The Complexity of Chinese Astrology

Master Wu 3Since 1988, Master Zhongxian Wu has instructed thousands of students, both Eastern and Western. He synthesizes wisdom and experience for beginning and advancing practitioners, as well as for patients seeking healing, in his unique and professionally-designed courses and workshops.

Master Wu is the author of several Singing Dragon books including, The 12 Chinese Animals: Create Harmony in your Daily Life through Ancient Chinese Wisdom. Here, he answers a few questions about the book.

How did this book come about?

I grew up in a traditional fishing village in southeast China, and for my entire upbringing, I saw that people commonly used astrology to help make decisions about important events (finding a spouse, setting a wedding date, building a house, opening a business, health issues, etc). Because our village had no electricity, pipe water, or roads larger than a foot path, we all lived very closely with the rhythms of nature.

Chinese astrology is the art of living in harmony with the hourly, daily, monthly, and yearly cycles of life. When I was young, my mother always consulted the people living in the local temple when she needed help. I was astonished by the accuracy of their advice and their ability to predict outcomes. I became interested in learning more about astrology and its connection to Chinese medicine and the Yijing prediction system. My main focus is teaching Qigong, Taiji and the Yijing to help others to create harmony in their life. Through over 20 years of teaching these ancient Chinese wisdom practices, I realised that Chinese astrology is a great tool to help guide people through their life and their inner cultivation.

Chinese astrology is far more complex than most people realise. What accounts for this misconception, and how does your book contribute to a deeper understanding?

In the West, most people think Chinese astrology is only about their yearly animal sign. The knowledge of Chinese astrology system is extremely complicated, and I think perhaps difficult for most people to understand. In China, we call astrology BaZi (8 characters) or MingLi (principle of your karma), but only a small amount of people actually understand how to put together and interpret a chart. Most Chinese have to find an expert to help them, and finding someone really qualified and skillful can be challenging. Of course, you may easily find a fortuneteller on the street, but they are usually not very accurate.

I think the misconception in the West is mostly for convenience sake, to make it more simplified, more available for the general public and more for entertainment value. The yearly animal sign is a small percentage of what influences your entire chart. In my book, I also discuss the monthly and daily animal sign, which will help people develop a fuller understanding of their chart. It is important to realise that the 12 animals is just one aspect of Chinese astrology – creating and understanding a whole chart for the sake of prediction is a much more complicated process.

Most people do not realise that the 12 animals also relate to the 12 tidal hexagrams of the Yijing. The Yijing, of course, is a method of understanding the rhythms of nature and of life. When I wrote this book, I wanted people to get a little taste for the complexity behind the Chinese astrological system.

What does it mean to have an energetic month, day or year?

The energetic day, month and year are based on the rhythm of the sun and moon, which is different from the Gregorian calendar. For example, the energetic year is not from January 1 (the Gregorian new year) or the first new moon of the first lunar month (the Chinese new year), but rather, it the begins at the time where the sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 315 degrees, which usually occurs on Feb 4th or 5th in the Gregorian calendar.

How does understanding one’s Chinese animal symbols help them make better choices?

The use of Chinese animal symbols is a key to understanding the principles of your life and of your karma. They can help you understand your strengths and your weaknesses. Becoming conscious of your own patterns will give you information about how to cultivate your gifts and refine your challenges, which will help make your life flow more easily, with less struggle, and bring you success in your pursuits.

In the final chapter of the book, you discuss the Daoist concept that ‘life is not controlled by fate or karma alone’. What does this mean in the context of astrology?

If you want to change your karma, you have to know what your karma is.

A good understanding of Chinese astrology doesn’t only help you understand your karma and predict the future. The purpose of the reading is to guide you to make changes in your life, from daily lifestyle habits to larger life decisions that will allow you to change your karma, to help you remain centered when something unexpected happens, to steer clear of trauma, and put you on on the path of health, prosperity, and longevity.

How do you integrate your Chinese animal symbols into your own daily life?

I use the practices to guide my inner cultivation in order to balance and strengthen my astrological chart (which varies depending on the hour, day, month, season, year, or external life event), so that I feel more harmonious with my self, my family, and with nature. For example, I will check the Chinese calendar to pick out dates for travel or signing a contract. Based on the animal symbols, I also chose special colours for home and office in order to create the right fengshui for those environments. My wife and I make meals according the the principles of the Chinese animal clock to create a healthy daily rhythm for our family.

The 12 Chinese Animals: Create Harmony in your Daily Life through Ancient Chinese Wisdom and Master Wu’s other books on Qigong and ancient wisdom traditions are available from www.singingdragon.com

Have all of Chinese Medicine in your pocket – interview with Richard Bertschinger

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100 Richard Bertschinger is a practising acupuncturist, teacher of the healing arts, and translator of ancient Chinese texts. He studied for ten years with the Taoist sage and Master, Gia-fu Feng. He talks to Singing Dragon about his groundbreaking translation work, ‘the oldest book in the world’, and having all of Chinese medicine in your pocket.

