Chinese Astrology and Horoscopes - will they tell you more than Western?

A brief enquiry by Richard Hills

Chinese Astrology

For further information about my work please visit my Home Page: Astrology Readings

Chinese Astrology shares many basic principles with its western counterpart, but the finer details are quite different.

Yin and Yang, Negative and Positive

In the same way that the signs are divided between negative and positive in the west, the signs of the Chinese zodiac are divided between yin and yang. We regard the fire and air (see elements below) signs as positive or masculine, the earth and water signs as negative or feminine. Chinese astrology does not divide the twelve signs of its zodiac into elements, but each sign is either yin or yang.

The Elements

In the west we have four elements - fire, earth, air and water. Each sign has the nature of one of these elements. The elements link and interact with each other. Air is needed for fire to exist. It is also needed to interpret (air) the divine spark (fire) so that fire can relate to earth. Likewise earth needs the emotions (water) to reconnect with meaning (fire) when life is flat and dreary.

The Chinese have five elements - wood, fire, earth, metal and water. These are also linked: wood burns - fire - leaving ash - earth - from which metal can extracted, which when smelted flows like water. Water can extinguish fire which melts metal which can chop wood. It follows that two people are likely to relate better if they belong to neighbouring elements. Air (Chi or qi) is considered to be the life force itself, so it is not counted as one of the elements.

The Signs

As in the west, the Chinese zodiac has twelve signs. These signs are named after the animals which, according to legend, attended the dying Buddha so he could bid them farewell. The Buddha thanked them by offering each a year, so each sign is effective for a year. In addition to this, each month and two-hour period is assigned an animal. Thus you may be born in the year of one sign, the month of another and at the time of yet another. As the sign changes from year to year, so does the element. Thus if you were born in a year of the tiger, someone born 12 years later in the next tiger year will have a different element.

So - which works better, Chinese Astrology or Western?

Anyone wishing to study Chinese astrology and horoscopes in depth is advised to research the literature available. As to efficacy, my own experience is that it is more useful in matters of religious, philosophical or divinatory concern to seek a method which corresponds with my own cultural background. For this reason I have not made an in-depth study of the oriental astrological traditions, believing that the western tradition has within it a fount of wisdom which can more readily stir my soul than any other. If you were born into an oriental culture and have made this your own, then you will probably find that Chinese astrology will reach your soul more readily and be of more benefit. But if you were born and brought up in the west, then why look in the east for treasure when the riches of the west are more easily assimilated?


Arcarti, Kristyna: Chinese Horoscopes for Beginners. Headway, 1995
Liao, Sabrina: Chinese Astrology - Ancient Secrets for Modern Life. Warner Books, 2000

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Zodiac Signs Chinese Astrology (reload page)