CHAPTER THREE: Friends and Enemies
By now you should be familiar with your Chinese astrological profile. Assuming that your year sign is the Monkey, it will be coloured by its particular element in the year chart. This is the face or character that you present to the world. It will influence your sense of fashion and opinions about life in general, and throughout your life you will view the world through the prism of your birth year. So say the astrologers.
In addition you will have a month and possibly an hour sign to fill out the picture. If they also happen to be the Monkey then by rights the last chapter should have painted a very familiar picture indeed. You are likely to be one of those contented souls who are rarely at odds with themselves. However, this is not always a good thing because it can lead to complacency and an irritating (to others) certainty that your own viewpoint is the only possible one.
Most people, however, have other signs for their month and hour that will harmonise or clash to varying degrees. A glance at the chart below will be a guide. The quick rule is that signs linked by a triangle are friends. Signs that are opposite are enemies, and the rest lie somewhere in between.
So if your year sign is the Monkey and your month or hour sign is the Tiger, you can expect to be often torn in your judgement and enjoyment of situations. This is not necessarily any worse than if they were in perfect harmony because the whole basis of Chinese philosophy is that when two opposites are resolved they produce something greater than the sum of its parts. Enemies can often be more useful than friends in enabling us to reach objectivity.
When considering conflicts within your birth chart it is worth bearing in mind what the year, month and hour signs represent. At the risk of repetition: the year sign represents the character you display to the world at large; the month is the character you show in individual relations with other people, while the hour sign represents your innermost feelings about life.
To many people the hour sign is in fact the most crucial because their private feelings are more important than anything else in their lives. When this is in harmony with their other signs this is fine; but when there is a natural clash, well, work needs to be done on this if the person doesn’t wish to go through life as a misfit.
Generally speaking, though, Chinese astrologers consider the month sign next in importance to the year so we’ll consider that. For those born in the sign of the Monkey the most harmonious signs, apart from the Monkey itself are the Rat and Dragon. Whether in love or war these two make the most natural partners. If your year and month signs are both Monkey, there is the danger mentioned earlier of being too sure of yourself and not listening to others, but apart from that it is a happy combination. The Rat and Dragon are possibly better partners because they are natural allies but have different perspectives on life. The Rat share’s Monkey’s ingenuity and wit but tends to be more thoughtful and far-sighted. The Dragon shares Monkey’s love of showing off but is a more natural leader whose authority Monkey can comfortably accept.
The sign least compatible with the Monkey is the Tiger, and the others fall somewhere between the extremes. See the review of signs below for details.
The same procedure can be followed with your hour sign. Note its place on the chart above and see how well it sits with the month and year. If it is in direct opposition to either, this might explain why your reaction to situations is often not what you expect. Unless your goals and achievements satisfy your innermost self you will never be happy with your lot in life. On the other hand, conflict is not inevitable if enough thought, patience and understanding is applied to the problem.
The chart can also be useful for gauging how well you will relate to other people. When their year signs are in harmony, people tend to find it very easy to get along on the first encounter, but it depends on the other factors in their charts if they will be able to take the relationship further. Their year signs may match but if their month and hour signs clash they will soon find misunderstandings. So say the astrologers anyway, and traditionally no Chinese family would consider approving a wedding match before first having the couple’s birth charts examined for trouble. It is worth remembering though that signs can clash without it necessarily being about right and wrong.
Faced with an enemy, people fall easily into the trap of immediately assuming they are in some contest between good and evil. Sometimes of course this is actually true, but far more often both sides are right and wrong to similar degrees. The clash arises from differences in outlook and values, as with chemicals that react dangerously together while being perfectly harmless on their own or in other combinations. So, for the Monkey the big thing to remember is that when you meet the Tiger either within your birth chart or in other people governed by the sign, there will immediately be sparks and irritation and conflict. The Tiger is your enemy in the stars just as you are its natural enemy, but that doesn’t mean either of you is intrinsically more in the right. You are just born to disagree, but if you can overcome your differences you will make an unbeatable team.