Thanks for agreeing to talk to us, Richard, about your five books.  I wondered if you could tell our readers something briefly about each and how they came about?

Well these books are really a summation of my Taoist studies over the last thirty years.  The titles are worth repeating:  The Secret of Everlasting Life, Yijing: Shamanic Oracle of China, Everyday Qigong Practice, The Great Intent and Essential Texts in Chinese Medicine.  I was fortunate to meet a Chinese-American Giafu Feng in the ‘seventies who introduced me to the Chinese world of the Tao – really it was from Giafu that I got the inspiration for this work.  He was brought up in Shanghai during tumultuous 1920’s in China.  In his last few days (he died in 1986) he spoke to me about alchemy – in fact it was his overwhelming concern that I should work on making the idea of alchemical practice available to the West.  And I knew nothing about it!  So I dived into what was in translation at that time.  There was actually very little.  The oldest work, written in the 2nd century AD was this text – which I have presented asBertschinger_Secret-of-Everl_978-1-84819-048-1_colourjpg-web The Secret of Everlasting Life. It is primarily a Qigong manual, in fact the very first to be written, anywhere in the world!  So I cut my teeth on this and its Chinese commentaries.  All my work is based upon my reading of the Chinese commentaries – and on how they were explained to me by Giafu.  In this I think I was blessed, in having the ‘key’, as it were – his oral instruction – to unlock this extremely intricate puzzle.

What do you mean, then, by this ‘intricate puzzle’?

Actually this puzzle is just the Chinese Mind!  I feel strongly that the Chinese ideas and skills, knowledge and techniques (including acupuncture) should be taken within their own context – you cannot just import techniques and not understand the background teaching and philosophy.  It really will not work.

You are referring to acupuncture perhaps?  Where more ‘medical’ acupuncturists, such as doctors and nurses use acupuncture without a full apprenticeship?

Bertschinger_Great-Intent-Ac_978-1-84819-132-7_colourjpg-webNot really, I think that acupuncture can survive any usage.  It is resilient enough!  But certainly without the dedication of a three year training you are not going to be using its full potential. And you are not giving patients the best either! Anyway, this leads on to The Great Intent, which is actually a re-working of The Golden Needle, a book published earlier in 1991.  Singing Dragon was quite keen to reprint this, so I expanded and rewrote the introduction.  This is a first translation of many of the odes, song and poems which have, for centuries, been used in teaching acupuncture theory and technique.  Again I was keen to get all these ideas out to medical practitioners, who wanted to begin exploring some of the greater subtleties of needling – as well as brush up their theoretical knowledge.  I know these poems have proved an inspiration to many.

Now tell us a little about Yijing: Shamanic Oracle of China.  I understand the Yijing has been referred to as ‘the oldest book in the world’.  How can you justify such a statement!

Bertschinger_Yijing-Shamanic_978-1-84819-083-2_colourjpg-webBecause the Yijing has its origins, and no one would deny this, in the oracle bones, the scapula of oxen, tortoise shells and the like, which have been unearthed recently in China.  These prove that an oracle much like the Yijing (or ‘Book of Change’) was in use some 3000 years ago, in Bronze Age China.  The Yijing is all about communicating with the unseen and unsaid.  It is an oracle, yes, but also has a philosophy around it of Yin and Yang, the flux within the universe, light and dark, day and night, winter and summer, and the life and death of all living things.  It is thus at the threshold of putting an understanding of these things into words – it uses images to communicate ideas, on the borderline of thought, as it were.  And this was all happening 3000 years ago, before there were any books!  So unlike the Dead Sea Scrolls or Egyptian Scriptures, the Yijing was trying to be useful – not trying to hand down a received wisdom, or deal of concepts.  It was about meaning.  About the meaning of life, about greatness – about what it is to be human!  Like so much of Chinese philosophy, it told us how to live.

Bertschinger_Everyday-Qigong_978-1-84819-117-4_colourjpg-webWell, that is quite a topic.  The last two books you mentioned about are Everyday Qigong Practice

That one ‘does what it says on the tin’.  It is a simple introduction to Qigong exercises, with brilliant diagrams by Harriet Lewars – you can pick it up, and seconds later be practicing qigong, and circulating the Qi.

And the last, Essential Texts in Chinese Medicine: The Single Idea in the Mind of the Yellow Emperor?

