Before delving further into the view teachings of Chinese Astrology through the five elements, I would like to offer a glimpse into the practicality of Astrology. While I often emphasis the “big picture,” this big picture can be difficult at times to connect with, especially in a culture which does not value cyclical time. So, I would like to offer a simple guide to a “Chinese Day.”
In the view of cyclical time, the energy of the universe moves in natural rhythms. These rhythms are mathematical and move in a pattern of 12 branches/Qi characters x 5 elements or 60, derived from the Jupiter cycle, the historical source of our 60 second/60 minute time measurement in the West. These rhythms of 60 spiral inwards and outwards from microcosm to macrocosm, including the rhythms of our body and the rhythms of the universe. While these cycles are endless, the most observable and practical are called the Four Pillars—the lunar year, month, day, and hour. For example, I am writing this during the Yang Water Horse hour of a Yin Wood Rabbit day of a Yin Fire Pig month of a Yin Wood Goat Year. These words describe the different patterns of Qi that the universe moves through all the time, around and around. Like the clock, these cycles do not go anywhere except in circles. I will have much more to say about the Four Pillars in future blogs.
For now, rather than going on and on about the view, I would like to emphasize the practicality of these cycles by describing the basic outline of the 12 hour day of the Chinese calendar. A Chinese hour is 2 western hours, covering the standard 24 hour day, and moves along in the pattern of 5 elements and 12 Qi characters of the zodiac, forming a 60 double-hour cycle, which spans 5 days.
Chinese Astrology teaches that the universe is exuding a certain pattern of energy during each phase of this cycle, and the energy available tends towards certain patterns of conduct. If we live according to this cycle, we have the momentum of the universe behind us, and we are more apt to live a harmonious life. If we resist or ignore these cycles, then we not only shorten our life, but we obscure the wisdom inherent in our natural condition.
The universe is already moving in a certain pattern; if we go against the grain, we slowly grind ourselves down. We can choose to ignore the natural condition with our freedom, and human beings are very good at adapting. So in some cases, we can succeed, but only temporarily. In this view, everything is self-resolving, so eventually, moving against this cycle will cause illness.
Unfortunately, our culture pushes us to be productive all the time, and our industries often force people into unnatural cycles. For example, service jobs often require people to work late into the night when they should be asleep, which causes them to sleep late into the day when they should be active. We do this for long enough, and we get used to it. If this is the case, then I offer this as something to consider in the long run. In youth especially, we have the Qi to avoid natural wisdom, but this only lasts for so long.
Our body, energy, and mind move in the same rhythm as the universe. When we live according to the natural cycles of time, we (microcosm) begin to mirror the universe (macrocosm), revealing our fundamental interconnectedness.
Although it is helpful to learn the natural tendencies of each time of day, it is more important to actually feel them. If we can sense the Qi of Horse Hour, then it becomes a source of wisdom. Horse hour is a time for productivity; hence, I am writing and am compelled toward activity.
I hope that this guide helps you tune into the natural rhythms of life. Here is a basic outline of the rhythm of the day (remember this changes according to the 5 elements, so eventually you will feel the difference between a fire dog and water dog hour)
Chen—Dragon: Yang Earth—7-9am (3rd Moon)
We shall begin with Dragon Hour from 7 to 9 am. Dragon is BIG YANG, associated with the rising sun. In the Chinese Zodiac, Dragon Qi is considered unlimited potential; it is all the animal energies combined into one mysterious, ineffable potentiality. Energetically, this is the most powerful and active time of the day. You should always be up, awake, and entering into action by Dragon Hour. This is probably difficult for people who like to sleep in. Actually, if you investigate your experience, you should be naturally compelled out of bed during this time, regardless of whether or not you are a “morning bird.” Since I was young, I have never been able to sleep in past 9. This is also when our digestion is most active. We can digest and assimilate anything during Dragon Hour, so this is the best time for a nourishing breakfast. This is the time to get the day in motion. Begin your day by Dragon Hour, and everything will flow along naturally.
Si—Snake: Yin Fire—9-11am (4th Moon)
After BIG YANG comes BIG YIN in the form of Snake Hour from 9 to 11 am. In the Chinese Zodiac, Snake Qi is associated with the unseen, the unknown, and with the empty nature of apparent phenomena. After the big energetic launch, Dragon Hour, the universe naturally recedes and opens into a space of self-reflection, without which Dragon Qi can become too ambitious, and we may exhaust ourselves during the day. Snake Hour is a tremendous open transparency in which we are able to see through our ambitions to the fact that Yang always turns back into Yin. Everything we work to achieve will fall apart, so the rest of the day should be filled with this awareness. Once we get our day going during Dragon Hour, we must slow down and reflect on who and what we are and on what we are doing. Snake hour should be a time for mystical self-reflection, revelation, and preparation for the rest of the day. Without taking this time to reflect, the rest of the day can become linear, and we may be fooled into the notion that we “progress” and that time is going somewhere other than around and around in eternal circles.
