Of Metal Rabbits and Wood Dragons

by Cie McCullough Buschle on January 24, 2011

in Arts and Culture

01/24/11
Have you been confused by all the recent talk about horoscopes? Would you like to be introduced to a less confusing astrology? Do you know your Chinese Zodiac Animal? Well, what if I told you that with Chinese Astrology you get not only an animal, but an element as well. And that’s not all. You also get your own Yin or Yang force. That’s one animal, one element, and force of Yin or Yang, all to go along with the year of your birth.

(fine print)

Void if you were born in January or early February. You must check the day that the Chinese New Year begins in the year of your birth. Depending on that date your animal, element and Yin Yang force will be that of your actual birth year or of the previous Western year.

Metal RabbitSoon it will be the Year 4708, the year of the Yin Metal Rabbit. In the Western calendar we say that soon it will be February 3rd, 2011. Many people I know are familiar with the animal of the year of their birth according to the Chinese calendar, but few know that the Chinese calendar is complicated. Very complicated. I’ll do my best to simplify it, but I’m no expert.

The Chinese calendar is a lunar-solar calendar on a Sexagesimal cycle. Each year is 354 days long, or twelve lunar cycles. Therefore there are twelve months, alternating between twenty-nine and thirty days each, each month following the cycle of the moon. Every two or three years an extra, or intercalary, month is added, depending on how many cycles of the moon occur in that year. This will happen seven times every nineteen years, and will reconcile the Chinese and Western calendars.

The naming of years in the Chinese calendar has a sixty year cycle: ten Heavenly stems and twelve Earthly stems. The Heavenly stems tell us the elements and the Yin Yang; the Earthly stems tell us the zodiac signs. If you find yourself confused, remember: I have simplified it.

Believe it or not, this system was once used to mark not only years, but months, days and hours. The traditional Chinese day was twelve hours long, each hour named after an animal of the zodiac. Each traditional Chinese hour is equivalent to two Western hours. So, if you were to have a nice long lunch break planned, you and your friends would meet at, say, a few minutes past Horse.

Now, let’s get to why this is important to you. First, you should learn your Zodiac animal, or Earthly Stem. The easiest way to do this is by obtaining a good book on Chinese Astrology. I would recommend either of  Shelly Wu’s books:

Shelly Wu's Astrology

Shelly Wu's Astrology

This will be able to tell you about each animal sign in depth. But for convenience sake, the following chart will tell you the animal for your birth year. Remember: if you were born in January or early February, your astrological animal may be the one from the year before.

Rat 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996
Ox 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997
Tiger 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998
Rabbit 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999
Dragon 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000
Snake 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001
Horse 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002
Sheep 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003
Monkey 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004
Rooster 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005
Dog 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1994 2006
Pig 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007

Wood Fire Earth Metal Water

Then, you determine the Heavenly stem: your element and Yin Yang.

  • If the year ends in 0 it is Yang Metal.
  • If the year ends in 1 it is Yin Metal.
  • If the year ends in 2 it is Yang Water.
  • If the year ends in 3 it is Yin Water.
  • If the year ends in 4 it is Yang Wood.
  • If the year ends in 5 it is Yin Wood.
  • If the year ends in 6 it is Yang Fire.
  • If the year ends in 7 it is Yin Fire.
  • If the year ends in 8 it is Yang Earth.
  • If the year ends in 9 it is Yin Earth.

Again, there are interpretations to what it means to be a Metal Rabbit or, like me, a Wood Dragon. There are of course, good matches and bad matches romantically, which is why a good matchmaker was hard to find and greatly appreciated in ancient China.

Yin Yang symbol

Although Yin Yang are black and white, the two forces do not represent the forces of good and evil. Rather they are two singular opposites in which the existence of one relies upon the existence of the other. There must be the absence of all color, white, in order for there to be the totality of all colors, black. The Yin Yang symbol represents balance.

Separately, Yin is feminine. Yin is the moon. Yin is still, soft and mothering. Yin is cold water, slow earth, passive night. Yin looks inward and downward. Yin is potential energy. Yang is masculine. Yang is fire, the bright Sun at midday, Yang is a hard, arid desert. Yang is focused, and aggressive. Yang looks upward and outward, always increasing. Yang is kinetic energy.

Together Yin and Yang create everything.

Hopefully my explanation has helped you understand something more about the Chinese calendar and, in turn, the Chinese culture. In the modern era, this calendar is primarily used for tracking the dates of festivals and important historical events. For my part, I like the idea of balance in the universe, but I especially enjoy being able to tell my friends that I am a Wood Dragon.

Wood Dragon

To read about how the order of the animals was decided, check out The Chinese Legend of how the Animals Gave their Names to the Years.

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Cie McCullough Buschle lives with her dog Einstein and a cat named Burton Guster. She is a lifelong traveler and enjoys researching history through holidays, toys, and everyday objects. Cie is a sculptor and co-owns The Creative Chameleon, a place where kids and adults can create, paint, celebrate, and just have a lot of fun. Sometimes you can find her time traveling back to the Middle Ages as part of the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Deborah January 26, 2011 at 7:10 am

Nice article to whet my appetite for more information. Thank you, Cie. xo

Cie January 26, 2011 at 10:28 am

There are plenty of websites out there, too. It’s just that they are either extremely complicated or all about using the Chinese Astrology to find your love connection.

carol December 27, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Im looking for a tattoo yin yang for dragon rabbit tattoo

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