Chinese astrology differs from Western astrology in the fact that there are five elements in the Chinese system, and they emphasize different positions in life rather than a specific set of characteristics. However, these elements can still indicate the characteristics a person bears, and which traits someone from one element shares with others from the same element.
Five Chinese Elements
There are five Chinese elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Each element is strongly related to one another, and there are many mnemonic devices to help remember them, such as:
- Wood feeds a fire
- Fire makes ash (earth)
- Earth contains metal
- Metal holds water (as in a pail or bucket)
- Water breeds wood
A few examples of how to interpret this include:
- Creation: Water gives life to Wood. Wood gives life to Fire. Fire gives life to Earth (ash). Earth gives life to Metal. Metal gives life to Water.
- Destruction: Wood's roots separate and break open the Earth. Earth absorbs Water. Water smothers Fire. Fire melts Metal. Metal penetrates Wood.
Much like the popular Yin-Yang symbol of Chinese astrology uses opposing force to promote the flow of energy, the five Chinese elements act in tandem, relate to one another, dance with one another, have specific attributes that separate one from the other, yet each depends on all the others to give it life.
Your element is determined by the year of your birth. Therefore, it's easy to figure out your element. Just look at the last number in your birth year and match it to the element listed for that number.
- If the last number in your birth year is 0 or 1, your element is Metal.
- If the last number in your birth year is 2 or 3, your element is Water.
- If the last number in your birth year is 4 or 5, your element is Wood.
- If the last number in your birth year is 6 or 7, your element is Fire.
- If the last number in your birth year is 8 or 9, your element is Earth.
As an example, if you were born in 1989, your element would be Earth.
Exploring Each Element
Each element has its own characteristics and associations with a different aspect of nature.
Wood is associated with the following.
- Color: Blue
- Symbol: Dragon
- Season: Spring
- Day: Thursday
- Planet: Jupiter
Those with Wood as their element are sensual, patient, understanding, warm, sociable, and compassionate. These are stable and practical individuals who can also be competitive and intrusive because they may lack a firm grasp of boundaries or limits.
Fire is associated with the following.
- Color: Red
- Symbol: Phoenix
- Season: Summer
- Day: Tuesday
- Planet: Mars
Those with Fire as their element are persistent and intense. These are warm individuals who are passionate about life, bore quickly, tend to be thrill seekers who roam from one adventure to the next, and can quickly and easily switch from one interest to another.
Earth is associated with the following.
- Color: Yellow
- Symbol: Cauldron
- Season: Between summer and autumn
- Day: Saturday
- Planet: Saturn
Those with Earth as their element are friends and family oriented. They're responsible, fair-minded, cautious individuals who are natural born peace-keepers and great problem solvers. However, they can also be helpful to a fault, or self-centered and controlling.
Metal is associated with the following.
- Color: White
- Symbol: Tiger
- Season: Autumn
- Day: Friday
- Planet: Venus
Those with Metal as their element are unyielding, rigid, determined, and regimented. They are rational people who are prone to thought and contemplation and tend to be minimalists. These are disciplined individuals with high morals and high standards who can also be judgmental, emotionally cold, sharp as a knife, forceful, and controlling.
Water is associated with the following.
- Color: Black
- Symbol: Turtle
- Season: Winter
- Day: Wednesday
- Planet: Mercury
Those with Water as their element enjoy their own company and need time for inner reflection. They are often diplomatic, observant, and empathetic. They are gentle but strong, quiet, and peaceful individuals who can also be indecisive, self-indulgent, passive, and have a great capacity to overwhelm others.
Finding Your Chinese Zodiac Animal
Much like the five Chinese elements, each Chinese Zodiac animal is assigned to a year. If you were born after 1931, you can find your Chinese animal zodiac sign by looking up your birth year in the list below.
- Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948, 1936
- Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949, 1937
- Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950, 1938
- Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951, 1939
- Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952, 1940
- Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953, 1941
- Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942
- Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955, 1943, 1931
- Monkey: 2015, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956, 1944, 1932
- Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933
- Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958, 1946, 1934
- Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959, 1947, 1935
It's the combination of your element and animal that gives definition to your most distinguishing personality traits.
The Chinese Elements
A desire for the ebb and flow of life to be harmonious and balanced is the strong focus of Eastern philosophies. Asian cultures believe the five elements describe the creative flow of the symbiotic relationship between all things, and the five element theory is applied to almost everything, from astrology, Feng Shui, and Chinese medicine, to the martial arts.