Bertschinger_Essential-Texts_978-1-84819-162-4_colourjpg-webThis is my latest book. It is a digest of the medical writings contained in the Huangdi Neijing, or Yellow Emperor’s Book of Medicine, the great compendium of medical studies produced during the Han, and which has provided the backbone of all traditional medicine in the East for the last two-thousand years.  I was fortunate, again, to pick up a copy of a condensed version of this book in 1981 at Stillpoint, Colorado, where I was studying with Giafu Feng – and he started me off with some tape recordings, he would get up 4 am, make a large pot of Earl Grey tea, which we  would share and off he would go, extemporising a translation ‘on the hoof’ as it were of this book.  Page One, Chapter One.  It took him perhaps three months to finish, and I had to leave before it was done, but the next spring I remember him arriving at Heathrow airport with a large carrier bag in his hand, ‘here you are Richard the Book of Medicine, finished!’  There was no way I could turn down a commission such as this!  So I have been working at producing a readable version of this text.  Firstly I translated the Chinese commentaries, most from the Ming and Qing, then I collated them with his version.  Then I also interleaved my own acupunc­ture studies and notes from Jack Worsley’s teachings and finally, after many years work, I have a version which I think is just about ready to go to press.  It grew in the making, but from quite early on I saw that there was one thread running through the whole – this is obvious to anyone who begins to read the book.  This one thread I rather grandly name ‘the single idea’ – really it describes the workings of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements.  Once you can get a handle of what they are talking about and how they work, you really do have Chinese medicine ‘in your pocket’, as it were.

The Practice of Sitting and Forgetting

Cherng-Schwair_Daoist-Meditati_978-1-84819-211-9_colourjpg-webDiscourse on Sitting and Forgetting is an 8th century classic text on meditation by Si Ma Cheng Zhen, in his translation Wu Jyh Cherng deciphers the complex Chinese metaphors to make a practical guide  for those looking to deepen their meditation practice. In this extract Cherng looks at what is really meant by “sitting and forgetting” as a definition for meditation.

Zhuāng Zǐ said: ‘Relax one’s body and abandon one’s perspicacity; eliminate one’s norms and let go of one’s intelligence, uniting oneself to the Great Opening. This is called the practice of Sitting and Forgetting.’

Relaxing the body and eliminating the norms is sitting naturally to meditate, without being concerned about norms regarding elegance; abandoning one’s perspicacity and letting go of one’s intelligence is removing oneself from active thoughts during meditation; and the Great Opening is the doorway which is revealed within meditation and which gives access to the Emptiness.

The practitioner should use the time devoted to meditation to relax, rest and recharge his energy. In the period preceding the practice, he relaxes the body and mind and begins the process of systematic forgetting, until forgetting himself. He abandons logical and imaginative reasonings, all memories and wanderings of the mind, worries and frustrations. In this state, he shall be resting as if on holiday, in his room. As all activities are suspended, he also frees himself of the limitations imposed by the norms and constant demands on the use of his intelligence. During meditation he need only give himself up to the naturalness, to be at one with the Great Opening.

Living peacefully in society is based on the use of intelligence, on the norms of a good education and ethical principles of behaviour. A norm is a precept, a standard established as a base for the practice of an action, and intelligence has the meaning of elaborate, intentional thoughts in chains. But, upon meditating, the norms should be eliminated and the use of intelligence removed. While one’s everyday life is conditioned by norms and by the use of intelligence, one needs to reserve the moment of meditation for resting from the rules and from the need to be constantly rationalizing.

When preparing to meditate, the practitioner forgets appearances. He is not worried about his hair, whether it’s nice and tidy or not, or about his beard, whether it’s trimmed or in need of a shave. He is not worried about the spot on his face, or about how his clothes look: whether they are fashionable, attractive or ugly – he is only concerned about the comfort that the clothes need to provide. At that point, he puts himself at ease and gradually ceases to fulfil the norms, in order to fulfil the demands of his body, while seeking the position he considers comfortable, until he attains a state of tranquillity and enters meditation, at which time all the rules and the use of intelligence are forgotten. When alone in the room, with the door closed, sat comfortably to begin the meditation, the practitioner need not follow norms, nor activate his intelligence. Here there is no dispute or discussion; there are no challenges to be answered. Therefore, there is no need to prepare for clashes. The person only needs, at this moment, to let go of rationality and relax the body and mind so as to enter meditation.

If the practitioner is dedicated and disciplined, he will advance, until reaching the state of Primordial Chaos and feel as if a door has opened within him, through which he shall pass to enter the Emptiness. This is the Great Opening, the apex of the Daoist Spiritual Path: the consciousness expands to the infinite, all limits are broken, norms and logical reasonings cease to exist as impositions and all forms, images and languages are forgotten. But the creative potential remains present because the practitioner has not ceased to be conscious, he has simply become serene. And what was manifest has been transformed into potential.

 

Wu Jyh Cherng (1958-2004), was a Taoist High Priest and Master of Meditation, Rites and Ceremonies. He was ordained as a priest by the World Central Committee of Taoism based in Taiwan and in 1991 he founded the Taoist Society of Brazil. Master Cherng spread the Taoist doctrine of the Orthodox Unitary Order and passed on his knowledge of this Tradition to his disciples and followers.