REVIEW OF THE SIGNS
Legend says that the order of the beasts in the Chinese zodiac was decided by the order in which they answered the Buddha’s summons. The rat beat the patient, sturdy ox into first place by secretly riding on its back and then jumping off at the finishing line. Many Westerners find it off-putting to learn that their sign is the Rat, so deep is their loathing and fear of the creature, but the Chinese accord it much respect, in the abstract at least. So to them it is no insult at all to have the Rat as their birth sign.
Partly, the rat is admired for its cleverness, as demonstrated by the legend. Another tale speaks of how, during the great period of chaos before the world was properly formed, the rat bit Confusion and drove it away, allowing the sky and earth to separate, as we know them today. Also, rats are associated with wealth because by choice they seek the rich man’s barn, so a rat’s blessing is said to bring wealth and happiness. In the Fukien Province in the south they say it was the rat who gave the first rice seeds to humankind, so we owe it a portion of the harvest in return.
Traditionally in China rats were not only tolerated in barns but often even encouraged because they were believed to bring good luck, thanks to the observation that they always seemed to favour the rich person’s barn.
Because of this association with wealth a Rat’s Blessing is still said to attract wealth and happiness; and on the third day of the new year many Chinese celebrate the feast of the Rat’s Wedding. Delicacies are spread out in the barn and then the doors locked so the rats can hold their festivities in peace.
The Rat is one of the Chinese signs that Westerners find hard to take immediately to their hearts, along with the Dog, Snake and Boar (or Pig). But to the Chinese all the signs are equally positive except perhaps the Dragon, which everyone would really like to be able to claim as their own.
People born under the sign of the Rat are generally optimistic, intelligent, popular, hard-working and dependable. They are imaginative and very adaptable to new circumstances. Ambitious, practical, charming and quick-witted, the danger for the Rat often is of getting carried away with its own cleverness and going too far. Other negative tendencies include being miserly, manipulative and secretive.
The Rat and Monkey are the best of friends and make fantastic business partners – the Rat providing the administrative skills and attention to detail that are so often Monkey’s weaknesses, while Monkey provides the verve and enthusiasm needed to launch new projects. Both signs need to guard against getting too carried away with their own cleverness, though, so there is always this danger in their combination.
A popular legend says the Ox was originally a star deity living in heaven. Seeing how hard humans had to work for their food, the Jade Emperor one day sent the Ox star down to teach them agriculture, so they could happily expect to eat every third day. But the Ox confused the message, saying they would eat three times a day by following his instructions. As punishment, Ox was banished from heaven and obliged to help keep his rash promise by helping humans plough their fields. This legend is commemorated by the star many oxen still have on their brows.
The Ox is a symbol of peace because it flourishes in peacetime. In gratitude for its faithful labour many Chinese will not eat beef, and some Emperors have even made this a criminal offence.
People born under the sign of the Ox are dependable, patient and hard working, often achieving success late in life when others are abandoning ambition for thoughts of retirement. Their quiet perseverance often succeeds where more volatile characters like the Tiger, Dragon and Horse fail. Negative traits: lack of imagination, over-seriousness, dullness.
The Ox and Monkey are not readily compatible, having about as different outlooks on life as possible, but they can get along reasonably if clear lines of separate responsibility are drawn. As long as the Ox doesn’t feel in danger of being blamed for Monkey’s gambles, and the Monkey doesn’t feel obliged to be serious all the time, they can rub along quite happily in a community.
The Tiger is the king of animals in its strength and courage. Traditionally, when a district was troubled by tigers the people would not try to hunt and kill them, but rather leave offerings and politely ask them to move away, which it seems they often did.
The White Tiger also represents the west and autumn, as the Black Tortoise does the north and winter, the Green Dragon the east and spring and the Red Phoenix the south and summer. So the Tiger is patron of the annual harvest and is often shown bearing the god of the district on its back. It is also a Lord of Death.
People born under the sign of the Tiger are brave, strong and outgoing. They protect the weak against the strong and are never happier than when righting some real or imagined wrong. They like to be the centre of attention and luckily are natural and inspirational leaders, always firing other people up with their latest ideas. Negative traits: impulsiveness, quick temper, recklessness.
The Tiger and Monkey are the worst of enemies perhaps because they have so much in common. Both like to be the centre of attention, are full of self-confidence and inclined to be reckless; and these are the faults they immediately see in each other. When reconciled, however, as with all opposed signs, they make an unbeatable team.