Wu—Horse: Yang Fire—11am—1pm (5th Moon)
After this necessary self-reflection, we are ready for Yin to turn back into Yang, and we enter Horse hour, the time for productivity, industry, action, and energetic independence. From 11am to 1 pm, we should naturally feel compelled toward productivity. This is when we should “work,” in terms of physical labor, building, construction, production, and so on. In the Chinese Zodiac, Horse Qi is associated with thoughtless action in the best sense. Horse is the wisdom of manifestation, of “doing,” and of embodiment. Horse is associated with craft and skill. If you are physically active and productive during Horse Hour, you will live much longer and not exhaust yourself. This is also the other time of day when our digestion is most active, so it is the best time for a hearty lunch.
Wei—Goat: Yin Earth—1-3pm (6th Moon)
Once we have completed our most vigorous and productive activity, Yang turns back to Yin, and we enter the refining and socializing Goat Hour from 1-3pm. In the Chinese Zodiac, Goat Qi is associated with the “herd,” with social order, cooperation, compromising, harmony, justice, fairness, and so on, and it is also associated with aesthetics, art, and beauty. Goat Hour, then, is the time to work and be with others and cultivate friendship and teamwork. This is the time to get together and do things in groups and to refine and adjust the productivity of Horse Hour. Once we create something, we must step back and adjust our creation to accord with social context and welfare. Building a table is useless if we do not sit down to eat, and what good is eating alone if your friends are hungry? Goat Hour is also the time for art and aesthetics. It is a time to paint, write, sing, or just stare out into the landscape and contemplate humanity.
Shen—Monkey: Yang Metal—3-5pm (7th Moon)
After the refining Goat Hour, Yin turns back to Yang, and we move forward into Monkey Hour from 3-5pm. In the Chinese Zodiac, Monkey Qi is associated with planning, strategizing, projecting, adapting, and imagining. Monkey Hour is the time to look forward to the next day or week and plan ahead. In terms of work, it is the time to cease productivity and to shift into imagination. This is the only time of day you should actually project into the future; plan ahead, and then drop it. In the wild, Monkeys are always scanning the environment for danger and anticipating threats. During Monkey Hour, our Qi naturally anticipates the end of the day and the transition into night. So it is a time of adaptation; soon we must head home, but before we do, we must digest the experience of the day, adapt accordingly, and anticipate what may come. Monkey Qi is also playful, so this is the time to end the seriousness of work, “quitting time,” when you should joke and have fun with co-workers before heading home.
You—Rooster: Yin Metal—5-7pm (8th Moon)
From Yang back to Yin, we receded into Rooster Hour, from 5-7pm, the time of completion. In China, this time of day is associated with “coming home to roost,” the time when all the chickens and animals make their way back to the barn. It is the “crepuscular hour,” the transition from day to night. In the Chinese Zodiac, Rooster Qi is associated with completion, precision, competition, and confidence. This is the time to go home. Once home, this is the time to take pride and have confidence in what you have done, to reflect and analyze. This is the Yin hour of digestion, the time for tea and a light supper, when we can refine and extract the most nutrients towards the end of the day. If there is a time to hang out with friends at the Pub, this is it; Rooster is associated with bravado, and with the kind of socializing that relates to the “pecking order.”
Xu—Dog: Yang Earth—7-9pm (9th Moon)
Once we return home, we move from Yin back to Yang into Dog Hour, from 7-9pm, the family hour. In China, they say if you are home and with your family by Dog hour, you will live a long and happy life. In the Chinese Zodiac, Dog Qi is associated with loyalty, dedication, faithfulness, and protection. By Dog Hour, you should be home and enjoying social time with the family. This is an active Yang hour, the time to connect and socialize with those closest to you. The family dinner, ideally, should happen late during Rooster Hour, and now this is the time to enjoy being home, to relax, read, watch TV, talk, play with the kids, play with the dog, and forget about the troubles of the day. Since we have domesticated dogs, they have been associated with protection, the family dog often staying awake until everyone is safe and asleep. Dog Hour is the first active phase of the night, when we cultivate vigilance and family loyalty. If we live alone, it is a great time to cultivate the same qualities with close friends.
Hai—Pig: Yin Water—9-11pm (10th Moon)
Now that we are home and have actively unwound during Dog Hour, Yang turns back to Yin and we relax, sinking down into Pig Hour. In the Chinese Zodiac, Pig Qi is associated with sensuality, relaxation, and enjoyment. It is the time when our Qi sinks down and prepares for sleep; Pig is the falling asleep hour. Associated with enjoyment of the senses, this is the time for sex, pleasure, and honesty (pillow talk) with our partner. This is the time to put on pajamas, relax in bed, turn out the lights, and fall asleep. If you should be up and awake by Dragon Hour, then you should always be in bed by Pig Hour—you will live much longer. It is the natural time of the day for falling asleep, which our culture rebels against (which is fine every once and a while; pig hour is great for parties). Staying up past this hour on a regular basis, according to Chinese Astrology, is a surefire way to get out of sync with the natural rhythm of life and cause illness, because the next hour is the beginning of the dream and sleep phase. If we do not respect sleep and follow the natural rhythm of the sun and moon, then we do not accord with the energy available for regeneration during the next few cycles, and our sleep is not restorative.
