The Wisdom of Twelve

This is an excerpt from the introduction of my new book, “The 12 Chinese Animals – Create Harmony in Your Daily Life Through Ancient Chinese Medicine”, published by Singing Dragon and ready for purchase in Fall 2010.  It was also recently published in The Empty Vessel, a Eugene, OR based journal on contemporary Daoism.  I hope you enjoy reading about the wisdom of twelve.

The Wisdom of Twelve[1]

Living in harmony within family, among society, and with nature is the ancient Chinese way of life. People in China have been enjoying living in a very harmonious society for thousands of years, since at least the time period of the  Western Zhou Dynasty (1122 BCE – 771 BCE). In Chinese, we have an expression to illustrate this style of life, ye bu bi hu, lu bu shi yi (夜不閉戶, 路不拾遺), which means there is no need to close your door at night when you go to sleep, and you will be able to get your belongings back easily if you lose them because no one will take them away. In ancient China, there were no religions, no police, no taxes, and no lawyers. There was only a special kind of wisdom to guide Chinese people to cultivate their true humanity.  This true humanity contains the spirit of love, compassion, faith, courtesy, justice, and humbleness. With this true humanity, people are able to respect each other, support each other, and create a harmonious community together.

You might wonder what this wisdom is.  This wisdom is still being held in some ancient Chinese classics; Yijing (I Ching), is one of them. Yijing wisdom has guided countless Chinese to live in harmony in their daily life for thousands of years. One of the most important concepts in the Chinese wisdom traditions is trinity; three in one, is one. Yijing contains three secret and sacred layers of wisdom: symbology, numerology, and philosophy. This book will give you a little taste of this ancient Chinese wisdom.  By understanding the twelve animal symbols and twelve tidal hexagrams from Yijing wisdom, you will be able to learn a way to find your inner peace and live in harmony with your family, your community, and with nature

The wisdom of Yijing is vast; it looks like a tree of the universe. The roots of the tree embrace the entire earth and the tips of the tree hold the whole heavenly realm. There is a very tiny branch on this tree, called the twelve animal symbols system, which is related to your birth, your energetic life cycle or destiny, twelve tidal hexagrams of Yijing, and the cycle of nature. It is also a small sub-branch of the Yijing prediction system. As I emphasized in the Afterword of my book Seeking the Spirit of The Book of Change: 8 Days to Mastering a Shamanic Yijing (I Ching) Prediction SystemYijing prediction is magic, but it is also an art, a way of life, a way of nature, and it is a way of the universe. It is a way to express the great universal compassion, which gives birth to all beings and protects them.[2] The spirit of Yijing prediction or Change is to help people find a way to Change their lives and experience living in a consistently peaceful state, especially during difficult situations.  This prediction system provides a way for people to live in harmony.

Life is magic! Twelve animal symbols of Yijing wisdom is a way to help you to understand this magic, to help you live a harmonious life. In this book, I will share with you how these twelve animal symbols can help you understand your destiny.  By using the wisdom of the animal symbols as guides, you will be able to better understand your personality, and make choices that influence your health, relationships, career, finances, the colors you wear, and the food you eat, so that you live up to your greatest potential. It will be easier for you to apply the wisdom of the twelve animal symbols in your life if I provide you with  some fundamentals about the number 12, Chinese astrology and animal symbols, and the 8 trigrams and 12 tidal hexagrams of Yijing.

I. Numerological Meanings of 12

In ancient times, people lived closer to the cycles of nature and followed the way of nature. This harmonious lifestyle is patterned in a Chinese phrase, ri chu er zuo, ri luo er xi 日出而作,日落而息, which means ‘Sunrise, go to work; sunset, go to rest.’ Through their observation of nature, ancient Chinese understood 12 as an important number in their daily life.