The Hare or Rabbit (both terms are used for this sign) is one of the friendliest and gentlest of the signs. Although timid by nature, it is also nimble, sensitive, and proverbially clever.
The Hare is also a symbol of long life because it lives with the Goddess of the Moon, Chang O, and spends its time pounding roots of the sacred Cassia (Cinnamon) tree with a pestle and mortar to make an elixir of immortality. In fact that is the picture the Chinese see on the face of the full moon. At the Mid-autumn Festival they ask Chang O to sprinkle some of the elixir on them for longer lives, but people born under the sign of the Hare have less need of this because they tend to be blessed with long lives anyway.
The common hare or rabbit thrives during periods of sound government, they say in China, so to attract good fortune the Empress Wu of the Tang dynasty famously built a Temple to the Hare. Legend says that once, when the Buddha was starving, all the forest creatures brought him what food they could. The rabbit had nothing to offer so it leaped on to the fire and gave itself. In gratitude, the Buddha set the rabbit’s face on the shining face of the moon where it can be seen today.
People born under the sign of the Hare or Rabbit are mild, generous, graceful, kind and peace-loving. They are adaptable and sensitive, sociable and popular, and they tend to be lucky with money. Hares are perfectionists at work and often make good artists and craftsmen. On the negative side they can be over-sensitive to criticism and surprisingly stubborn at getting their own way.
In Indo-China, the totem animal for this month is the Cat, but despite their very different natures in reality, the characteristics of the signs in astrology are much the same; the cats being viewed from a human viewpoint rather than, say, that of a mouse or songbird. This is the graceful house cat that has charmed and beguiled humans since the earliest times when it sauntered into our lives and curled up by the fire.
The Hare and Monkey are not natural friends and tend to rub each other up the wrong way over almost every issue, often because they simply misunderstand each other. The key to getting along is listening to what each other is actually saying rather than your own assumptions about what they really mean.
The magnificent dragon is one of the most popular creatures in Chinese art because it symbolises more than anything else the Chinese spirit. It is the only purely fanciful creature in the zodiac, but for most of history it was not considered fanciful at all because most Chinese simply believed it was as real as the weather. For evidence, they pointed to the dragons’ bones on sale in every market, which for centuries were excavated from massive deposits found in various parts of China. The earliest Emperors were said to be half dragon by blood and to have supernatural powers, especially over the weather. Later Emperors therefore adopted it as their symbol and whenever the dragon is used in this sense it is shown as having five toes, others only having four.
A Year of the Dragon is held to be lucky for everyone, and a good time to start new ventures, but there is a danger of getting too carried away. Signs that are not naturally as in tune with the Dragon as the Monkey or Rat should be especially careful of this – getting caught up in the mood and attempting the impossible. However, it should otherwise be an exciting and rewarding time all round because all creatures admire the Dragon, even its natural astrological enemy, the Dog. Up to a point anyway. Marriage or partnership between Dragon and Dog tends to be very hard work.
People governed by the sign of the Dragon are generally flamboyant, exciting, ambitious, charismatic, energetic, popular and loud. They are often to be found in a circle of admirers and accept this as natural. Dragons plan things on a grand scale and are unafraid to storm heaven itself to get what they want. They are also great motivators of other people. On the negative side they can be insensitive, inconsiderate and overconfident; and when their plans fall apart they can become very sorry, miserable shadows of their old selves, though this rarely lasts long.
The Dragon and Monkey are the greatest natural friends and partners in both love and work. In this relationship the Monkey for once does not mind someone else taking the glory. The Dragon and Monkey understand each other instinctively and can put on a devastating double act with the bare minimum of consultation. When combined in a birth sign they create an unstoppable personality.
As in most other parts of the world, snakes in China are regarded with equal fascination and dread. Being symbolically related to the dragon, it appears in many ancient legends in an almost divine role, but in the everyday world of traditional China it was also a common and venomous creature that could bite you any day. Many snakes are used in medicine, especially their livers. Some are highly prized as culinary delights and their flesh is said to be good for the eyesight.
