The five elements 五行 (Jp = Gogyou, Ch = Wu Hsing) are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The five were combined with the binary Yin-Yang system Yin 陰 (Jp = in) and Yang 陽 (Jp = you) resulting in ten "alternative" readings for the ten stems. In the 60-year cycle, odd years were classified as YANG years, even years as YIN. Even today, when the 60-year cycle reaches completion, some people in Japan who are 60-years of age hold a special birthday ceremony called kanreki還暦. Additionally, Chinese ideas of illness, especially Taoist notions of illness as caused by imbalances of yin and yang forces in the body, were introduced to Japan probably by the late Nara or early Heian periods. Taoist notions embodied various concepts of the Zodiac calendar.
In China, the first celebrated exponent of the five-element theory was Tsou Yen (350 - 270 BC). The five energies were symbolized as (1) wood, which as fuel gives rise to (2) fire, which creates ash and gives rise to (3) earth, which in its mines contains (4) metal, which (as on the surface of a metal mirror) attracts dew and so gives rise to (5) water, and this in turn nourishes (1) wood. This is called hsiang sheng (相生), or the "mutually arising" order/cycle of the fundamental forces. These forces were also arranged in the order of "mutual conquest" (相勝) likewise read hsiang sheng, but sheng is a different ideogram -- in which (1) wood, in the form of a plow, overcomes (2) earth, which, by damming and constraint, conquers (3) water which, by quenching, overcomes (4) fire which, by melting, liquifies (5) metal, which, in turn, cuts (1) wood. Quoted from "TAO, The Watercourse Way" by Alan Watts.
History of Chinese New Year
Year of the Rat 鼠
Chinese New Year, known in Chinese as the Spring Festival (Simplified Chinese: 春节; Traditional Chinese: 春節; pinyin: Chūnjié) or the Lunar New Year (Simplified Chinese: 农历新年; Traditional Chinese: 農曆新年; pinyin: Nónglì xīnnián), is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. The Chinese New Year festival begins on the first day of the first lunar month (Chinese: 正月; pinyin: zhēng yuè) of the Chinese calendar, and ends on the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the month.
Chinese New Year's Eve is known as Chúxì (除夕). Chu literally means "change" and xi means "night".
It is unclear when the beginning of the year was celebrated before the Qin Dynasty. It is possible that the beginning of the year began with month 1 during the Xia Dynasty, month 12 during the Shang Dynasty, and month 11 during the Zhou Dynasty in China. We know that intercalary months, used to keep the lunar calendar synchronized with the sun, were added after month 12 during both the Shang Dynasty (according to surviving oracle bones) and the Zhou Dynasty (according to Sima Qian). In 104 BC, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty established month 1 as the beginning of the year, where it remains.
According to legend, in ancient China, the nián (年), a man-eating beast from the mountains, could silently infiltrate houses to prey on humans. The people later learned that the nian was sensitive to loud noises and the color red, so they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of the color red. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations. Guò nián (Simplified Chinese: 过年; Traditional Chinese: 過年), which means to celebrate the new year, literally means the passing of the nian beast.
Celebrated internationally in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered to be a major holiday for the Chinese as well as ethnic groups who were strongly influenced by Chinese culture. This includes Japanese, Koreans, Miao (Chinese Hmong), Mongolians, Vietnamese, Tibetans, the Nepalese and the Bhutanese (see Losar).
Chinese New Year is also the time of the the largest human migration, when overseas Chinese all around the world return home on the eve of Chinese New Year to have reunion dinners with their families.
In China, the Rat (鼠) was welcomed in ancient times as a protector and bringer of material prosperity. It is an animal associated with aggression, wealth, charm, and order, yet also associated with death, war, the occult, pestilence, and atrocities. In the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Rat is associated with the earthly branch symbol 子.
The Chinese Lunar New Year 4706 (February 7, 2010) which is also known by its former name of Wu Zhi (吳質).
What can you expect from the Year of the Rat? The Rat is the first sign of the Chinese horoscope, signifying a year of new beginnings, abundance, opportunity, and good fortune. Rat's prosperity will influence all, regardless of your birth animal. This will be a powerful year where we will be clear and focused on their goals, dreams, and passions. Though world economy will be unstable, it will still be a great time to start a business, buy property, invest, and build on your nest egg, as this year wealth is more easily accumulated and endeavors begun now will have long-term consequences and thus can carry you through bleak years. All endeavors will prosper if you carefully plan ahead.
The Rat is best known for its cleverness. A Taoist folktale recounts how Rat tricked Ox to become the first animal in the Taoist zodiac...Long ago a contest was held in a Chinese village to select the twelve animals of the horoscope. Rat asked Ox for a ride on his back to get to the village for the contest. So Ox carried Rat for miles across rough terrain and struggled mightily as he swam across a torrential river, finally arriving at the village. The village people saw Rat riding on Ox's back and were so impressed his ingenuity that they declared Rat to be first in the sequence of the horoscope.
This is an auspicious time for working in the applied arts, dealing with practical matters, or performing work of a spiritual nature. Your focus on career and self-improvement may lead to family neglect so be attentive and creative to keep your family bonds strong. As a pack animal, Rats love to socialize so expect a year of celebrating, socializing, and having fun. Also this is a promising year for new romances.
This year's rat is ruled by the element Earth, though Rat's fixed element is Water. Unfortunately, Earth and Water have a destructive relationship so do not rely too much on luck this year. However, the Earth element in a Rat year makes this a year full of new beginnings and accomplishments as the elements of Earth and Water come together. The Rat loves to take risks, while Earth is associated with practicality and stability so a balance between the two can lead to profits and increased productivity.
The entire house should be cleaned before New Year's Day. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dustpans and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. After New Year's Day, the floors may be swept.
In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the family away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.
The 15-Days of Chinese New Year
The first day of the Lunar New Year is the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and Earth. Many people abstain from meat on the first day of the New Year because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them.
On the second day, the Chinese pray to their ancestors as well as to all the gods. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well.
The third and fourth days are for the sons-in-laws to pay respect to their parents-in-law.
The fifth day is called Po Woo. On that day people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. No one visits families and friends on the fifth day because it will bring both parties bad luck.
On the sixth day, the Chinese visit their relatives and friends freely.
The seventh day of the New Year is the day for farmers to display their produce. The seventh day is also considered the birthday of human beings.
On the eighth day the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner, and at midnight they pray to Tian Gong, the God of Heaven.
The ninth day is to make offerings to the Jade Emperor.
The 10th through the 12th are days that friends and relatives should be invited for dinner. After so much rich food, on the 13th day you should have simple rice congee and mustard greens (choi sum).
The 14th day should be for preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival, which is to be held on the 15th night.