In Chinese, the number 12 is Shier十二. It is a symbol for the universal clock, i.e. Shier Chen十二辰, representing both time and space. In Chinese cosmology, we certainly recognize the number twelve as contained in the twelve Chen辰 in a day (1 Chen is equal to two hour segments), the twelve months of a year, the twelve spiritual animals related to the Chinese zodiac, and the 12 years of a life cycle. The number 12 is described as the twelve Earthly Branches in Chinese tradition. The branches are representative of the waxing and waning of the two primal energies of Yin and Yang throughout daily or yearly cycles. As I explained in my book, Vital Breath of the Dao, the chaotic primordial Qi gave birth to two types of Qi:  heavy Qi and light Qi.  These two types moved in opposite directions.  The heavy Qi, Yin Qi descended to form the Earth, while the light Qi, Yang, rose to form Heaven.  These terms, Yin and Yang, allow people to understand any phenomena as the expression of opposites.[3] For example, in the cycles of nature, you have to understand the concept of night which is considered Yin, in order to understand the concept of day, which is considered Yang.  It is said that the knowledge of twelve Earthly Branches comes from ancient Chinese through thousands of years of observing astronomical phenomena.

The number twelve represents the energetic changes our bodies experience in a twelve Chen day, the twelve months of a year, and 12 years of a life cycle. In Chinese medicine, the number 12 also corresponds to the 12 organ meridian systems in the human body.  The human body itself is seen as a microcosmic representation of the macrocosm of the Universe. The number twelve stands for the 12 different energy patterns found in nature. Ancient Chinese shamans used the 12 tidal hexagrams of Yijing to describe the 12 energetic patterns of the microcosm (the human body) and the macrocosm (nature, and the Universe at large).

II. Chinese Astrology and 12 Animal Symbols

Are you familiar with Chinese astrology? You may think of the twelve animals of the zodiac commonly printed on restaurant menus. In actuality, Chinese astrology is vastly more complicated than this.

In the West, most information available to the public on how to find your Chinese animal symbol is incomplete and misleading. Many Chinese animal sign or horoscope books and popular websites will tell you that each animal symbol starts from the Chinese New Year in the Chinese Lunar calendar. This is, in fact, an incorrect method to find your animal symbol.

Generally speaking when most people talk about Chinese animal symbols, they are referring to the yearly animal symbol. For instance, if you were born in 1951, most readily available resources will tell you that your animal symbol is Rabbit, based on the assumption that 1951 is the Year of Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac system. Actually, being born in 1951 does not always mean you will have Rabbit as your animal symbol. Furthermore, according to Chinese astrology, you have at least 4 animal symbols in your birth chart! The yearly animal symbol is related to the energetic year in which you were born, the monthly animal symbol is related to the energetic month in which you were born, the daily animal symbol is related to the energetic day in which you were born, and the hourly animal symbol is related to the energetic hour in which you were born. I emphasize the energetic year, month, day, and hour because they are different concepts than those of the regular solar calendar.

Chinese Astrology is based on ancient Chinese cosmology and the Five Elements theory. Each individualized chart is a life reading that gives insight into a person’s past, present, and future. Through the chart, one can obtain guidance about health, career, relationships, and more.

An individual Chinese astrology chart is constructed with a Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch for each year, month, date, and time of birth. The combination of a Heavenly Stem and Earthly Branch for each parameter is called One Pillar; all together they are called the SiZhu or Four Pillars. Each Pillar is composed of a Heavenly Stem and an Earthly Branch.  Thus, there are two characters per Pillar. With a total of Four Pillars, the entire chart is composed of eight characters. As such, the name for Chinese astrology is BaZi (eight characters).

It is said that Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches existed even before the invention of the Chinese characters, which the oldest recorded evidence dates back to 8000 years ago.[4] Numerous examples of the symbols for the Stems and Branches are seen in the unearthed ancient Chinese oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty (1766 to 1111 BCE).

As you can see, for any particular individual, there will be eight characters (BaZi) that reflect his or her personal energies. These are derived from all the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches, within the Four Pillars, that support the body. In other words, by understanding the energy of the macrocosmic Universe at a particular time, we can understand the microcosm of the individual.

In Chinese tradition, we commonly use the 12 animal symbols to represent the 12 Earthly Branches in the astrological chart, because it is easier for people to understand their destiny through the symbolic meaning of the animals. These 12 animal symbols are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. In The Beginning of this book, I will introduce the way to find your fundamental power animal symbols. You will then be able to learn the wisdom of your personal animals in subsequent chapters, which will support you living in harmony with your family and friends, your community, and with nature.