In Chinese philosophy the Snake or Serpent is a Yin creature closely associated with the female. If a pregnant woman dreamed of a black snake in traditional China it was understood that she would give birth to a girl; while for anyone powerful dreams about snakes meant big life changes on the horizon. Because snakes regularly shed their skin, they are a symbol of immortality through rebirth.
In astrology, the Snake is considered wise, clever, mystical, determined and graceful. It is less showy than the Dragon but often more effective for that very reason. Snakes make great diplomats because they can cloak their immediate reactions to situations and appear cool and calm in the midst of crisis, but they will usually make their true feelings known when the time is right. Snakes are very patient that way and therefore make bad enemies. They have long memories and like to leave this life with an even balance sheet. On the negative side Snakes have a tendency towards manipulation and deviousness that needs to be kept under control. They also have to guard against becoming over-secretive and miserly. The Snake is sometimes associated with wiliness and treachery but is better known for repaying kindness and good deeds with treasure, near which it likes to nest. Keeping a snakeskin in the house is traditionally believed a sure way of attracting wealth.
The Snake and Monkey have no great affinity and tend to be suspicious (often with good cause!) of each other’s true motives. Both have a tendency towards hatching complicated schemes that will naturally clash if they are not working together. If they manage to overcome their differences though, the Snake and Monkey can make a daunting partnership.
The horse generally in China is a symbol of nobility, strength, courage and war. For centuries the only real threat to China came from the nomadic horse riders of Mongolia and the steppes beyond. The Great Wall to keep these marauders out and Chinese Emperors also spent vast amounts building up their own cavalry against the nomads. So horses came to represent the strength and security of China and cavaliers were at least as admired as the knights of Medieval Europe.
The horse is also mystically linked with the Chinese unicorn or Qi Lin which, along with the Dragon, was one of the first creatures born after the Creation. The unicorn was associated with sages and good Emperors for thousands of years and made an appearance whenever one died or was born. Confucius’s own birth and death are said to have been heralded this way.
In astrology the Horse represents nobility, elegance, speed, strength and courage. Horses tend to be optimistic, generous, loyal, honest and practical. They do also tend to be forever restless for new horizons; either literally in the sense of travel, or metaphorically in the kind of work they do. They are not the kind to settle happily into a rut as long as it pays the bills because they need constant challenges. Because of this restlessness they can make difficult partners in marriage, but are basically loyal and honest and if given a free rein will repay it by remaining true.
The Horse and Monkey generally get along quite well as long as the Monkey does not try and take charge. Horses tend to find Monkeys too flighty and unreliable for close or long-term partnerships but given a comfortable distance they can appreciate each other’s company and make very good short-term partners in moments of shared crisis.
The goat (or sheep, the same word is used for both in Chinese) is traditionally associated in China with good fortune and prosperity, because it is in such times that it thrives. The Goat is renowned for its courage when forced to defend what it holds dear, also its loyalty, especially towards parents. A kid down on its knees and seemingly praying in order to suckle from its mother is often employed as a symbol of filial piety.
In astrology people born under the sign of the Goat are generally said to be charming, diplomatic, imaginative, loving, libidinous, generous, sociable, loyal and lucky. All in all a sign gifted with social graces. Goat people appreciate the arts and often find expression through the fine arts. The Goat appreciates order and beauty, peace and calm. The excitements it best enjoys are of an aesthetic or philosophical nature. The Goat, in fact, has much in common with the Hare, but with fewer supernatural overtones.
Goats can be stubborn and even aggressive when forced to defend what is dear to them, but rarely go looking for a fight. In negative mode the Goat tends towards laziness, being easily led and pessimistic but this is not common. More usually their lack of assertiveness is the glue that binds their family and friends together.
The Goat and Monkey tend to get along very well as friends and casual acquaintances, though in marriage their different outlooks often create strains.
See the last chapter for a detailed look at the Monkey character, but what can be said here is that it stands out from the rest of the signs because of its sense of humour. The Monkey is a natural prankster, which can be annoying but many of the other signs need regular reminding that life is not always to be taken seriously. Often problems are solved much better with a light heart, instead of one that can only see all the things that might go wrong.
