Ancient Origins of Chinese Astrology

by Nancy Humphreys on May 1, 2017

Complete Astrological Handbook - Chinese Astrology

Because I was interested in the Chinese Book of Changes (i.e., the I Ching), I once asked Maya if she knew anything about Chinese astrology.

She replied that she’d studied it, but Chinese astrology was quite complicated, so no, she didn’t understand it.

Recently while looking through Maya del Mar’s collection of astrological materials, I came across a binder titled “Four Pillar Workbook” by Anistatia R. Miller and Jared M. Brown. I was happy to see this spiral bound book had a few notes in the margins in Maya’s handwriting.

This booklet, self-published in 1999-2000, opened with the preface of a larger book by these two authors. The full-length book is called The Complete Astrological Handbook For the Twenty-First Century (published September 28, 1999 by Schocken). Oddly enough, the two authors who wrote this 624-page guide made a career of writing books about the art of mixology using wine and spirits! But given the multiple denotations of the word, “spirits” in our English language, perhaps that’s not as much of a stretch as we might think.

In any case, this book was was picked for review by the solid sources that librarians use to select books for their libraries. It got an impressive annotation (see below), along with very positive reader reviews and an author interview on Amazon.

The annotation says:

The only book that brings together Chinese, Tibetan, Vedic, Arabian, Judaic, and Western astrology
Everything you need to know to calculate and interpret natal horoscopes and personal chronologies in all the major Eastern and Western traditions, including ninety charts and tables….

Here are just a few interesting things I learned from the excerpt from the preface to the Complete Astrological Handbook which was included in Maya’s copy of the authors’ 2000 “Workbook”:

  • Chinese astrology is one of the oldest systems in the world. It was codified when Emperor Huang Ti introduced a new luni-solar calendar in 2677 B.C. His calendar was one of the earliest known calendars in the world, and is still in use today.
  • This “Son of Heaven” Emperor was extremely interested in heavenly phenomena. He erected an observatory in 2608 B.C. and used the Pleiades star cluster as a starting point to measure positions of other phenomena he observed in the skies.
  • This celestial Emperor, being an observer of the motions of heavenly bodies and considering himself to be a mediator between Heaven and Earth, actually followed the path of sun during the year, staying at four palaces, each constructed in the appropriate direction for the four seasons he had laid out for his calendar.
  • In each palace Emperor Huang Ti wore the colors of the season and ate the foods recommended for that season in order to maintain the balance and harmony in his realm of what we would call the “natural order of things”.
  • At the new year in the Temple of Ancestors, Emperor Huang Ti worshipped five planets that symbolized five Chinese deities (called the White, Green, Black, Red and Yellow Rulers), the homes of deities who overthrew a rebel patriarch during the Battle of the Ten Thousand Immortals, the fixed stars of the Ursa Major (considered to be the homes of the Fates), and two luminaries, one for the Sun Palace and one for the Moon Palace.
Chinese Astrology Elements and Seasons

Classical Chinese seasons, elements and directions.

This kind of desire to have leaders who linked natural things of the universe and earth with the human social order is a key feature of the I Ching and of ancient Chinese culture as a whole, as well as of Chinese astrology.

Next month we’ll look at some of the linkages between the origins of ancient Chinese astrology and the I Ching.

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