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Are You A Goat?

Wednesday, March 19, 2003
By: Joey Yap
Once a month, I make it a point to catch up with some close friends who I don’t often get to meet due to my hectic travel and teaching schedule. We usually have dim-sum or meet to ‘yum-cha’(which is the Chinese version of sitting at a café and chatting away).

On this occasion, my friend brought along three of his lady friends. I had never met them before but they had heard that I was into Chinese Astrology and they were hoping I would be able to peer into their future for them.

Anyone who’s an Astrologer or does it for a living will have experienced this at some point or other. An acquaintance or friend will come along and expect some tips on their life over tea or dinner. And if you’re not as willing to vouch information or give them a generous dose of ‘you’ll-be-the-next-Bill-Gates’, you are labeled selfish and money-minded.

It’s not that I don’t want to give them some advice or tips on how to improve their lives but it could very well end up to be the most expensive tip they ever receive. By this, I mean that looking at one small aspect of their lives without considering the ‘big picture’ and then acting upon it could very well lead to a lot of disappointment. This is why you see many Astrologers refrain from handing out free tips on a person’s life.

Anyway, Girl A looks at me and proudly proclaims that she’s a Dragon. Girl B says, I’m born in the year of the Snake and Girl C says she’s a Horse.

In Spice Girls fashion all of asked me in unison to, “Tell me about me!”.

And then they all looked at me expectantly (I could swear they didn’t even blink while waiting for an answer), almost expecting me to give them each a reading on how they would marry good, rich husbands and spend the rest of their lives lounging at some country club.

I slowly explain to them that without a clear date and time of birth, any predictions I made might as well be a joke.

“Errrr….so, you’re not much of an Astrologer are you?”, Girl C enquired teasingly.

Girl A decided to read her own horoscope, “I mean, if the books can do it, why can’t you? I’m a Dragon you know. This year is bound to be good for me!”. She was beaming and it was with a heavy heart (well…almost heavy) that I decided to tell them the truth.

So, I asked them, “How many people were born in the same year as you? One million? Two million? Ten million?”.

“Is it possible all of them will behave the same way as you? Even your classmates, born in the same year as you could not have all been similar to each other”.

They nodded with a puzzled look on their face.

It’s not uncommon for people to look up their animal signs and read all about the nice traits that they are supposedly endowed with, having been born under that particular animal sign.

For example, one site I visited said that people born in the year of the Dog ‘act from a deep sense of loyalty and honesty, and inspire confidence because they can keep secrets’. I am inclined to disagree with this general notion. All people can have a sense of loyalty and honesty, not only those born in the year of the Dog. What if someone is now born in the year of the Pig? Do we expect them to be well rounded, greedy and oink once in a while?

The problem today is that people see Chinese Astrology as just another section right next to the Sunday Comics. The information there is based on nothing more than these so-called personality traits that authors make up on their own. Chinese Animal personality traits describing the dog as loyal and the rat as a hoarder are not serious Chinese Astrology. These things are written based on the perception of what the REAL animal may behave like ‘if they were in human form’. Naturally, people can’t be expected to behave like this! Have you seen a person oink or breathe fire (well maybe some Dragon-ladies but that’s another story).

Walk into any bookstore these days and you’ll see rows upon rows of books on Chinese Animal Astrology. 98% of them written solely on the personality traits of the twelve zodiac animal signs.

I am hoping that this article will give you an insight into what Chinese Astrology really is all about and spark an interest within yourselves to find our more.

In the olden days, not many people had the benefit of a formal education. The animal signs we keep referring to, are used as a metaphor in helping people remember the 12 Earthly Branches (Shi Er Di Zhi) used in Chinese Astrology and Feng Shui.

These 12 Characters, Zi, Chou, Yin, Mao, Chen, Si, Wu, Wei, Shen, You, Xu and Hai, carry with them many intricate meanings of Qi where the aspects of time and elements are concerned.

In Chinese Metaphysical studies, they consistently used and references in analysis and calculations. As it was difficult for ordinary folk to remember them, the scholars of old assigned each character an animal symbology that gave it a visual representation.

So, when an ancient astrologer said “The Ox will encounter bad luck’, they meant that those born with the Chou Earth Branch in their Birth Chart would encounter difficulties because the Qi of the year is not beneficial to them.

Over time, this Animal symbology took a life of its own. People began to attach animalistic traits to those born under a certain animal sign. Very soon, Astrology became inapplicable as the true knowledge of it became muddled in the irrelevant information found in the Sunday newspapers.

I speak very passionately about Chinese Astrology because it is a part of my life’s work. It is a sophisticated study. There are two forms of Chinese Astrology that is widely used today. One being “BaZi” (Eight Characters or Four Pillars of Destiny) and the other “Zi Wei Dou Shu” (Purple Star Astrology). Both these systems take into account the year, month, day and time of birth – every individual will have a different chart.

I cannot stress this enough….the Animal Signs are ONLY used as a reference to the 12 Earthly Branches. It is possible to assess Qi influence and yearly influences based on a person’s animal branch but it is not possible to do so with a great level of accuracy. Neither is it possible to ascertain characteristics or personality traits based on the Animal sign alone.

So, the next time you pick up a magazine and it says people born under the year of the Goat or Ox are destined to eat grass and work hard, you’ll know better.

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