III. Eight Trigrams, 12 Tidal Hexagrams, and the Cycle of Nature

There are 12 very important hexagrams in Yijing system, known as the 12 tidal hexagrams. Each hexagram represents the energetic pattern of its related animal symbol in Chinese astrology. We often use the wisdom of these tidal hexagrams to give people guidance during a consultation.  Bagua, or Eight Trigrams, form the basis of Yijing. The entire Yijing text book is made of 64 hexagrams, and each hexagram is made up of two trigrams. Let me share some information about the trigrams before we further discuss the 12 tidal hexagrams.  I hope it will help you better understand each hexagram in this book.

Bagua is the model of the universe. Everything in existence, including every part of the body, can be classified by one of the trigrams. Ancient shamans understood this connection and they brought this connection into their interpretations of their divinations.[5] Trigrams are symbols made up of three lines, representing Heaven, Earth, and the Human Being, and reflect the universal energy. The Eight Trigrams are: Qian 乾 (Heaven), Dui 兌 (Marsh or Lake), Li 離 (Fire), Zhen 震 (Thunder), Xun 巽 (Wind), Kan 坎 (Water), Gen 艮 (Mountain), and Kun 坤 (Earth). Each line in a trigram will be either a solid line (–) or a broken line (–). The solid line is called the Yang 陽 line and the broken line is called the Yin 陰 line.

Now, let us let take a look some information about the 12 tidal hexagrams. The 12 tidal hexagrams are used to depict the energetic cycle of nature.  In Chinese, we call these hexagrams Shier Xiaoxi Gua 十二消息卦. Shier means twelve, while Xiao means decrease, reduce, waning, and xi means increase, gain, waxing; together, Xiaoxi means information, waxing and waning of the tides, or the changing faces of the moon. Gua means trigram or hexagram. In general, we translate Shier Xiaoxi Gua 12 tidal hexagrams.

These 12 tidal hexagrams stand for different energetic stages of the cycles of nature or life patterns. These 12 hexagrams help us to understand the 12 month yearly cycle of nature, to learn the 12 meridian systems of the body, and to make sense of the different stages of the life. The 12 tidal hexagrams are: Fu 復 (Rebirth), Lin 臨 (Deliver), Tai 泰 (Balance), DaZhuang 大壯 (Prosper), Guai 叏 (Transform), Qian 乾 (Strengthen), Gou 媾 (Copulate), Dun 遁 (Retreat), Pi 否 (Break), Guan 觀 (Observe), Bo 剝 (Peel), and Kun 坤 (Flow). These 12 also reflect the continuous cycle of energy change, for example, the rhythm of day turning into night, or the change of seasons.

You can look at the energetic pattern of the 12 hexagrams together and see that they depict a pattern of steadily increasing, then decreasing intensity.  This is the natural wave pattern of life.

Hexagram Fu 復 (Recover) Lin 臨 (Deliver), Tai 泰 (Balance), DaZhuang 大壯 (Prosper), Guai 叏 (Transform) Qian 乾 (Strengthen), represent the six waxing stages of the rising Yang energy pattern, until Yang reaches its peak.

Hexagram Gou 媾 (Copulate) Dun 遁 (Retreat) Pi 否 (Break) Guan 觀 (Observe Bo 剝 (Peel) Kun 坤 (Flow) illustrate the Yang energy dropping to its nadir and Yin energy rising to its zenith in the six stages of the declining Yang energy pattern.

Together, these 12 tidal hexagrams symbolize a perfect wave of life. I am sure that all of us have experienced times of great joy and times of sorrow. No one could live in their climax of life all the time. The Yijing wisdom of these 12 tidal hexagrams gives us great guidance to live harmoniously through different life stages. We will discuss some details of the hexagrams as they relate to their associated animal symbol later in this book. Traditionally, these 12 hexagrams are also used to describe your energy state during specific internal cultivation practices like meditation, Qigong and Taiji. I will share different internal cultivation methods connected with the 12 tidal hexagrams at the end of each chapter in the book. I hope you will be able to use the practices to better understand the wisdom the 12 animal symbols and the 12 tidal hexagrams, and to strengthen your life force and find your inner peace.