Request a copy of our 2014 Singing Dragon new and bestselling books

SD logo 300 x 300 pixelsOur brand new catalogue of books and resources from will be available soon.

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Our new catalogue has essential new titles from Charles Buck (Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine: Roots of Modern Practice) and Clare Harvey (The Practitioner’s Encyclopedia of Flower Remedies).

This is a great opportunity for parents to get a hold of Damo Mitchell’s newest book, The Four Dragons as well as Ioannis Solos’ Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice.

There are useful new resources for every practice like Getting Better at Getting People Better by Noah Karrasch, and the new fully updated edition of A Guide to Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Hypermobility Type) by Isobel Knight.

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Singing Dragon complete 2014

This fully interactive brochure has all of the new Singing Dragon titles for the spring and summer of 2014 as well as our complete backlist. In here you will find books on Chinese medicine, complementary therapies, martial arts, nutrition, yoga, ayurveda, qigong, Daoism, aromatherapy, and many more alternative therapies and ancient wisdom traditions.

Click on the covers or titles to be taken to the book’s page on the Singing Dragon website. If you would like to request hard copies please email hello@singingdragon.com with your details and the number of copies you would like.

New books on martial arts and qigong – 2014

The Singing Dragon Martial Arts and Qigong catalogue is now available to view online and download. We hope you will find something in here which inspires you to try a new martial art or take your practice to a new level. In this catalogue you will find books on Chinese martial arts, tai chi, bagua, qigong, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, Daoism and enlightenment.

 
All the titles, author names, and covers are interactive; just click on them to be taken to the book or author page on the Singing Dragon website.

Sign up to receive the Singing Dragon New Titles Catalogue, Autumn/Winter 2013-14

front coverOur Singing Dragon New Titles catalogue for Autumn and Winter 2013-14 is now available. With full information on our expanding list of books in Chinese Medicine, Qigong, Daoism, Yoga, Aromatherapy, and a variety of other disciplines, our new titles catalogue is an essential resource for complementary health practitioners and anyone interested in enhancing their own health, wellbeing and personal development.

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Singing Dragon at the National Qigong Association’s 18th Annual Conference

 

The National Qigong Association held its 18th annual conference in Valley Forge, PA, last weekend. This is always a fun conference to attend, and Singing Dragon got a great welcome, not least because Damo Mitchell (author of Daoist Nei Gong, and the new Heavenly Streams) was Saturday night’s keynote speaker, and he spent a lot of time hanging out with the attendees on the Singing Dragon stand over the weekend.

Damo Mitchell speech panorama

Damo’s keynote on the fundamentals of Nei Gong

There were lots of interesting things going on. Damo’s keynote on the fundamentals of Nei Gong (simple but not so simple) was extremely well received, and followed up by an excellent workshop the next morning which took attendees through the first principles of Nei Gong – learning by doing and giving a strong grounding in how to take the first steps towards enlightenment…

Damo Mitchell and NQA President Mark R. Reinhart holding a copy of Damo's book, Daoist Nei Gong

Damo Mitchell and NQA President Mark R. Reinhart holding a copy of Damo’s book, Daoist Nei Gong

The conference workshops always offer a vast range of approaches and styles, so attendees were as usual spoilt for choice. Old hands know that Daisy Lee (Friday’s keynote) always does a wonderful workshop, and this year it was open to men as well as women. Amongst many other highlights, Solala Towler, author of Cha Dao, and editor of The Empty Vessel, taught the Great Spiraling Dragon Qigong from Wudang, while NQA Chair Mark Reinhart ran a workshop on Qigong for addiction. Singing Dragon publisher Jessica Kingsley flew over from London for the conference, and had a great time trying to learn how to paint bamboo in Maryann Charmoz’s excellent workshop on Chinese Brush Painting, and refreshing a dim memory of the fan form in Mary Sturtevant’s popular workshop.

Attendees ranged from Masters with decades of learning under their belts to the newest of practitioners, and as we’ve seen from previous conferences, the emphasis is always on openness and enthusiasm.

Damo Mitchell speaking with a NQA conference attendee during his book signing

Damo Mitchell speaking with a NQA conference attendee during his book signing

The Singing Dragon reception (any excuse for a party) on Saturday evening following Damo’s keynote allowed everyone to let their hair down and chat informally to the conference big names, who are always generous with information and advice – good fun. In summing up at the end of the conference, Mark encouraged everyone to bring a friend new to Qigong next time. It certainly seems they would have a good time if they came.

All five of the sales and marketing staff from the Singing Dragon Philadelphia office made it out to the conference at various times over the weekend and really enjoyed it.

 

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