Sun Wukong, an illustration from A Modern Journey to the West
by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Public Domain, Wikimedia Commond)
In the Chinese tradition, each new year is designated one of the 12 animals in the zodiac. 2016 is a Monkey year, meaning that the ninth animal in the zodiac rules the year from February 8, 2016 to January 27, 2017. Each zodiac year has its own qualities, especially for those born in that year, and is considered either fortunate or inauspicious for the rest of the zodiac. Monkey years come in 12 year cycles – 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 and 2016.
To further complicate matters, just being a Monkey year isn’t all there is to it. The year is also associated with one of the five Chinese elements. These comprise water, fire, earth, wood and metal (gold). These elements change the character of the animal, in this case to a Fire Monkey, also known as a Red Monkey. Most Fire Monkeys today were born in 1956 from February 12, 1956 to January 30, 1957. Animal/element combinations are far more rare than animal years, so are significant for those born in that year.
In Chinese astrology, Monkey is mischievous, capricious and very intelligent. Their irrepressible sense of humor is recorded in the legend of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, where he even caused havoc in Heaven. Aggressive and unstoppable, Sun Wukong was probably a Fire Monkey, destined to cause disruption but also to achieve great things. This highly competitive Monkey likes to be first in all things, and has little patience for the slow steady climb to the top. Fire Monkey leaps from branch to branch, from ledge to ledge, over the heads of anyone in the way.
On the positive side, Fire Monkey is also large in generosity and charm. Fire Monkey always has a huge circle of friends, drawn to the ebullience and charm of this irrepressible character. Not for Fire Monkey the lonely pinnacles of success, not when you can gather all your friends around and show off. Fire Monkey years are great boosters for Fire Monkey ambition or they can just be a great time to caper around and do mischief. Either way, the energy around a Fire Monkey will push them further up the ladder.
The other signs in the animal zodiac will fare well, or ill, according to their compatibility with the Year of the Monkey. It is auspicious for Rat, Snake, Dog, Pig, Dragon, Horse and Rabbit, who will find that luck will favor them. This is especially true of Horse, which is said to be protected by Monkey. It is less auspicious for Ox, Tiger, Goat, and Rooster, who may face challenges and will have to stay on their toes. For a person born in a Monkey year, this is always a challenging time due to stress and too much mischief making. But the clever Monkey usually manages to overcome problems simply by leaping on to the next thing.
In China, welcoming a new year in the most auspicious manner possible is important for prosperity and good fortune. A good start to the year should ensure a good year to follow. The new year has no set date, but falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. The date usually sometime in the last week of January and the first two weeks of February. This is the time of new moon and the start of the new year. It is also known as the Spring Festival, and it is celebrated for 15 days, until the full moon. Each day of the festival has its own designation, but it is primarily a time for families. On New Year’s Eve, there is a big family celebration which brings everyone together from near and far. The animal of the year features heavily in decorations which are not put up before New Year’s Eve. Red is an auspicious color in China, associated with happiness and celebration, so there will be a lot of red monkeys joining the ubiquitous red lanterns, red envelopes and lucky red underwear on sale.
A Monkey year promises merriment and mayhem, and a Fire Monkey year adds excitement and unpredictability. Things may not always go according to plan, but the irrepressible nature of Monkey will ensure that it won’t be dull.