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Chinese Astrology – The Dragon

Chinese Astrology – The Dragon

Some folks say that Chinese astrology dates back over 2,000 years. Like Western astrology (which originated in Babylon), Chinese astrology seeks to explain human personalities, behaviors, relationships and fortunes by looking to the heavens. Also like Western astrology, the skies are divided into twelve segments. The Chinese zodiac is made up of twelve animals which correspond to certain personality traits. These animals are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, lamb (sheep, ram or occasionally goat), monkey, rooster, dog and pig (or boar). Each of the animals is said to hold significance for the people born in that year, rotating on a 12-year cycle.

According to one Chinese legend, the selection of these animals was determined by Buddha. Once upon a time, all the animals were invited to Buddha’s New Year’s party and only these twelve animals showed up. The Chinese calendar observes New Year’s on a different date than the Western (Julian) calendar commonly used in the United States, with the Chinese New Year occurring in mid-January to mid-February dependent on the cycles of the moon. Buddha gave each animal in attendance at his New Year’s party dominion over its own year, in rotating cycles, bestowing the characteristics of that animal to all those born in that animal’s year. People born in the “Year of the Dragon” are supposed to be energetic, imaginative, and strong leaders if occasionally demanding and egotistical.

In another popular legend, a race was held to determine the order of the zodiac animals. It is said that the rat won the race by crossing the river on the ox’s back and then jumping ahead upon reaching the far shore. The Jade Emperor (Heavenly Grandfather) was very curious why a strong, flying creature like the dragon did not finish first. The dragon replied that, while flying over the earth, he had to stop to make rain for the humans and the creatures of the earth and was therefore detained.

Of all the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, only one is considered “imaginary” or “mythical,” the dragon. It is curious that one of the creatures should be so different from all the others. Some folks point to this peculiar exception and say that this is evidence that dragons once existed and were a part of the natural world when those early observers were looking to explain the universe in what was to evolve into Chinese astrology.

The last “Year of the Dragon” coincided (imperfectly) with the year 2000; the next one will be in 2012.