Understanding Chinese Astrology
An introduction to Chinese astrology. Learn how the Chinese Lunar Calendar works and the 12 Elements within it.
The Chinese Lunar Calendar
China exclusively followed a lunar calendar in determining the times of planting, harvesting, and festival occasions. However, this was before the adoption of the Western solar calendar system, and the co-existence of the two calendar systems it has long been accepted by the people of China. Therefore, today people in China use the western calendar for their most practical matters of daily life. Nevertheless, the old system still serves as the basis for determining numerous seasonal holidays.
The Babylonians are generally acknowledged to have originated the practice and science of astrology. Their astrological charts enabled them to predict the recurrence of seasons and certain celestial events. So, in the beginning and for more than 2,000 years, astrology and astronomy were the same science.
Babylonian astrology was introduced to the Greeks early in the 4th century BCE and, through the studies of Plato, Aristotle, and others, astrology came to be highly regarded as a science.
It was soon embraced by the Romans (the Roman names for the zodiacal signs are still used today) and the Arabs and later spread throughout the entire world.
Chinese Astrology is said by some scholars to be the oldest horoscope system in the world. However, if you trace Western Astrology back to its Middle East roots, both types are likely to have been born in their current recognizable form around 3000 years BC, however they stem from entirely different beginnings as well as traditions and parts of the world.
The Chinese calendar - like the Hebrew - is a combined solar/lunar calendar in that it strives to have its years coincide with the tropical year and its months coincide with the synodic months. It is therefore not surprising that a few similarities still exist between the Chinese and the Hebrew calendar: An ordinary year has 12 months, a leap year has 13 months. An ordinary year has 353, 354, or 355 days, a leap year has 383, 384, or 385 days. When determining what a Chinese year looks like, one must make a number of astronomical calculations:
First, determine the dates for the new moons. Here, a new moon is the completely black moon (that is, when the moon is in conjunction with the sun), not the first visible crescent used in the Islamic and Hebrew calendars. So therefore, the date of a new moon is the first day of a new month.
A lunar month is determined by the period required for the moon to complete its full cycle of 29 and a half days, a standard that makes the lunar year a full 11 days shorter than its solar counterpart. This difference is made up every 19 years by the addition of seven lunar months. The 12 lunar months are further divided into 24 solar divisions distinguished by the four seasons and times of warmer and cooler weather, all bearing a close relationship to the yearly cycle of agricultural work.
In Chinese Astrology the 12 animals are further flavored by the pervading element of that particular year (elements also revolve as a separate cycle). It is said that Buddha is responsible for the 12 animals as they were the only ones who came to bid him farewell into the next life.
Chinese Astrology is concerned with nature and its traits, the signs progress year by year, whereas Western Astrology cycles monthly.
The consideration of Yin and Yang is a very great influence upon this subject, Yin being passive, female and receptive while Yang is aggressive, male and exploratory. The various permutations of these 2 essential forces in nature, places, organizations, events and humanity and the quest to achieve balance so that both operate together in harmony rather than opposing are an essentially Oriental viewpoint and quest, they form the basis of many Far Eastern traditions and other influences in Chinese Society such as Feng Shui.