Chinese Astrology – Exploring the Eastern Zodiac by Shelly Wu
“Each animal designation is a symbolic archetype and represents specific behavioral psychology. It could perhaps be called the Myers-Briggs personality inventory of Eastern philosophy. Each personality style fulfills an essential place in the balance of the universe.” –Shelly Wu

In Eastern philosophy, spirit is known as Qi or chi, which is life force energy. The yin/yang symbol is the visual representation of Qi, which is the blending of heaven and Earth, male and female, fire and water, aggression and passivity, giving and receiving. One Yang and one Yin are called “Tao”, which means “the way”. Taoism is an ancient philosophy created by Lao Tse that teaches awareness of natural cosmic cycles and the blending of Yin and Yang, which results in balanced, harmonious living.

Applied to Chinese Astrology, Qi is the marriage of divine spirit with human personality. Each of the 12 animal archetypes is a mixture of positive and negative attributes. Positive traits such as loyalty, forgiveness, perseverance, and compassion reflect the alignment of personality with spirit (Qi). Negative traits such as bitterness, anger, jealousy, and possessiveness reflect a great separation between human personality and spiritual essence. In fact, author Shelly Wu says: “The greater the gulf between spirit and personality, the darker one’s character.”

Chinese Astrology – Exploring the Eastern Zodiac provides a comprehensive overview of the 12 archetypal temperaments embodied in the animal signs, and what they tell you about yourself and others. At the beginning of the book, Wu provides several pages of charts, so you can find your animal sign and element in a matter of seconds.

Each animal is profiled in a unique chart, highlighting lucky color, fragrance, flavor, flower, gem, Feng Shui direction, lucky number, symbolism, and more. Wu then goes on to explain each sign’s essential temperament, duality (negative traits), gifts, and capabilities—as well as a “who’s who” of the famous (and infamous!). She also explains how each sign manifests during childhood, as well as in home, hearth, and career. A separate profile of the male and female expression of the archetype is included.

Another crucial aspect to Chinese Astrology is the five elements. According to the book, each of the animal signs are considered an “Earthly Branch”, and repeat every 12 years in the Chinese Zodiac. However, the “Heavenly Stems”, or the five elements, occur once every 60 years. The five elements, which bring balance, are Wood (growth), Fire (leadership), Earth (stability), Metal (structure, and Water (feelings). Wu states that everything in the universe, including humans, has a relationship with these five elements and explains the fascinating doctrine of the Five Elements:

Wood produces Fire.
Fire created Earth.
Earth supports Metal.
Metal compliments Water.
Water assists Wood.

Fire destroys Metal.
Metal is hostile to Wood.
Wood fights Earth.
Earth conflicts with Water.
Water extinguishes Fire.

The first principle reflects how the five elements produce, enable, support and assist one another, while the second principle explains how they destroy, control, destabilize and fight one another.

Wu gives a fascinating explanation of the developmental stages of the five elements, how they manifest in personality, and how these elements mesh with the 12 animal signs. For example, a Wood Tiger is not as impetuous as other Tigers, tending to look before they leap. A Wood Rooster, on the other hand, is more thoughtful and tactful than other Rooster-element combinations.

One of my favorite parts of this engaging 256 book is the Birth Time Companion. This “other you” is represents the hour that you were born, and further shades your animal sign. This “companion”, akin to the Ascendant of Western Astrology, reveals hidden spiritual possibilities, represents your shadow self, and advises you throughout life. For example, I’m a Metal Dog and my Birth Time Companion is the Monkey. The Monkey, according to Wu, is the consummate salesman gifted with the powers of persuasion, wit, enthusiasm, and eternal youthfulness. Irrepressible, Monkeys usually have a card up their sleeve, impart a delicious sense of humor to each sign, and provides an aptitude for entrepreneurial enterprises. Added to the in-depth information of the animal signs and elements, the Birth Time Companion rounds out a detailed holographic picture of the 12 archetypal patterns found among humans.

In the context of relationships, Wu discusses compatibility and attraction. For example, why do instant attractions exist? What is behind the urge to be close to one person and not another? She explains this chemistry (or lack thereof) with a model of four Triangles of Compatibility, known as Trines.  Both love signs and karmic connections are addressed, with an analysis of each pairing. Wu doesn’t skimp on the relationship profiles. For example, she highlights each love sign individually and how they pair with other signs. So while she provides a snapshot of Dog-Pig under “The Dog and Love”, she gives a different snapshot (with a similar theme) under “The Pig and Love” for the Pig-Dog pairing. (Incidentally, Wu is a Dog paired with a Pig, which is a neat coincidence since I’m a Metal Dog paired with a Metal Pig.  I laughed at a portion of her Acknowledgments which thanked her long-suffering husband by saying: “Why can’t all men be Pigs?”)

Chinese Astrology – Exploring the Eastern Zodiac provides a wealth of information on the Eastern Zodiac and the archetypal temperaments of the 12 animal signs. Anyone interested in exploring this fascinating branch of Eastern philosophy will be richly rewarded by this insightful book by Shelly Wu. The author’s keen observation—a hallmark of those born in the year of the Dog—uncovers the mysteries and motivations that underlie personality. You may never look at yourself, or others, the same way again.

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