014.

8. Goat (羊) is Yin with its Earthly Branch being Wei (未). Fan of the arts, the Goat is introverted and a deep thinker. They shy away from confrontation and prefer soft powers of persuasion. They match best with Horse, least with Ox. Zodiac years 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015.

9. Monkey (猴) is Yang with Shen (申) as its Earthly Branch. Those born in the year of the Monkey are curious and energetic and enjoy making people laugh. Self-control can sometimes work against them. They match best with Snake, least with Tiger. Zodiac years 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.

10. Rooster (鸡) is Yin with its Earthly Branch being You (酉). With strong empathy, Roosters are keen observers with a calculated approach to life and no obvious character flaws. They match best with Dragon, least with Rabbit. Zodiac years 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017.

11. Dog (狗) is Yang with Xu (戌) as its Earthly Branch. Loyalty is what defines the Dog. Their kind nature means they keep secrets and hardly break the rules. They match best with Rabbit, least with Dragon. Zodiac years 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018.

12. Pig (猪) is Yin with its Earthly Branch being Hai (亥). A problem solver at heart, the Pig is logical and always provides for others. Often wealthy, they can however lose their temper. They match best with Tiger, least with Snake. Zodiac years 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019.

Chinese Zodiac Animal Trines of harmony and compatibility

The Trines are the natural triangles of harmony and provide further love and friendship matches amongst the zodiac animal signs according to personality and character. These can also determine where there is incompatibility.

In the First Trine, the Dragon, Monkey and Rat are said to be those who take charge and action, capable of both tremendous good and evil in equal measure. Progressive, intelligent and intuitive on the one hand, and on the other deceptive, manipulative and jealous.

The Second Trine consists of the Ox, Rooster and Snake display endurance and tenacity with their intelligence and modesty making them patient and accomplished. They can however be selfish, vain and judgmental.

The Dog, Horse and Tiger make up the Third Trine and are regarded as romantic idealists who are engaging and honorable. They are sometimes be stubborn and rebellious.

In the Fourth and final Trine the Goat, Pig and Rabbit invoke calmness, artistry and compassion. Their empathy can also be their downfall as they can often be naïve and indecisive.

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