The chart below illustrates the aforementioned correspondences.

NumberOrder Earthly Branch Animal Hexagram Chen/Time Meridian
1 Zi Rat Fu 復 (Rebirth) 23:00 – 00:59 Gall bladder
2 Chou Ox Lin 臨 (Deliver) 01:00 – 02:59 Liver
3 Yin Tiger Tai 泰 (Balance) 03:00 – 04:59 Lung
4 Mao Rabbit DaZhuang 大壯 (Prosper) 05:00 – 06:59 Large intestine
5 Chen Dragon Guai 叏 (Transform) 07:00 – 08:59 Stomach
6 Si Snake Qian 乾 (Strengthen) 09:00 – 10:59 Spleen
7 Wu Horse Gou 媾 (Copulate) 11:00 – 12:59 Heart
8 Wei Goat Dun 遁 (Retreat) 13:00 – 14:59 Small intestine
9 Shen Monkey Pi 否 (Break) 15:00 – 16:59 Bladder
10 You Rooster Guan 觀 (Observe) 17:00 – 18:59 Kidney
11 Xu Dog Bo 剝 (Peel) 19:00 – 20:59 Pericardium
12 Hai Pig Kun 坤 (Flow) 21:00 – 22:59 Triple burner

Acknowledgements

Karin Elizabeth Taylor Wu provided editorial assistance for this article.

© 2010-2013 Zhongxian Wu


[1] This article is part of the Introduction of Master Wu’s new book, Twelve Chinese Animal Symbols.

[2] Wu, Zhongxian. Seeking the Spirit of The Book of Change: 8 Days to Mastering a Shamanic Yijing (I Ching) Prediction System. London: Singing Dragon. 2009: 213

[3] Wu, Zhongxian. Vital Breath of the Dao – Chinese Shamanic Tiger Qigong. St. Paul: Dragon Door Publication. 2006: 56

[4] Wu, Zhongxian. Vital Breath of the Dao – Chinese Shamanic Tiger Qigong. St. Paul: Dragon Door Publication. 2006: 10

[5] Wu, Zhongxian. Seeking the Spirit of The Book of Change: 8 Days to Mastering a Shamanic Yijing (I Ching) Prediction System. London: Singing Dragon. 2009: 67

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Beneath the Surface

If you have never spent time on the Oregon coast during a storm, please take a moment to delve into the wilds of your imagination. Conjure up, if you will, a raw and rugged landscape where looming cliffs meet churning ocean, and gnarled old growth trees stand bare naked oceanside, stretching all their branches landward, as if striving for something just out of reach of their tippiest fingertips. From inside the cozy ocean front cottage we are calling home this week, my eyes are trying to convince me that staying indoors in the wisest option. Through the dancing boughs, I watch the ocean as it toils and boils, and the skylight above is spattered with rain drops. It seems tumultuous, this world I find myself in. Somewhere deeper within, I know that the rain, like most Pacific Northwest rains, is naught but a reliable drizzle. Donning my trusty wind gear, I brave the outside world and feel relieved. The ocean speaks to me. She lets me know that all the daunting agitation, all the ruckus, lies on the surface. In the depths, there is a vast stillness and timeless peace.

© 2013 Karin Taylor Wu, ND

The Year of the Tiger

This is an excerpt from my latest book, “The 12 Chinese Animals – Create Harmony in Your Daily Life Through Ancient Chinese Wisdom”, which will be published by Singing Dragon and available for purchase this coming fall.  I hope you enjoy reading about the Tiger!

Tiger and Tai (Balance)

1. Introduction

In the West, most information available to the public on how to find your Chinese animal symbol is incomplete and misleading. Many Chinese animal sign or horoscope books and popular websites will tell you that each animal symbol starts from the Chinese New Year in the Chinese Lunar calendar. This is, in fact, an incorrect method to find your animal symbol.

