Gung hay fat choy! (Happy new year!) The Chinese New Year celebration this year began on Jan 23 and goes through Feb 6, kicking off a solar cycle thought to carry its own particular qualities – those symbolized by a particular type of being.
Welcome, black water dragon.
Chinese astrology involves animal imagery, the five elements, and numerous other interconnected, mathematically complex cycles. And Chinese New Year celebrations leave American New Year celebrations in the dust. (I’ve never witnessed a Canadian NY, nor any other, so will offer no further comparisons. But I know that firecrackers and dragons beat drunks singing off-key renditions of Auld Lang Syne any day.)
2012 brings the 12-year animal cycle back to the Dragon. And when we bring the 5 elements into it (water, wood, fire, earth, & metal), we realize we now return to the Water Dragon. Black water dragon, to be specific.
Chinese astrology also divides the day into twelve two-hour vigils, each of which is presided over by one of twelve zodiac animals. For example, 8 am-10 am is the hour of the dragon. But wait, there’s more: each animal is also modified by each of the five elements, or phases. This is very different from western workings with elementals, a system that involves the four of earth, air, fire, and water. Elements worked with in the Chinese system of both astrology and healing methods are five: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The five moving in sequence form an overall sixty year cycle, known as chia-tzu. During each cycle, smaller increments of time defined as the “Twelve Earthly Branches” and “Ten Celestial Stems” combine with the signs of the zodiac to determine the Lunar New Year and other special dates on the Chinese calendar.
Complex enough yet?
Like in western pagan practice, Chinese also call the directions for ceremonial purposes. But they rely upon the corresponding animals. According to Theodora Lau’s engaging books on Chinese astrology, the Dragon watches over the direction of East-Southeast.
But I begin to digress. The seed of all of this that we’re now entering Lunar Year 4709 (as reckoned from the reign of the Yellow King), the Year of the Water Dragon.
Chinese astrologers believe that people born in specific animal years are pre-dispositioned towards the nature of the animal under which they were born, much as with the American horoscope. You’ve undoubtedly seen the oft-unflattering snapshot version on placemats in finer Chinese restaurants. “Dragon. 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012. Strong, proud, direct, eccentric, show off. Can be arrogant, violent, brash, controlling.” But of course the 60-year cycle brings in even more complexity.
I moved away from California’s Bay Area last summer and especially miss being in San Francisco right now, because the parades are always amazing. They always include dancing dragons. And this year? With a dragon THEME?! Sigh.
To console us both, here is a link to gorgeous pix of Dragon Year 2012 celebrations from all over Asia.
And here’s one from an Egyptian astrologer, Al-Masry Al-Youm, spreading the wisdom of his visitor, Chinese astrologer Joseph Chung, for you to get your (quick and very limited) animal sign prediction.
Finally, for those of you who like complexity, here’s how to calculate more of your Chinese horoscope, including hours, lucky elements, yin/yang earthly branches, heavenly stems, and the like. And here’s their page specifically predicting your luck this year.
吉慶有餘 Jíqìngyǒuyú. May your happiness be without limit.