In traditional Daoist lore, the turning of the Chinese New Year can bring about transformations to prevailing energies, both subtle and more sweeping.
In previous years I have written about the Year of the Fire Monkey and the Year of the Fire Rooster – now, as we commence the Year of the Earth Dog, let’s briefly consider – albeit with a light touch – what this might mean for the coming months …
Astrology is one of the mankind’s enduring traditions, arousing responses as diverse as amusement and fear, scepticism and reverence. It is interesting to see how astrological ideas have influenced social and cultural development around the world, and they have perhaps done so more strongly in mainland China than anywhere.
Chinese astrology developed with deep roots in Daoist scientific enquiry and philosophy.
In their excellent book ‘Taoist Astrology: A Handbook of the Authentic Chinese Tradition’ (Destiny Books, 1997) authors Susan Levitt and Jean Tang explain:
“In the distant past, humanity’s relationship with animals was necessary for survival. When animals were domesticated, Taoists observed the animals’ traits. Over the centuries, the priests developed a system of twelve animals for a twelve-year cycle. Human physical and temperamental attributes correlated with certain years. This system became the twelve earthly branches.
In the year 2637 BCE the Chinese Emperor Huang Ti standardised this Taoist twelve-year calendar, which has been in continuous use ever since.”
The twelve earthly branches are combined with the Five Elemental Phases (Earth, Fire, Water, Metal and Wood) to produce a 60-year cycle. Hence the construct of the Earth Dog that will appear just once or twice in a person’s lifetime.
From Fire to Earth
Before considering the characteristics of the Dog, let’s consider the impact that the prevailing element has.
The last two years have been very dynamic ones, and in many respects we have seen some volatility:
The Fire element combined with the Monkey character in 2016-17, and as we might have expected the year twisted through many dramatic and unexpected turns, surprising us relentlessly: the election of Donald Trump, Brexit, terrorist attacks in Brussels, Nice, and Berlin, mass shootings in the US, an attempted coup in Turkey, protests in Ethiopia, and a truly horrifying catastrophe in Syria as the civil war there intensified. The Fire Monkey year saw people around the world rejecting the status quo.
The Fire element combined with the Rooster character in 2017-18, and my post a year ago included a prediction that 2017 would see a lot of flamboyant and unruly posturing and boisterous strutting, most of which would amount to no more than hot air. Again, this has proven to be fairly close to the mark, and has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride!
So it is likely to come as a relief to many that the transition to Earth element’s dominance will see some slowing of the pace of unpredictable change.
The Earth element brings stability and grounding,
This is good news for all who are trying to build something secure, be it a family, home, career, business – or even their piano playing ability!
The Character of the Dog
I will leave it to a couple of authorities on the subject to summarise how the Dog is seen in Chinese culture and thinking:
“Dog is the closest friend of human beings. Dog helps human beings to hunt, investigate and guard. Dog is a symbol of bravery, caution, honesty and loyalty.”
Master Zhongxian Wu, The 12 Chinese Animals (Singing Dragon, 2010)
“Dogs are reliable and trustworthy. They take their duties seriously and their word is their bond. They are also selfless and are prepared to put others, or causes, before themselves. Of all the Chinese signs, the Dog is the most altruistic. Dogs loathe injustice and are prepared to speak out against wrongs. They are defenders, crusaders and very principled.”
Neil Somerville, Your Chinese Horoscope for Each and Every Year (HarperCollins, 2017)
There is a two-fold character of the Dog which is worth bearing in mind –
- firstly the loyal, protective nature of the dog towards its own;
- and secondly its fierceness towards unwelcome outsiders.
But underpinning all of this, the tendency towards balance and stability, and the priority given to security.
The Year Ahead
Predictably, the internet is awash with predictions, but there are a number of common threads…
Dog Years tend to see a rise in traditional values at home, alongside moves towards dialogue, solidarity and social justice more broadly.
Dog years also, apparently, favour innovation. So we can expect that 2018 might include progress towards renewable energy, ambitious industrial and engineering projects, and forward-thinking banking and economic initiatives.
To quote from Levitt and Tang again:
“The Year of the Dog is a time of fairness and equality. Controversial issues are given their due, revolutions are successful, politics are liberal, and political oppression is opposed. Integrity and honesty are the values that lead to success under Dog’s watchful and just influence.”
Susan Levitt and Jean Tang,
‘Taoist Astrology: A Handbook of the Authentic Chinese Tradition’ (Destiny Books, 1997)
It sounds to me as if we could be in for quite a few positive changes in the coming months, then!
Suggestions for Pianists
What are the auspices for pianists?
I would suggest that, in keeping with the character of the Earth Dog, we might see the coming year as one of:
- bringing sincerity to our playing;
- adding balance to our repertoire;
- digging deeper roots in terms of technique, understanding and aural;
- and consolidating our Active Repertoire.
But whatever the Year of the Earth Dog might mean for us, I would like to take this moment to again wish all readers of Pianodao a fruitful and prosperous New Year 2018!