Generally speaking when most people talk about Chinese animal symbols, they are referring to the yearly animal symbol. According to Chinese astrology, you have at least four animal symbols in your birth chart! The yearly animal symbol is related to the energetic year in which you were born, the monthly animal symbol is related to the energetic month in which you were born, the daily animal symbol is related to the energetic day in which you were born, and the hourly animal symbol is related to the energetic hour in which you were born. I emphasize the energetic year, month, day, and hour because they are different concepts than those of the regular solar calendar. For instance, LiChun 立春 is the marker for an energetic year animal symbol. LiChun means the beginning of spring season, and it is one of the 24 JieQi. In Chinese cosmology, we divide one year into 24 JieQi, with each JieQi lasting approximately 15 days. In English, we commonly translate JieQi as Solar Term or Segment.  24 JieQi symbolize the 24 sun positions in the sky and the 24 energetic patterns of a year.

LiChun time of 2010 is February 4 at 06:47, which is the moment the energetic year for 2010, a Tiger year, begins.  This Tiger year will end following LiChun on February 4, 2011, at 12:32. This article will share with the wisdom of the Tiger symbol and its associated Yijing hexagram, Tai.

2. Tiger

The tiger has a wild nature and needs a big space or territory for living. Tigers act slowly and carefully while stalking their prey, and move very quickly and with great power once they start to attack. In the Chinese tradition, Tiger is a symbol for caution, valiance, power, optimism, attraction, and ambition. It is the third animal symbol in the 12 Chinese Animals System. We use Yin寅to represent the Tiger symbol in the 12 Earthly Branches. Yin represents dawn in the daily cycle, and the first month of spring in the annual cycle. It can represent either a time or a place in which Yang energy (life energy) is awakening its new stage in a new life cycle.  We use the tidal hexagram Tai to symbolize Tiger.

Having a Tiger animal symbol in your Chinese birth chart suggests that you are careful, graceful, powerful, enthusiastic, friendly, and attractive.  As a Tiger animal person, you have great caution and vitality, which will help you achieve your goals. You have strong desire to get things done once you have a plan formulated. You have a tendency to be very direct when you communicate with others, so you would be wise to learn to sometimes express yourself in a softer way.  Doing so will help you reach your destination, no matter how difficult the situation is.

General speaking, you have pretty good luck in life. People will gladly support your leadership if you show respect for differing opinions. You would do well to choose an independent job, like being your own boss, a writer, designer, or organizer.  When you work directly with people, remember to continually cultivate your tranquility and flexibility; otherwise, you may come across as being haughty or angry. The important thing for you to remember if you are in a relationship is to learn how to assuage your anger and to truly honor your partner’s opinions.

If Tiger is your yearly animal symbol, you are elegant, graceful, and talented. You have potential to do great things by helping others. Please cultivate your patience and do not to be egotistical when you are in your flourishing time, otherwise, your life might take a turn for the worse. .

I will categorize some general Tiger features here for your further interest.

Personality: You are careful, graceful, powerful, enthusiastic, friendly, and attractive, and can sometimes be easily angered, have difficulties taking advice, or have challenges with authority. You take great vigilance before you move into actions that will help you achieve your goals. You are vivacious, like fast growing spring bamboo shoots, which will help you achieve your ambitions. Your emotions can also act just like bamboo in your garden, quickly taking over all the space if left uncontrolled. So, please practice being calm and flexible, in order to help you cool down your firey desire. Managing your firey nature will help you reach your destination, no matter how difficult the situation may be.

Health: You have strong life energy and good health potential. It might weaken your immune system if you suffer from an unresolved grief. Also, being easy to anger can potentially cause a weakness in your gallbladder system and/or problems with your thyroid.  Relax and cultivate more peace in your daily life — this will greatly benefit your health.

Relationship: A Horse, Dog, or Pig person may be your soul mate, or at least can be your very close friend. A Rabbit or Dragon person will make a great business partner for you.  Be careful around a Snake person because it is easy to have some conflicts between the two of you. Try to make peace with a Monkey person – sometimes, you to get into fights for no real reason. You will have simple relationships with other animal symbol people.

Career: With your good leadership qualities and cautious character, you can suit yourself well as a writer, designer, organizer, or as a self-employed person.

Finance: You have good luck with money. Not only can you can easily make money by your efforts, but you also have some chance at coming into an inheritance.

