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2006-03-06 12:39:34
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Chinese Zodiac Signs

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Background

The ancient Chinese astronomers called the five major planets by the names of the element they were associated with: Venus corresponds to Metal (gold); Jupiter to Wood; Mercury to Water; Mars to Fire; Saturn to Earth. It is said that the position of these planets, along with the positions of the Sun, Moon, any comets in the sky as well as time of birth and Zodiac Sign can determine a person's destiny according to Chinese Astrology.

A laborious system of computing one's fate and destiny based on one's birthday and birth hours (known as 紫微斗數 zǐwēidǒushù) is still used regularly in modern day Chinese astrology to divine one's fortune. The twenty-eight Chinese constellations (宿 xìu) are quite different from the eighty-eight Western constellations. For example, the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) is known as 斗 dǒu; the belt of Orion is known as 參 shen, or the "Happiness, Fortune, Longevity" trio of demigods. The seven northern constellations are referred to as xúanwǔ (玄武). Xuan Wu is also known as the spirit of the northern sky or the spirit of Water in Taoism belief.
In addition to astrological readings of the heavenly bodies, the stars in the sky form the basis of many fairy tales. For example, the Summer Triangle is the trio of the cowherd (Altair), the weaving maiden fairy (Vega) and the "tai bai" fairy (Deneb). The two forbidden lovers were separated by the silvery river (the Milky Way). Each year on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese calendar, the birds form a bridge across the Milky Way. The cowherd carries their two sons (the two stars on each side of Altair) across the bridge to reunite with their fairy mother. The tai bai fairy acts as the chaperone of these two immortal lovers. See Qi Xi for more versions of this story.

Cycles

There is a binary Yin Yang cycle, which enlarges the 5 element cycle to a cycle of ten (seen below). Even years are yang, odd years are yin. Since the zodiac animal cycle of 12 is divisible by two, every zodiac can only occur in either yin or yang: the dragon is always yang, the snake is always yin, etc. This combination creates a 60-year cycle, starting with Wood Rat and ending with Water Pig. The current cycle began in the year 1984.
Five elements
The Yin or Yang is broken down into Five Elements ( Water, Wood, Fire, Metal (Gold or Iron), Earth) on top of the cycle of animals. These are modifiers and affect the characteristics of each of the 12 signs. Each element has features that apply to both years and the animals. Each of the 12 animals are governed by an element plus a Yin Yang Direction. Divided into 4 groups

Water
• The North
• Communication
• Intuition
• Sensitivity
'Governs'
Rat, Ox, Monkey


Wood
• The East
• Creativity
• Nurturing
• Growth
'Governs'
Tiger, Hare, Snake


Fire
• The South
• Passion
• Intelligence
• Movement
'Governs'
Dragon, Horse, Goat


Metal (gold)
• The West
• Useful
• Dependable
• Strong
'Governs'
Pig, Rooster, Dog


Earth
• The Centre
• Balance
• Foundations
• Reliability

Additionally there is Earth which does not govern over any animals and is the central balance of all elements. It can lend qualities to all 12 animals as well.
The elements are also associated with colours. The traditional correspondences are green to Wood, red to Fire, brown to Earth, white to Metal, and black to Water. Some websites denote the years by the colour and zodiac sign (as opposed to animal sign and element).

The twelve animals


Each individual personality is associated with an animal which represents it. This is where many Chinese Astrology descriptions in western society draw solely from. Each year in the 60 year cycle contains twelve animals, each with five possible elements, which distinctively vary the base animal's personality which equals to 60 possible combinations.

The Twelve Zodiac Animals


Chinese Zodiac Signs 2


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