The Chinese calendar

The Chinese calendar deserves a detailed page because it is not so easy to understand for us westerners. Indeed, as I indicated in my feng shui glossary, the calendar used in China is based on both the Moon and the Sun. There is the lunar calendar, the solar calendar and the lunisolar calendar: we are in the latter case for the Chinese. Like all astrological systems, this calendar makes it possible to define with precision the date of the solstice, the beginning of autumn and winter, the spring equinox and its festival, but also to determine one’s astrological sign among the twelve animals. In general, almost all the calendars that exist or existed in ancient times were based on these two stars, the Moon and the Sun. In China, its origins date back to the Han Dynasty.

A luni-solar calendar

In fact, it is the lunar cycle that is really taken into account to count the months: the first day of the month, in the Chinese calendar, is the day of the new moon. But, as you know, the lunar cycles are less than 30 days long (to be exact, it’s even 29.53 days): so how do we fill in the missing days compared to the solar calendar? In the end, we will add 7 months over a period of 19 years to make the lunar calendar coincide with the solar calendar, and therefore with the Gregorian calendar. The 12 solar months are each divided into two periods called “jie qi” where “jie” means node and “qi” is none other than Chi, the vital breath. There are many very precise rules for making this adjustment between the cycles of the sun and the lunar periods, including the determination of a so-called intercalary month (month during which the sun does not enter a new sign).

The Chinese calendar, based essentially on the Moon, is not unlike the one used by gardeners and farmers around the world. Anyone who has a vegetable garden knows that you have to garden with the Moon because it has an influence on the growth of plants. Therefore, a lunar calendar is used here. You can optimise your work in the garden and your harvests by following the movements of the moon: a waxing (or rising) moon for sowing and germinating, a waning (or falling) moon for pruning, mowing, cutting, root days for planting tubers or leaf days for tending rhubarb…

Even if, for practical reasons, the Gregorian calendar has been adopted by China, the date of the New Year’s Day or the Spring Festival have remained in line with the traditional solar luni calendar. Thus, the Chinese New Year is in fact the second new moon after the winter solstice. It is also for this reason that the Chinese seasons do not correspond to our view of the world: spring begins much earlier, usually in early February. For the Chinese, the invisible does not mean that it does not exist: when nature wakes up, when the trees prepare to bud, we do not see it immediately, but the process has begun. Spring is not only when the flowers are visible. This view of the seasons is also reflected in the Bazi analysis.

lanternes chinoises jaune
Photo by Cici Hung on Unsplash

The link with the 12 signs of the Zodiac

Each year of the Chinese calendar is named after an animal, the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. To read your horoscope, you need to know which animal represents your sign: the Rat (or mouse), the Ox (or buffalo), the Tiger, the Hare (or rabbit), the Dragon, the Snake, the Horse, the Goat, the Monkey, the Rooster, the Dog or the Pig (or pig). The Chinese zodiac coexists happily with our own. I remember, when I was younger, being very happy to be a Tiger rather than a Rat or a Monkey! What I found very strange was that this was the case for all the students in the class, except for the repeaters! Yes, we don’t change sign every month like in our western astrological system but every year.
I let you read again my detailed article, it will allow you to know your Chinese sign and will give you some characteristics of character, personality and compatibility. In ancient times, the matrimonial business analysed all this with great seriousness.

The 12 signs represent the twelve parts of the star dome in which the sun and moon converge. They are therefore not the constellations as defined in Western astrology. While in the Western zodiac, the influence of the sky on the earth is studied, in Chinese astrology, the earth itself is studied.

As there are 12 animals, we have cycles of 12 years. These 12 animals correspond in fact to the terrestrial branches (see Bazi in the following paragraph) and therefore each have different characteristics. They have a yin or yang polarity: the rat is yang, the ox is yin, the tiger is yang…

To give the name of the Chinese year, these animals are also crossed with the cycle of the 5 Chinese elements: for example, 2022 is the year of the Water Tiger.  Thus, 12 animals and 5 elements give a cycle of 60 different years. Two identical elements follow each other from one year to the next: for example, the year of the Water Tiger will be followed by the year of the Water Hare in 2023.

Finally, as you know, each element can be associated with a colour. This is why some calendars sometimes have titles that do not mention the element but the colour: Black Tiger, Green Rooster, Yellow Rat…

Chinese calendar and bazi

Ah the bazi! This is where we really start to make the connection with Feng Shui. It is an astrological system based on 4 pillars: the year, the month, the day and the hour of birth. Each pillar has two components: an earthly branch and a celestial trunk. There are 12 branches and they are associated with the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac. There are 10 celestial trunks: they are associated with both an element (there are 5) and a polarity (there are 2) which gives 2*5 = 10.
It is by combining these two elements (branch and trunk) that the Chinese calendar known as sexagesimal (based on 60 combinations) was constructed.  These 60 years are divided into 3 cycles of 20 years called “period” in the school of flying stars. We are currently in period 8, until February 2024. This is why, as a feng shui expert, with two years to go before the change of cycle, I am already concerned about the impact because the energies from one cycle to another are not the same.

