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YEAR OF THE MONKEY


INTRODUCTION: How to Determine Your Sign

Next to the Dragon, the Monkey is possibly the easiest sign in Chinese astrology for newcomers to relate to, because the Chinese view of the animal’s nature is exactly the same as everyone else’s. Entertaining, mischievous, clever and irresponsible, the Monkey is the joker in the pack of Chinese star signs. Unlike the majestic Dragon, warlike Tiger or proud Horse, the Monkey enjoys being the cause of laughter and entertainment. Foolish Monkeys are prone to fits of exaggerated self-importance, it’s true, get fed up with being court jesters and want to take the throne for themselves – but this is an occasional aberration that is usually entertaining and rarely does any lasting harm.

The Monkey’s place in traditional Chinese culture is illustrated by a selection of myths, legends, poems and sayings that have all fed into the astrological symbol through China’s long history. These are fascinating in themselves purely for the insight they give into that country’s unique character, but they also flesh out the archetype of the trickster Monkey as used in astrology. For those new to the subject we include an easy guide to working out their own birth profiles, including year, month and hour signs, so readers can see for themselves what Chinese astrology has to say about them and their relations to others.

The beauty of Chinese astrology is its relative simplicity. All you need is an imaginative grasp of the twelve signs and how they interact and the general picture soon becomes clear. There is no need for tricky calculations and years of study to draw up and interpret a birth chart. It can be taken a lot further and massive almanacs are published annually in Chinese that do exactly that, but the broad outlines are clear without going to anything like those lengths, enabling anyone to test it out for themselves.

Wherever possible sources have been named in the text and can be found in translations of the Chinese classics. The folktales are harder to attribute because many slightly different versions have gone into each telling, but most still circulate today in traditional areas of China where such things are remembered. The spelling we have used is mostly modern Pin Yin apart from a few already familiar names like Genghis Khan and Confucius.

DETERMINING YOUR BIRTH SIGN

The overwhelming simplicity of Chinese astrology is that everyone in a year shares the same sign. Most people can learn this just by checking the astrological sign of their birth year. The only problem is that the Chinese New Year varies, like Easter, from year to year, being signalled by the second new moon after the shortest day of the year.

So if you were born in January or February and your birthday comes before the Chinese New Year, you count as belonging to the previous year. If, for example, you were born any time in January 1970, your Chinese birth year is in fact 1969. Check the table below for Chinese year signs and New Year dates, but the Monkey is your sign if you were born between the following dates:

20 February 1920 – 7 February 1921
6 February 1932 – 25 January 1933
25 January 1944 – 12 February 1945
12 February 1956 – 30 January 1957
30 January 1968 – 16 February 1969
16 February 1980 – 4 February 1981
4 February 1992 – 22 January 1993
22 January 2004 – 8 February 2005

There is a bit more to Chinese astrology than simply one's year sign, of course. There are also month, day and hour signs that define an individual's personal characteristics, and later in the book we go into the influence of these in some detail. But the Chinese consider the year sign to be the most significant factor, so here you have it.

To find yours, simply pop your birth year into the box below. The only problem is if you were born in January or February. If so and your birthday comes before the Chinese New Year, you count as belonging to the previous year. So if, say, you were born any time in January 1980, your Chinese birth year is in fact 1979. Check the table below for Chinese New Year dates.

Please enter your birthyear in full, such as - 1974

Birthyear:   

