Happy Chinese New Year – Year of the Water Snake

The Chinese lunar Year of the Water Snake began February 10th. 

The Chinese New Year’s Days are also called the Spring Festival. The Spring Festival lasts 10 days, the Snake Year lasts one lunar year (12 months) until Jan. 30, 2014.

The Chinese lunar calendar began in 2697 BC when the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di) became king. The Yellow Emperor is important for Chinese medicine as he is credited for coalescing the Chinese medical knowledge at that time into one volume, The Yellow’s Emperor’s Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing) which lays out the basic theory of Chinese medicine. This volume is credited with being the world’s oldest medical text. Chinese medical practitioners continue to study the this text today to gain a deeper understanding of the medicine.

Wikipedia tells the story of the order of the Chinese zodiac signs:

According to one mythical legend, there is a reason for the order of the 12 animals in the 12 year cycle. The story goes that a race was held to cross a great river, and the order of the animals in the cycle was based upon their order in finishing the race. In this story, the snake compensated for not being the best swimmer by hitching a hidden ride on the horses hoof, and when the horse was just about to cross the finish line, jumping out, scaring the horse, and thus edging it out for sixth place.

The snake symbolizes transformation: shedding of the skin, so expect some changes this year. Stephanie Dempsie notes on Huffington Post.com that it is important to do your research prior to making any big decisions during Snake years, as things are not always what they seem to be on the surface.

The water refers to the five element system, which we also use for diagnosis in Chinese medicine. The five elements are earth, air, water, fire and wood. The Chinese zodiac moves through these five elements. So one year is the water snake, another is the fire rabbit, and so on. You might think of water as a modifier to the zodiac sign.

The Taoists respect water for its ability to adapt and transform. It can be hard, as ice and break objects, such as rock. Or mutable and flowing, like a river and move around obstructions, like boulders. Water teaches us to be flexible in approaching the challenges that life presents.

Gung Hay Fat Choy

Photo: newtown grafitti, flickr Creative Commons 2.0