Color: Green is your spirit’s original color, and will always help you feel deeply connected with your spirit. Red is the color that will help you find your own potential energy and talent. Dressing in red color when you have an important social activity, such as public speaking or lecturing, will help bring your talent out. White color will help you feel grounded. As yellow or brown is your financial color, these two colors will bring you good luck in your finances – so have some of them in your office! Black is your spiritual source color, and having it in your cultivation room or bed room will nourish your body physically and spiritually.

Food: White color vegetables, pungent spices (like garlic and onion), fermented foods, mulberries, poultry and wild bird game are good for you.

3. Tai (Balance)

Tai is the tidal hexagram that represents the energetic pattern of the Tiger animal symbol. The Chinese character Tai means stable, great, maximum, safe, peaceful, luxurious, arrogant, and balance. The symbol of the hexagram is made with three Yang lines at the bottom and with three Yin lines on top.  This symbol represents Yang Qi, or life energy, getting stronger than the previous pattern Lin, in a natural cycle. The combination of three Yin lines and three Yang lines within the hexagram indicates the balance state of Yin and Yang. Tai represents the time or place where you can easily achieve your goals because you feel comfortable, peaceful, and harmonious.

In an annual cycle, Tai represents the Yin month, which occurs from approximately February 4th to March 6th in a solar calendar. This is the first month of spring season according to Chinese cosmology. It is also the time that new sprouts and buds are growing, and when hibernating animals are awakening in certain parts of the northern hemisphere. It is the season where nature begins to show signs of the new cycle starting. Yin symbolizes showing off your energy or talent during peaceful times or situations, just as it is the time when nature bursts forth with new life energy and shows off its beauty during the spring months.  Yin also represents the wisdom of choosing the right environment to be able to accomplish your life mission.

Let us discover more information about Tai from Yijing wisdom. Hexagram Tai is made up of two trigrams, the top trigram is Kun (Earth) and the bottom trigram is Qian (Heaven). It is an image of Heaven below the Earth. Heaven is the symbol for circulating and strengthening new life energy or power. Again, Earth is the symbol for holding yourself stable or centering your mind. Hexagram Tai is a harmonious energetic pattern of Heaven and Earth, in which the Heavenly Qi (rain) is descending and the Earthly Qi is ascending. It is image of a powerful person with a gentle attitude. Tai is also the image of you in meditation:  Steady your body and mind, then regulate your breathing to be slow, smooth, deep and even.  Bring your breath into your Dantian (lower belly) in order to circulate your Qi.  This will allow you to feel your Qi free flowing in your body to maintain balance and peace in your whole physical and spiritual body.

4. Conclusion

The wisdom of the Tiger symbol and its related hexagram Tai, Balance, advises us that we should be gentle, soft, and humble in our power and hold our strength within, no matter who we communicating with. It also tells us that a balanced or harmonious situation is always made with Yin energy embracing the Yang energy, or the soft embracing the hard. This same principle applies to health as well.  If you can learn to keep your inner spirit strong, while maintaining a relaxed body and mind, it will be easier to preserve your health and to recover from illness. The reason all traditional Qigong forms have powerful healing functions is because the practices follow this Tai philosophy. I hope you can try some inner cultivation with me at Tai time; it is a time for you to be aware of your inner power and wisdom, and to bring balance to your life:

At anytime when you need help bringing balance to your life, or when you want to enhance a current state of balance in your life, light a candle in front of you and start this meditation.

First straighten your back and feel that your body is stable like a mountain. Then, make the Tai mudra by placing each thumb on the palmer crease of the index finger. The palmer crease of the index finger is related to hexagram Tai.  Keeping your fingers relaxed and close together, please place your left palm close to your navel, facing earth,  and place your right palm, facing heaven, above your head. Adjust your breathing to be slow, smooth, deep, and even. Feel each breath connecting with your skin, small intestines, stomach, and gallbladder. Meditate as long as you can. Before ending, please say a little prayer –

“May the Spiritual Lights transform all the grief energy to joy,

May the Spiritual Lights transform my ego to have great compassion,

May the Spiritual Lights transform all conflicts in the world to bring balance and peace!”

© 2010 Zhongxian Wu