Your Chinese year sign is the

1930
30 Jan
Metal

1931
17 Feb
Metal

1932
6 Feb
Water

1933
26 Jan
Water

1934
14 Feb
Wood

1935
4 Feb
Wood

1936
24 Jan
Fire

1937
11 Feb
Fire

1938
31 Jan
Earth

1939
19 Feb
Earth

1940
8 Feb
Metal

1941
27 Jan
Metal

1942
15 Feb
Water

1943
5 Feb
Water

1944
25 Jan
Wood

1945
13 Feb
Wood

1946
2 Feb<
Fire/B>

1947
22 Jan
Fire

1948
8 Feb
Earth

1949
29 Jan
Earth

1950
17 Feb
Metal

1951
6 Feb
Metal

1952
27 Jan
Water

1953
14 Feb
Water

1954
3 Feb
Wood

1955
24 Jan
Wood

1956
12 Feb
Fire

1957
31 Jan
Fire

1958
18 Feb
Earth

1959
8 Feb
Earth

1960
28 Jan
Metal

1961
15 Feb
Metal

1962
5 Feb
Water

1963
25 Jan
Water

1964
13 Feb
Wood

1965
2 Feb
Wood

1966
21 Jan
Fire

1967
9 Feb
Fire

1968
30 Jan
Earth

1969
17 Feb
Earth

1970
6 Feb
Metal

1971
27 Jan
Metal

1972
16 Feb
Water

1973
3 Feb
Water

1974
23 Jan
Wood

1975
11 Feb
Wood

1976
31 Jan
Fire

1977
18 Feb
Fire

1978
7 Feb
Earth

1979
28 Jan
Earth

1980
16 Feb
Metal

1981
5 Feb
Metal

1982
25 Jan
Water

1983
13 Feb
Water

1984
2 Feb
Wood

1985
20 Feb
Wood

1986
9 Feb
Fire

1987
29 Jan
Fire

1988
17 Feb
Earth

1989
6 Feb
Earth

1990
27 Jan
Metal

1991
15 Feb
Metal

1992
4 Feb
Water

1993
23 Jan
Water

1994
10 Feb
Wood

1995
31 Jan
Wood

1996
19 Feb
Fire

1997
8 Feb
Fire

1998
28 Jan
Earth

1999
16 Feb
Earth

2000
5 Feb
Metal

2001
24 Jan
Metal

2002
12 Feb
Water

2003
1 Feb
Water

2004
22 Jan
Wood

2005
9 Feb
Wood

2006
29 Jan
Fire

2007
18 Feb
Fire

2008
7 Feb
Earth

2009
26 Jan
Earth

2010
14 Feb
Metal

2011
3 Feb
Metal

2012
23 Jan
Water

2013
10 Feb
Water

2014
31 Jan
Wood


To the newcomer it might seem strange that in Chinese astrology everyone born in a particular year shares the same sign, because where then is the scope for individuality? But the system is not quite as sweeping as it seems. There is plenty of scope for individuality by taking into account your month, day and hour signs, as we shall see later; it’s just that the Chinese believe the year has more astrological influence on a person than anything else.

It’s not hard to see some truth in this even outside astrology. In any discussion among people of different generations there is a natural tendency for sides to form according to age. People’s views are affected enormously by the climate of the times in which they grow up. Each generation has a perspective shaped by its own experience and set of standards – shaped also by its reaction to and against the generations either side of it. Chinese astrology just takes this further by saying that each year will affect those born within it in a particular way that is decided by the character of that year, a character that is defined by a symbol.

The year sign in Chinese astrology is said to be a person’s ‘yang’ or outgoing aspect. It governs the way they behave and interact with others throughout their lives. Their month sign designates their yin aspect, or inner, private person. This is directly equivalent to the month signs of Western astrology and is where individuality begins to enter the Chinese picture.

Luckily the symbols used for the months are exactly the same as those for the years. This may seem confusing at first, having, say a Monkey for your year sign and a Tiger for the month. But the beauty of the system is not having to grasp a different set of symbols for each level. You will see how to relate the year and month signs later but for now just bear in mind the distinction we’ve made – your year sign is your outgoing or sociable aspect – your month sign represents your private, family self.

Many Westerners even prefer to take their month sign as their ‘true’ Chinese horoscope sign, and they are perfectly entitled to do so if they feel more comfortable with it. There is nothing in Chinese astrology to forbid it – and possibly it better suits the more individualistic temper of the West – but the Chinese might say you are missing the main picture, which is how your life is shaped overall by the year of your birth.

MONTH SIGN

Rat

Sagittarius

Ox

Capricorn

Tiger

Aquarius

Hare

Pisces

Dragon

Aries

Snake

Taurus

Horse

Gemini

Goat

Cancer

Monkey

Leo

Rooster

Virgo

Dog

Libra

Boar

Scorpio

Most people can find their Chinese month sign simply by glancing at the equivalents above. However, the correspondence does vary quite a bit from year to year. If the Chinese New Year falls about the third week of January in your birth year then there is no problem at all. But if comes in the middle of February the two systems are about three weeks adrift and you need to do a simple calculation.

To check your month sign, look up the date of the Chinese New Year preceding your birthday in the table at the end of the chapter. The Chinese months begin pretty much on the same date of each following month by the Western calendar; beginning with the month of the Tiger and ending with the month of the Ox, which varies in length depending on the start of the next New Year.

This is not perfectly accurate but it works for most people and the thing to bear in mind is that, just as in Western astrology, people born on the cusp between one sign and another will embody aspects of both. The cut-off is not as sharp as people like to imagine. However, if you want to be perfectly sure, check the date of the new moon in your birth month because every Chinese month begins with a new moon.