Zi—Rat: Yang Water—11pm-1am (11th Moon)
From Yin relaxation, we move forward into Yang sleep, the Rat Hour, from 11pm to 1am. By this time we should have entered into the first stage of sleep, related to the Rat. In the Chinese Zodiac, Rat Qi is associated with analysis, editing, and resolution. It is the wisdom of the compound nature of things, of taking things apart. This phase of sleep is light, and we experience resolving dreams where we edit our experience from the previous day. Our dreams during this time reflect ordinary life, and our subconscious takes this time to digest our incomplete and fractured experience. In a Rat dream, you may get in your car and drive to work, turn to Cynthia in the next desk to find that she’s orange. This is the best time to enter consciously into the dream state, into dream/sleep Yoga. Rat Hour is a preparation for deep dreamless sleep in which we process all the surface details of life; it is when we can make use of shamanic dreaming and dreams of portent. If we miss this time for Rat dreaming, then we may repress the opportunity for mental digestion/editing.
Chou—Ox: Yin Earth—1-3am (12th Moon)
After the editing period of Yang Rat sleep, we sink into Yin sleep, the Ox Hour, from 1am to 3am. Ox Hour is the time for deep, dreamless sleep. In deep sleep we truly rest and rejuvenate. In the Chinese Zodiac, Ox Qi is associated with the return to origin, with slow, steady, uncompromising Yin. During this time, we should have no consciousness and return to complete “I don’t know.” This is the best time to sink into the deep dark unconscious depths, which can eventually turn to Path Dreaming or Clear Light Yoga. If you are awake during Ox Hour, you miss the greatest opportunity for deep rejuvenation and restoration of the body, energy, and mind. It is important that we return to this deep “I don’t know” in order to re-attune ourselves to the natural cycle and start over again.
Yin—Tiger: Yang Wood—3-5am (1st Moon)
Emerging from the darkness of Yin Ox sleep, we break out of the murky depths into Yang Tiger Sleep, from 3-5am. In the Chinese Zodiac, Tiger Qi is associated with the daring, unconventional, fearless, inspirational, and symbolic. This is the second phase of Yang sleep. During the Rat Hour, we edit from the day and sink into Ox dreamlessness. During Tiger Hour, we emerge from the dreamless state to express wild, symbolic, creative, and fearless dreaming. This is when we can fly and visit other worlds; this is when we have “weird” dreams, the kind that make no sense whatsoever. Tiger dreams are a pure expression of the creative impulse of the unconscious. After the rejuvenation of Ox Hour, Tiger Hour is when we are naturally capable of lucid dreams and dreams of clarity, when we are asleep and know we are dreaming and have the full capacity to explore consciousness. According to Chinese Medicine, when we sleep, our "Hun Spirit" leaves the body; the Hun is the body in which we dream. Tiger Hour is when it can “astral project.” If we are awake during Tiger hour, we miss the opportunity for the full exploration of dreams and for the fulfillment of our true creative potential.
Mao—Rabbit: Yin Wood—5-7am (2nd Moon)
After the playful Tiger sleep, we transition from Yang to Yin again for the final phase of the day and the transition into the next, Rabbit Hour, from 5-7am. In the Chinese Zodiac, Rabbits are associated with the Moon, with intuition, interpretation, and the spirit world. Rabbits are most active during this “crepuscular hour,” this transition into day. The Rabbit is associated with the early dawn, when the first soft light begins to shine. It is a misty, magical, gentle hour, when the world is alive with this “bunny” energy. This is the time of day when we slowly and gently emerge from our den. It is the time to rise and prepare for Dragon Hour, the true start of the day. Rabbit Hour is a transition, in which our intuition and interpretation is activated, the best time to digest, record, and interpret our dreams. It is also the best time for morning sex, as Rabbits are associated with reproduction. Traditionally, this is also the best time for meditation and Yoga, so it is best to wake, practice, sit, and begin our day in this space of subtle yet gentle intuition. From here, the cycle starts all over again with Dragon Hour.
According to Chinese Astrology, this cycle is already the natural tendency of our life. If you are in touch with your natural condition, then this should feel natural. This is something to experiment with. It is best to feel into each hour and actually experience the Qi associated with the time of day, so you can go with it rather than against it. It is difficult for us “modern professionals” with such demanding lifestyles, but this is the way humans have lived for thousands of years. And remember, the view teaches that the cycles of time are cyclical, like the Sun and Moon. There is no “progression” in time; we do not move in a straight line, but rather we alternate (Yin/Yang) and go around and around in an eternal procession. The more we move with the natural flow of the Universe, the more we begin to mirror and eventually experience our natural state.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
This page is your source for short, pithy articles on the view teachings of Chinese Astrology. Here, I will share everything I have learned about how to follow Astrology as a spiritual path.