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Lunar Calendar

Chinese Lunar Calendar
The Chinese lunar calendar is the longest chronological record in history, dating from 2637 B.C. when the first cycle of the zodiac was introduced. One complete cycle takes 60 years and is made up of five simple cycles of 12 years each. The 78th cycle started on February 1984, and will end on February 2044. Twelve animals were assigned to each of the 12 years when, according to legend, the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to come to him before he departed from Earth. Only twelve animals came to bid him farewell. As a reward he named a year after each one in the order that it arrived. First came the Rat, then the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. Thus, we have the twelve animal signs of today. The animal ruling the year in which you were born exercises a profound influence on your life. "This is the animal that hides in your heart".

The Lunar Year
The lunar year is divided into twelve months of 29 days. Every two and a half years, an intercalary month is added to adjust the calendar. The addition of this month every third year produces the Lunar Leap Year. For easy reference, the beginning of each lunar month is the date of the New Moon marked on the Western calendar. You may be interested to know that on the first day of spring, as indicated by the lunar calendar, a freshly laid egg can be made to stand erect on its base. Try it: I know this has to be seen to be believed. (In the Gregorian calendar, the first day of spring always falls on the 4th or 5th day of February).

The Five Elements
During the complete 60-year cycle each of the animal signs (sometimes also referred to as the twelve Earth branches) is combined with the five main elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. The element of your lunar sign will exercise their influence on your life. A fundamental part of Oriental philosophy is the interrelationships among the five elements. These are divided into Conducive and Controlling interrelationships, and are as follows:


  • From Metal we get Water. In this context, the metal could mean a vessel or container for holding water, so we can say that metal traps water. In another sense, metal is the only element that will change into a liquid when heated.
  • From Water we get Wood. Water here means the rain or dew that makes plants life flourish, thus producing wood in the process.
  • From Wood we get Fire. Fire cannot exist by itself but is produced by burning wood.
  • From Fire we get Earth. Symbolically fire reduces everything into ashes, which becomes part of the earth again.
  • From Earth we get Metal. All metal has to be extracted from the earth.

The entire universe is composed of these five elements. They are interdependent and another controls each. Hence we find that:

  • Metal is controlled by Fire. Metal can only be melted and forged with great heat.
  • Fire is controlled by Water. Nothing will put out a fire as fast as water.
  • Water is controlled by Earth. We dig canals in the earth to irrigate fields or build dikes to keep out or absorb water.
  • Earth is controlled by Wood. Trees and their roots hold the soil together and get their nourishment from the earth.
  • Wood is controlled by Metal. The metal blade of an axe can fell even the largest tree.

Under this philosophy, we see that no element can be called the strongest or weakest. They are forever dependent on one another and are equal. The chain of life that brings about their existence links them, and there is no power struggle. Each has its own place and function.

The Moon, being the closest heavenly body to Earth, has shown its many visible powers to mankind since the dawn of civilization. Its magnetic pull has ruled the rising and ebbing ocean tides as well as all other bodies of water. The Chinese culture has built itself firmly around the lunar influence, believing it to affect humans so immensely because our bodies consist of three-quarters liquid. Likewise, plants and animals are subject to its all-encompassing force.

Would it be too farfetched, therefore, to speculate that even nations will be beneficially or adversely affected, depending on whether they were born under a good or a bad moon? Will the year in which a country is formed have a great bearing on its place in history? Chinese fortune telling leaves us to draw our own conclusions, after providing us with the necessary tools.

It is said that astrology is an accurate science, based on fixed formulas and mathematical calculations. Likewise, lunar horoscopes are equally exacting and scientifically evolved. Yet I hasten to add that it can be considered as an art form: the art of recognizing relevant facts in whatever disguises they may appear or expressed in. The Chinese sages of old and the fortunetellers of today liken themselves to medical diagnosticians of the present, probing, searching and forever interpreting telltale signs of what the future may hold.

The ancient Chinese method of chance reading is never dogmatic or fatalistic. We are never made to feel hemmed in by our weaknesses nor inhibited by our deficiencies. Rather, we are encouraged to exploit our resources in varied and imaginative ways.

Thus, Chinese horoscopes, instead of restricting us, teach us how to plot new courses if our present methods of approach do not meet with success, and how to circumvent the circumstances of birth and other barriers and to reach our goals by taking new routes. As they instruct us in self-analysis and in knowing what to expect from situations, we will be able at worst to face, at best to solve, the problems we are most fated to encounter.

Some of the information about Chinese Horoscopes is extracted from "The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes" by Theodora Lau and published by Harper & Row. Copyright 1979 by Theodora Lau.

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