Happy Lunar New Year (新年快樂 xin nian kuai le)! For followers of the Chinese lunisolar calendar, today is the first day of yet another Year of the Monkey (猴年 hou nian). More specifically, it’s a Year of the Fire Monkey (火猴年 huo hou nian), which, like all element-animal pairs, occurs once every sixty years: twelve zodiac signs times five elements equals sixty variations.
Just think about it. The expansive, chaotic energy of flame coupled with the clever yet reckless attributes of the monkey? Sounds like we’re in for a wild ride! At the risk of seeming culturally insensitive, I suggest we follow the sage advice of Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: “Hold on to your potatoes!”
Incidentally, I was born in a previous Year of the Monkey: the Year of the Metal Monkey (金猴年 jin hou nian), which conjures up an entirely different image!
This is the third Year of the Monkey since my birth, hence I’ll be turning 12 * 3 = 36 years old later this year. Kind of fun to think of one’s life in terms of multiples of 12 rather than decades. Anyway, although I don’t actually believe in any form of astrology, here, for our mutual amusement, are some traits supposedly associated with Monkey Year births:
- Positive traits: Intelligent, dignified, optimistic, romantic, sociable, quick-witted, confident, agile, curious, gregarious.
- Negative traits: Egotistical, selfish, deceptive, reckless, suspicious, manipulative, restless.
- Health risks: Circulatory and heart troubles, diabetes, arthritis, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, antisocial personality disorder, bipolar disorder, narcissistic personality disorder.
As is the case with Western astrology, it’s easy to find some words that ring true and others that don’t within these lengthy lists. But again, it’s all good clean fun. I’ve also found it interesting to investigate the attributes associated with both metal and fire in Taoist thought. For starters, metal (金 jin) is associated with yin (陰) of the yin-yang duality, the planet Venus, autumn, dry weather, the west, old age, decline, the color white, the White Tiger (西方白虎 xi fang bai hu), inward motion, contracting energy, and the following:
- Traits: Firmness, rigidity, stability, ambition, forcefulness, self-reliance, wisdom, patience, willpower, organization, stability, etc.
- Health: The lungs, large intestine, nose, skin, and emotions surrounding both courage and grief.
Metal also happens to be the element most strongly associated with the monkey in Chinese astrology, so perhaps I should be especially monkey-like? In any case, let’s contrast this with fire (火 huo), which is associated with yang (陽), the planet Mars, summer, hot weather, the south, daylight, prosperity, the color red (extremely lucky in Chinese culture), the Vermillion Bird (南方朱雀 nan fang zhu que), upward motion, expanding energy, and the following:
- Traits: Dynamism, strength, persistence, restlessness, enthusiasm, creativity, aggression, impatience, impulsiveness, warmth, heat, and burning.
- Health: The heart, small intestine, tongue, and emotions surrounding both joy and hatred.
I wish I had more time to elaborate on all this, but midnight approaches and I must conclude this post. As such, I’d like to close by simply wishing all of us a happy and prosperous Year of the Fire Monkey, full of as many of its associated positive traits, and as few of the negative, as possible. My thoughts go out especially to all those affected by the recent earthquake in southern Taiwan: may your sorrows and pains be replaced, in due time, with serenity and peace of mind.