Chinese Astrology appears more complicated than it actually is and while there are plenty of excellent books available to delve into the deeper practices, for the purposes of this page I’m sticking to the basics and hopefully taking some of the mystery out of this wonderful astrological system, which has been around for thousands of years.
Yes, the date for the Chinese New Year (or more accurately the Lunar New Year) does change each year, but in a predictable way. The Chinese New Year falls on the first New Moon in the Month of the Tiger (Aquarius), so will always fall between the 20th January and the 19th February each year, give or take a day. Yet despite what you might read in books or on the Web, in traditional Chinese Astrology this is not when one Animal Year begins and the next starts. This happens during Li Chun, which means the ‘start of spring’ and is often known as the ‘eyes of spring’. This occurs when the Sun reaches 315 degrees, which is 15 degrees Aquarius, which occurs around the 4th/5th February each year. What I have found, especially when talking to people born between the New Moon and Li Chun, is that they come under the shadow of each Animal.
Another point to make is that unlike Western Astrology, where we may say that we're a Leo or a Sagittarian, because that's where the Sun was when we were born, in Chinese Astrology we are not a Dog, a Dragon or a Rooster etc, we were simply Born in the Year of the Dog, etc.
If you don’t already know your Animal, click here to find out and also to read a profile I have written for each of the 12 Animal Signs.
The Chinese New Year is not a one day event and begins with the New Moon and ends with the Full Moon 2 weeks later, which is known as Chap Goh Mei. This the Full Moon that in some Chinese customs is known as the Marriage Moon and tradition says that if you throw your orange into a body of water under the Full Moon, that the gods see this as an offering of gold and search the world for your true love. I'm not sure if that's right or not but my daughters and their friends used to have great fun throwing oranges into the ocean on the Marriage Moon.
Chinese Horoscopes go back over 4,000 years and while in the western calendar this is the year 2015, in the Chinese calendar this is the year 4712. Just like Western Astrology, Chinese almanacs began as agricultural records and then expanded to govern everyday life.
The most well known aspect of Chinese Astrology are the 12 Animal Signs and the lunar year, months, days and even hours that they govern. At Li Chun (4th/5th February) a new Animal steps up and takes its turn to put its stamp on the year ahead, in 12 year cycles beginning with the Rat and ending with the Pig.
The story goes (or at least one of the many stories) that the Jade Emperor decided he needed a way of measuring time, so on his birthday he told the animals there would be a swimming race to find 12 Animals to represent the hourly, daily, monthly and annual lunar cycles. There was just two criteria; one that they either had to be one of the first to the finishing line or they had to have served or helped humanity.
The race ended at the gates of Heavenly Palace but began on the other side of a swiftly flowing river and the first 12 to cross the river and reach the finishing line would not only become one of the 12 chosen Animals, the order they came in would determine their place in the lunar cycle. The Rat was the only Animal not to have made it onto the list by what he had contributed and used cunning alone to become the first of the Animals to reach the finishing line.
Each Animal puts its stamp on the year it governs and therefore on the Year you were born. How your Animal gets on with the Animal Year we are in now will determine what kind of year you will have. Click here to read your Horoscopes for the Year of the Dog and click here to find out more about the Animal year you were born into.