For example: in 1980 the Chinese New Year fell on 16 February. So the month of the Tiger ran from 16 February to 16 March, the Hare until 16 April, the Dragon until 16 May, the Snake until 16 June, and so on. If you were born on 24 April that year, your month sign would be the Dragon. 1980 was a Year of the Monkey, therefore, in Chinese astrology you are a Dragon-Monkey. In personal relationships you behave as a Dragon while to the wider world you are a Monkey. Surprising as it may seem, these signs happen to be very compatible so the chances are that you are someone who is very comfortable with the times in which you live, though not as comfortable perhaps as someone who has the same sign for both year and month. The Dragon-Monkey combination works because the Dragon’s ambitions are disguised by a friendly face and attract less jealousy than, say, a double Dragon would.

The day of your birth also has a character but the calculations are too impractical to go into here, considering the relatively small impact it has on your profile. The hour of birth, however, is just as significant and very easy to assign if you happen to know your time of birth.

HOUR SIGN

The two factors we have so far, the year and month signs, are enough to tell a great deal about a person, but the sign associated with the hour of birth can give the key to understanding a character. Often called the ‘Secret’ or ‘Hidden Sign’, it reveals how we feel in our innermost selves, which is often very different to the face we put on even for our friends and family.

The Chinese day, like the year, is divided into twelve periods governed by the astrological signs, each two-hour period having a Yang and a Yin half. If you know your time of birth, check the table below to see what your hour sign it is.

 

YANG

YIN

Rat

11pm – 12

12 – 1am

Ox

1am – 2am

2am – 3am

Tiger

3am – 4am

4am – 5am

Hare

5am – 6am

6am – 7am

Dragon

7am – 8am

8am – 9am

Snake

9am – 10am

10am – 11am

Horse

11am – 12

12 – 1pm

Goat

1pm – 2pm

2pm – 3pm

Monkey

3pm – 4pm

4pm – 5pm

Rooster

5pm – 6pm

6pm – 7pm

Dog

7pm – 8pm

8pm – 9pm

Boar

9pm – 10pm

10pm – 11pm

Taking once again the example of 24 April 1980: if you were born at 4.30pm this would mean that your inner sign is a Yin Monkey, perfectly matching your year. But if you were born the night before at 3.30am, your hour sign would be the Tiger, which could create interesting tensions because the Tiger and Monkey are natural enemies.

Following the procedure outlined above will give you a profile of yourself in Chinese astrological terms. But what does it all mean? Well, that should become clear later, but first let’s see what Chinese history, mythology and folklore have to say about the Monkey because these have all helped shape the archetype of the Monkey used in astrology.

HOW THE NEW YEAR FESTIVAL BEGAN

New Year is the most popular feast in the Chinese calendar and is marked by the second new moon after the shortest day of the year. Legend tells that the celebration all began this way.

Far in the distant past China was threatened every year by the Nien or Nian monster that rose out of the sea and devoured every living thing it could get its claws into. With its single horn, great bulging eyes and fangs like rows of clashing scimitars, no creature on earth could stand against it. All they could do was run for the hills when it came.

One year, rumour spread that the Nien monster was on its way and everyone scattered to the hills as usual. All save an old lady who remained in her cottage to tend her sick husband. As she was steaming a possible last supper of dumplings for them both, an old beggar came to the door asking for food. The lady welcomed him into her kitchen and when he had eaten his fill the beggar asked why she had not left like the rest of the village. She explained about her sick husband and the beggar, after giving it some thought, said:

‘Madam, in return for your generous hospitality I’ll tell you something that no-one else seems to know. It’s no mystery when the Nien monster comes – it’s on the second new moon after the shortest day of each year, which happens to be tonight. What’s more, I’ll show you how to scare the creature away so no-one need ever be afraid of it again.’

Borrowing a bale of bright red cloth from the lady, the tramp went into the yard facing the sea and decorated the house and garden with long, fluttering ribbons. Then he lit a big fire, stood a cauldron over it and collected bamboos that he cut into short lengths. (These were the earliest firecrackers in China, before the invention of gunpowder. When thrown into a hot cauldron the sticks explode with deafening cracks amplified by the container.) Then the beggar settled down to wait.

Soon the Nien monster came roaring up out of the waves, ravenous after its year in the deep. When it was almost upon them the beggar threw an armful of bamboos into the cauldron, grabbed some flaming logs from the fire and hurled them up into the monster’s face. Behind him the crackers exploded like thunder and the fire lit a thousand rippling streamers that made the whole place seem on fire. The monster, so used to the cold, gloomy depths was astonished, then alarmed, then as the beggar’s flaming brands stung its cold skin, in sudden fear of its life. With a roar it turned tail and fled back into the ocean.

As the beggar celebrated with the old couple afterwards he revealed that he was in fact an Immortal who had taken pity on their plight; and ever since the Nien monster has been kept at bay with firecrackers and red ribbons at New Year, and dumplings are eaten in memory of the old couple. As for the Nien monster, well who knows what became of it but ‘nien’ (or 'nian', the modern pronunciation) has come to mean ‘year’.


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