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Chinese Astrology

As the ancient Chinese observed the heavens, they mapped it with a completely different grid than that imposed by their contemporaries in the Mediterranean Basin and created a very different astrology. Most Westerners have encountered this very different astrology in the designation of each year with the name of an animal, a frequently used motif in Chinese pop art.

Chinese astrology gives primary consideration to the movement of the moon through its 28-day orbit around the Earth. Each day is considered a different mansion, and the 28 mansions are grouped into four sets corresponding to the four phases of the moon. Detailed charts provide the data on which mansion the moon is in on any given day. Particular meanings are assigned to each of the 28 mansions that are grouped thus-ly:

The Green Dragon of Spring 1. The Horn 2. The Neck 3. The Base 4. The Room 5. The Heart 6. The Tail 7. The Basket

The Black Tortoise of Winter (new moon) 8. The Ladle 9. The Ox-Boy 10. The Maiden 11. The Void 12. The Rooftop 13. The House 14. The Wall

The White Tiger of Autumn 15. Astride 16. The Mound 17. The Stomach 18. The Pleiades 19. The Net 20. The Beak 21. Orion

The Red Bird of Summer (full moon) 22. The Well 23. Ghosts 24. The Willow 25. The Bird 26. The Bow 27. The Wings 28. The Carriage.

Chinese astrology in general has two goals: the prediction of the future, and the determination of auspicious days upon which to initiate a particular enterprise (especially to marry or to begin a new business endeavor). For example, the Pleiades is an unfortunate day to marry or initiate any family activity, while the next day is a good day. The Mound is a good day for initiating construction projects such as building a new house.

The visible planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) are associated with the five basic elements as discerned by ancient Chinese thought (water, metal, fire, wood, and earth). They are analogous to the four elements of ancient Greek thought (earth, air, fire, and water). Characteristics assigned to the various planets have some likenesses to Western astrology, but important differences as well. For example, Venus, the feminine planet in the West, is a very masculine planet in China.

The 12 signs that lend their names to each year in the Chinese calendar appear to be an addition to Chinese astrology, possibly from lands to the West. They derive from the observation of the 12-year period that it requires for the planet Jupiter to complete its orbit. Each year is associated with an animal (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog, and pig). In Chinese thought, animals such as the rat, snake, and pig do not have the negative association that dominates in the West.

As with all things Chinese, Chinese astrology received the attention of Westerners beginning with President Nixon's opening of a new positive phase of United States-Chinese relations in the 1970s. Among the first attempts to create an interest in Chinese astrology was made by psychic Daniel Logan in a 1972 book. In the intervening years a selection of books delineating the Chinese system has appeared. However, Chinese astrology has not become established in the West in the manner of other Chinese practices such as acupuncture, tai chi, or macrobiotics. It is primarily practiced in Chinese ethnic communities. Unlike Vedic astrology, the Chinese system is too different for the dominant astrology of the West that has been in a significant growth phase.


Logan, Daniel. Your Eastern Star: Oriental Astrology, Reincar-nation, and the Future. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1972.

Walters, Derek. Interpreting the Revelations of the Celestial Messengers. Wellingborough, UK: Aquarian Press, 1987.

——. The Chinese Astrology Workbook: How to Calculate and Interpret Chinese Horoscopes. Wellingborough, UK: Aquarian Press, 1988.

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