The Bazi analysis allows, thanks to the study of the 4 pillars, to determine the potentialities of an individual. It gives the probabilities of success in different areas of life, and even indicates at what point in the individual’s life the luck will be strongest. Everything is based on the seasons, the 5 elements, the yin & yang polarities… That’s what’s great about feng shui, you always come back to the fundamentals. These principles may seem very basic at the beginning… but as they are used in different schools, in bazi analysis, in Chinese medicine, in martial arts… we understand that their dimension is much denser and wider than what we first understood.

At the moment of birth, the baby inspires a Chi which depends on the place and the time of the year. It is not the position of the stars that interests us here, it is really the type of energy that was circulating where the child was born. You agree that if the calendar says July 15 or December 5, the vital breath will not have the same imprint. The bazi is based on the quality of this Chi to define the chances and potential of our little baby. It’s a bit like the fairies who bent over the cradle at the moment of birth! The determination of the bazi theme depends, as for the Kua number, on the sex of the baby. And there, the characteristics will be much more precise than just determining its animal and therefore its sign according to astrology.

The Kua Number

Unlike the bazi chart, which requires knowledge of the complete date of birth (year, month, day, time), the Kua number needs only one element: the year. Of course, for us Westerners, there is a small subtlety: it is not the year according to the Gregorian calendar that matters, but the year of birth according to the Chinese calendar. Therefore, if you were born in January, at the new year, you are likely to have to calculate your Kua number based on the year before your birth. I know, sometimes it’s a little confusing… And it’s a mistake I’ve already encountered in supervision with my students in training.
The Kua number is also called Ming Gua because it is actually a trigram (Gua). Remember, there is no such thing as Gua equal to 5! So if your calculation gives you 5, it means you are Kua 2 if you are male and Kua 8 if you are female. I have written a detailed article for each Ming Gua, so you can see if you recognise certain traits. But, as I often say, you shouldn’t rely on it too much either as it is much less accurate than the bazi.

The Kua number in feng shui is the tool that allows you to determine the favourable (and unfavourable) orientations as well as your 8 sectors (see the following paragraph on the 8 houses). A complete expertise cannot do without this information. We need it to optimise the location of beds, desks, the cooker and, to a lesser extent, the sofa. Depending on which group (East or West) you belong to, it will be more sensible to orientate your bed in a certain way. If you have the choice of office, in the open space, at work, then knowing your Kua and your favourable orientations will allow you to choose the most appropriate office, i.e. the one from which you will receive the energy most favourable to concentration and business prosperity. Knowing, of course, that you will have to cross this information with the analysis of the chi: is it better to be turned towards your Sheng orientation but to face a schar chi or to favour the layout of the office according to the windows, doors and corridor even if it means facing an unfavourable orientation?

petite maison canada
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

The Ba zhai or the 8 mansions

Confusion sometimes reigns when the 8 mansions method is mentioned. This is because the house also has a Ming Gua. And this is not contradictory! We can very well combine the two approaches, i.e. use the ba zhai for the house and also use it for the inhabitants of this house.
In concrete terms, how do we do this?

For the individuals, refer to the previous paragraph: using the Chinese calendar, define the year of birth of all the people living in the house or flat. Then apply the formula for calculating gender to define the Kua number.
Each number will then be associated with 8 orientations and 8 sectors. For example, if the person has a Kua number equal to 1, he or she belongs to the East group and his or her 4 most favourable orientations are South East, South, East and North; an individual from the West group, such as Kua 7, will have North West, North East, South West and West as his or her favourable orientations. The other 4 orientations are considered unfavourable.
In addition to these orientations, the Ming Gua also makes it possible to determine what type of energy each of the 8 sectors brings to the individual. If we take our Kua 7, the West zone of the house represents his life palace or his “identity palace”: it is in this zone that the energy will be the most harmonious for him. We are talking about location here. Thus, one can be in the West zone but facing South. Our Kua 7 will have every interest, for example, in having his room in the West zone with his bed facing the South West and his desk facing the North West. He will thus be able to exploit both the orientations and the locations. A first step towards happiness!

What about the ming gua of the house then? It is not the year of birth that we will use, and we do not need to know if the flat was delivered in winter or spring! It is the cardinal orientation of the seat (the side opposite the front) that is key. There are 8 different types of house gua, so there are 8 different types of houses.
For example, a house facing South and with the foundation to the North will be of Kua 1.
Its most favourable sectors will therefore be South East, South, East and North as for people of Kua 1. Simple, isn’t it?

I hope that this new page on the Chinese calendar has given you some additional elements of understanding. It is not always easy to understand why this calendar, while being lunar, is also based on the cycles of the sun. The spring festival, for the Chinese population, comes well before ours, while we are still wrapped up in our coats. The Winter Solstice, on the other hand, which is extremely popular in China, occurs around December 21, just like ours… because it is based on the position of the sun as seen from the earth.
Don’t hesitate to click on the links to the detailed articles to learn more about each concept: the twelve signs, the number Kua, the bazi…

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