Self-importance is also a great blight to life and the Monkey can always be relied on to prick other people’s pomposity. Not that Monkey is immune to pride himself. There’s nothing worse in fact than when the Monkey gets an inflated sense of self-importance and cannot see it in the mirror. However, this does not happen a lot. A more common problem Monkeys face is not knowing when jokes have gone too far, but on the whole they tend to be useful and popular members of their community, and can even become leaders given the right strong and level-headed partner.
The Rooster or Cockerel in China is said to possess the five great virtues of literacy, strength, courage, benevolence and loyalty, and in many parts of China rooster are so respected that it is unheard of to eat one outside of famine, though of course hens are less lucky.
The Rooster is considered a scholar partly because his comb looks like the scholars’ hats of old. His strength lies in his spurs and his courage is shown by his willingness to fight to the death over his territory. The Rooster is generous and always calls his wives to share food when he finds it, and loyal because he stands guard over his family and never fails to wake the farm at dawn. He is also believed to guard his farm at night against fire and demons.
In astrology, the Rooster represents all these virtues and is considered well suited to administration and government, or any occupation that calls for both leadership and a careful eye for detail. The Rooster suffers from tendencies towards being arrogant, overbearing, argumentative, pompous and over-ambitious, but generally rises above it and is usually forgiven anyway because of his finer qualities. Vanity is also a danger because Roosters are usually flamboyant in their dress, but again other people tend to make allowances.
Curiously, female Roosters seem not to be expected just to be ‘hens’; that is, passive, not very bright and destined for the pot as soon as they stop laying eggs. Female Roosters share most of the good qualities of the male but are more modest and usually achieve their ends with much less fuss and need for attention.
The Rooster and Monkey are not the greatest of natural friends but can co-operate reasonably when given a common cause. The trouble starts when the cause is won (or lost) because then each will see the other as taking too much credit for what went right and not enough for what went wrong.
As man’s oldest and most loyal friend in the animal kingdom the dog, in all its varieties, traditionally played a large part in the everyday life of the Chinese; from peasants to ladies at court whose lapdogs lived like royalty.
In astrology, the Dog is considered brave, loyal, intelligent, honest and open in all things. The Dog is not particularly ambitious for money or fame, and ranks feeling useful and appreciated more highly, but it is quite able to take a leading role when needed. The Dog is very idealistic and is also a good judge of character. It is generally not easy to fool, but loyalty can blind it to the imperfections of superiors or family members. Dogs tend to be popular, good-looking and attractive to members of the opposite sex. There are exceptions, but less so than with most signs. Most dogs are not naturally aggressive but they are quick to defend what they see as right, and with force if necessary.
The Dog and Monkey get along quite comfortably though without feeling like soul mates on the first encounter. It takes time for deep friendships to form between them but there are no innate obstacles or rivalries to overcome.
In mythology the Boar or Pig is famous as one of Monkey’s companions in the great quest for lost Buddhist scriptures, and was rewarded by being made an Immortal in the Western Paradise. In everyday life the pig was one of the earliest domestic animals in China and the character in calligraphy for ‘family’ puts the sign for ‘roof’ over the one for ‘pig’. The pig became a symbol of wealth and contentment because for the peasant it was traditionally an insurance against hunger and a great provider for feasts on special occasions such as weddings. Pork is one of the favourite dishes of the Chinese, especially at New Year because although they are very fond of the pig as an animal, they are just as fond of eating it. They see this as a fair exchange for its life of ease and plenty.
In astrology people governed by the sign of the Boar are considered honest, reliable, cheerful, sensual and sociable. They generally strive more for domestic bliss than power, but are surprisingly able to take the lead when necessary. Their best qualities show in times of crisis when they bring their full intelligence to bear on the problems. Otherwise they have a tendency to do only as much as needed for a good life. The negative traits of the Pig are all those we tend to think of first in the West – laziness, greed, selfishness – but it must be remembered that in astrology these are only as common as the negative traits of, say, the Dragon or any of the other signs.
The Boar and Monkey are natural friends with many tastes in common. Both are clever, sensual and like the good life, and the Monkey always finds a good audience for its pranks in the Pig. In fact this can go too far but generally these two signs are good for each other.