The Chinese traditionally follow a lunar calendar, meaning their New Year begins on the second New Moon after the December solstice, usually at the New Moon in Aquarius. In 2011, the Chinese New Year starts on February 3 and the year runs until the next New Moon in Aquarius on January 22, 2012.
The Chinese zodiac is based on an intertwined system that combines 12 animal totems with five elements to create a cycle that spans 60 years. The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are the rat, buffalo (ox), tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat (sheep), monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The five elements are metal, water, wood, fire and earth. Each year, one animal is linked to one element to create a unique energy that won’t repeat for 60 years. When working with Chinese astrology, it’s important to know both the animal sign under which you were born and the element of your birth year.
There’s a number of myths and legends about how these 12 animals came to have a place in the Chinese zodiac. Most involve Buddha and either a race or river crossing to which the first 12 across the line were given coveted places in the zodiac; or a gathering to which Buddha invited all the animals, but legend has it only these 12 showed up and were thus rewarded for their attendance with a place in the zodiac. The order in which the 12 animals crossed the finish line in the myth of the race is also the order in which the animals take turns ruling the energy of the year ahead. The most recent Chinese zodiac cycle began in 2008 with the year of the rat; 2010 was the year of the tiger, while 2011 is the year of the rabbit and 2012 the year of the dragon.
Jupiter and cycles of 12
Early Chinese astronomers are said to have closely observed the planet Jupiter, which has a 12-year cycle and was known as the “Year Star”. Many believe the importance ancient Chinese astronomers placed on Jupiter to be the reason the Chinese zodiac follows a year system rather than a month system. The yearly influence in Chinese astrology is referred to as the 12 earthly branches. It’s this influence most of us in the West think of when we identify a totem animal for any given year.
Jupiter’s almost 12-year cycle closely follows the cycle of the Chinese zodiac animal totems. The coming year, 2011, is the year of the rabbit and Jupiter moves through the whole sign of Aries and half of the sign of Taurus. In 1999, the last year of the rabbit, Jupiter also moved through the whole sign of Aries and half of the sign of Taurus.
Jupiter in Aries brings a pioneer spirit and shows luck literally favours the brave. New initiatives are especially well aspected as confidence helps open doors. In both 1999 and 2011, Jupiter moved/moves into Taurus in June. This creates a slower pace that encourages taking time to enjoy life. Physical pleasures and little luxuries become more important.
Four Pillars chart
The Chinese system is also applied based on the year, month, day and time of your birth in a system known as the Four Pillars. The combination of influences from these four pillars (your birth information) creates a unique picture of you as seen through their symbolism and mythology.