Thursday, 13 February 2014

Making things Part 1 † Chinese zodiac wheel, a lesson in divination


Over the past few weeks, I've been creating lots of things to make myself feel better (all it's done is make me worry about all the stuff I've created - where do I put it? What do I do with it?). I love to create stuff, but actually making it more than a hobby is not something I'm prepared for.

Anyhow, I thought I'd share some of my work with you. The photos may not be the best quality, I'm afraid, since they've either been taken with an old point-and-click or my iPad. 

This took forever.
So the thing above is a Chinese zodiac wheel. I've always wanted to make one of these as the Chinese year and elemental cycles are really fascinating. To explain:

The inner circle contains the five guardians of the directions - the Black Turtle of the north, the Azure (or Green) Dragon of the east, the Red Bird of the south, the White Tiger of the west, and the Gold Dragon of the centre. Each represents a particular element, namely water, wood, fire, metal and earth (air is not one of the elements in many Asian cultures). Usually, the five are set out in a circle. Like a game of scissors, paper, rock, water beats fire, fire beats metal, metal beats wood, wood beats earth, earth beats water. Lines drawn to depict this progression produce a nice little pentacle.

Unfortunately, I couldn't show that off, because I wanted to align each creature with its direction (and hence, season) so poor Gold Dragon got stuck in the middle :(

Moving on, the next ring contains the name of each season in English and Chinese, along with a symbolic colour and flower. Winter (north) is light blue with a flowering plum overlay. Spring (east) is light green with an orchid. Yellow summer is bamboo, and orange autumn is a chrysanthemum. These flowers are commonly depicted together in Chinese paintings to represent the changing of the seasons (together, they are known as The Four Gentlemen). 

The Four Gentlemen. Source.

The next ring contains the zodiac animals. Each animal has a direction, element and colour attached to it, as well as a gender. They also rule over not only a year, but a month (fourth ring), day (fifth ring) and hour (sixth ring). I went kind of wild when I drew all the animals. They've been anthropomorphised, clearly, and I tried to diversify their appearances as much as possible. Each has their Chinese character somewhere in its image. I think my favourite is probably the Cow, in the 1 - 3 am position.

The characteristics are as follows:
Rat - Male (yin), black, water, December, Thursday, 23:00-1:00
Cow/ox - Female (yang), gold, earth, January, Saturday, 1:00-3:00
Tiger - Male (yin), green, wood, February, Saturday, 3:00-5:00
Rabbit - Female (yang), green, wood, March, Friday, 5:00-7:00
Dragon - Male (yin), gold, earth, April, Tuesday, 7:00-9:00
Snake - Female (yang), red, fire, May, Friday, 9:00-11:00
Horse - Male (yin), red, fire, June, Wednesday, 11:00-13:00
Sheep/goat - Female (yang), gold, earth, July, Monday, 13:00-15:00
Monkey - Male (yin), white, metal, August, Sunday, 15:00-17:00
Rooster - Female (yang), white, metal, September, Saturday, 17:00-19:00
Dog - Male (yin), gold, earth, October, Friday, 19:00-21:00
Pig - Female (yang), black, water, November, Thursday, 21:00-23:00

As you may notice, there are two animals for each of the elements, except for gold earth, which has four. You'll see from the image above that each has been assigned a different season, essentially sneaking them in under another compass direction. Each of the months are written in both English and Chinese (in the colour of the western birthstone), and have the (western) flowers associated with each month adorning them). I really just wanted to super-complicate matters by adding some western symbolism in there...

Overall, if you know exactly when you were born, you can use this wheel to determine almost all the elements you possess and are deficient in. I say almost because at the same time that the 12-animal cycle is running, the 5 elements is also running a cycle. To illustrate, I was born in the year of the Metal Horse (1990), but 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse. However, the element associated with the Horse is fire.

So let's put this all together. I was born in 1990 (Year of the Metal Horse), in November, on Saturday, at 23:00ish. 

1990: Metal Horse - the elements of metal (colour: white) but also fire (colour: red), the Horse's general element. This is summer, so the 'flower' is the bamboo, the direction is south, and is ruled over by the Red Bird. A male symbol, hence yin.

November: Pig - the element of water (colour: black), season: winter, ruled over by the Black Turtle of the North. A female symbol, hence yang.

Saturday: (lucky me has three animals for Saturday) the cow/ox with the element of earth (colour: gold) ruled by the Black Water Turtle of the Winter North (female - yang), the Tiger with the element of wood (colour: green) ruled by the Azure Wood Dragon of the Spring East (male - yin) and the White Metal Rooster ruled by the White Metal Tiger of Autumn West.

23:00: Black Water Rat. Male (yin). Winter North. Ruled by the Black Turtle.


Essentially what this means is that I have an abundance of water, followed by metal. Apparently: 

"Water-type people are smart, wise, frank, and resourceful. They have good memories and think before they leap.

There are two types of Water: Floating Water and Still Water. Floating Water makes people active and restless and feel like traveling. Still Water makes people clam and peaceful.

People lacking Water are unstable, cowardly, narrow-minded, and have no stamina. They lack intellect, good sense, understanding, and foresight. They also tend to keep changing their mind.

People with excess Water are smart, sly, tricky and plot dark schemes. They like to move or travel around and have a sensual life. They are likely to dream too much, and keep changing their mind as well. They also are only interested in what concerns them and have no interest in outside world affairs.
" Source.

It also appears I have more male (yin) than female (yang) and not enough wood or earth.

If my mother had been more traditional about things, this would have probably led to me being named after those two elements. The Chinese seek balance regarding life, so in order to balance out the excesses, I would have been named with the consideration that I have little wood and earth, and too much yin.

Since I wasn't, this may explain why the Chinese side of the family long considered me 'un-ladylike' :P

Okay, now I want everyone to have a go :D Post in the comments below what you've worked out, or if you can't make any sense of it, let me know and I'll have a go for you :)

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