Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Year of the Red Fire Rooster: Some Background

Saturday January 28, 2017 begins the Year of the Rooster. It is the beginning of the year 4714 (in some traditions, 4715) in the Asian lunar system, which is the Year of the Red Fire Rooster.

It should be noted that while rooster is the usual choice, the Chinese word 雞 or refers to chickens in general rather than just the male rooster or female chicken or hen. This holds true in Korean, Japanese and other traditions as well. In Tibetan and Nepalese tradition, the animal is extended to all domestic birds. For our purposes here, we will refer to the animal as the rooster, as this is the most commonly used word. 

In today’s posting, I would like to share with you some specifics about the Year of the Rooster  as well as some background to the Asian Zodiac system as a whole.

That said, you may also be interested in reading three related posts on

1)  Lunar New Year Customs around the world at


2)  Year of the Rooster: Business Impact  This post covers the business effects from travel to special editions of coins, stamps and gifts for the Lunar New Year around the world. http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2017/01/year-of-rooster-2017-business-impact.html 

3) Year of the Rooster 2017 with a list of 250 Celebrations Around the World.  This post first indicates where the Lunar New Year is an official state holiday. The post then goes on to share the wide range of events taking place outside of those countries. The listing here provides information and links celebration of
 the Year of the Rooster in 33 countries beyond where it is officially part of the tradition. Of these, 92 are in the United States, 33 in the United Kingdom29 in Canada, 20 in France17 in Australia8 in Germany,  6 in Indonesia, 5 in New Zealand, 4 each in Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand;  3 each in Brazil and the Netherlandsand 2 in Greece, Italy and Spain Additionally there were 1 each in Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dubai, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Mexico, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Romania and South Africa. This is available at  http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2017/01/year-of-rooster-2017-xxx-celebrations.html

In today’s posting, though, we look only at the background to the Year of the Rooster specifically and the Asian Zodiac system as a whole.


The Asian Zodiac Briefly Explained

The Asian Zodiac (or horoscope) associated with the Asian or Chinese New Year is taken very seriously by those who follow it in their tradition. The significance attributed to the combinations associated with the Asian horoscope affect business decisions, dates selected for important events such as weddings, and many other aspects of daily life. These views are widely shared, with a larger following than any single religion -- Western or Eastern. As a result, these beliefs should be treated with the respect accorded a religious belief (rather than with that of superstition as Western astrology is sometimes treated).

The Lunar Calendar

Because the Asian lunar calendar follows the moon, it seems to move within our solar-based Gregorian calendar. Moreover, the Gregorian calendar does not correspond fully with the Asian lunar calendar. Thus, January 28 marks the beginning of the Asian lunar calendar only this year  for the Year of the Rooster in 2017. For instance, it began last year on February 8, 2016 for the Year of the Monkey, ending on January 27, 2017. The previous year, the Year of the Sheep/Ram/Goat began on February 19, ending on January 26, 2016. Similarly, it was January 31, 2014 for the Year of the Horse with the last day falling on February 18, 2014. The year before the New Year began on February 10, 2013 with the last day of that year -- Year of the Snake -- falling on January 30, 2014, and so on.

The Twelve Animals of the Zodiac

The lunar calendar runs on a cycle of 12 years each represented by an animal.  The animals all have a balance of compatibility or incompatibility as represented in their place in the circle of the 12-year cycle. This year is the Year of the Rooster, the tenth animal in the cycle. 
The 12 Animals of the Zodiac

The 12 animals in their order are

  1. Rat
  2. Ox
  3. Tiger
  4. Rabbit
  5. Dragon
  6. Snake
  7. Horse
  8. Ram/Sheep/Goat
  9. Monkey
  10. Rooster
  11. Dog
  12. Pig

Each animal corresponds to a month of the lunar year. The ram or goat, this year's governing animal,  corresponds to the eighth animal in the cycle.

The Five Elements of the Wu Xing Cycle

Additionally, each 12-year cycle of animals runs on an additional cycle corresponding to the Wu Xing cycle of the five traditional Chinese elements. These are
  1. metal
  2. fire
  3. wood
  4. water
  5. earth
  6. Wu Xing Cycle

The five elements are in balance with each other, the basis of much of feng shui.

Combined, each element combines with each animal over a period of 60 years.  The current 12-year cycle combines with the element of Fire

Each element is also associated with a color. In the case of fire, that color is red.

Thus, this year is the Year of the Red Fire Monkey.

Spiritual Importance of the Asian Horoscope

Many followers of the Asian zodiac have a formal religious belief in the importance of the animal element combinations associated with each year in the 60-year cycle. This is clearly the case for those practicing Taoism.

For Taoists, the New Year is always of religious significance. This because in Taoism, the Lunar New Year's first day is a time when lesser deities or spirits are believed to ascend to the throne of the Jade Emperor (King of Heaven).  In Taoist tradition, the 12 animals were in a contest to greet the Jade Emperor; a 13th animal – the cat – was tricked by the rat (about five variations of how exist), which explains why cats have hated rats ever since.  A children's version of this story is told in an very pleasant rendition at the Topmarks education site. I encourage you to take a look at this version at 

The 12 Zodiac animals
in their race

The New Year is a religious event as well for a great number of the sects of Buddhism, and most famously for Tibetan Buddhists. In Buddhist tradition, the 12 animals were in a race to do honor to Lord Buddha on the eve of his death.  The rat and cat story is part of this tradition, too.  Incidentally, the rat was the first animal to greet Buddha.  He did so by helping the ox (which had poor eyesight) find his way across a stream by riding on his head.  When the two reached Lord Buddha on the other shore, the rat jumped off the ox’s head, reaching Lord Buddha first.  

Additionally, though Confucianism is not technically a religion (but rather a philosophical system), its followers also traditional observe the lunar New Year to show reverence to their ancestors.  Because of this, even Christians and practitioners of other faiths in such countries as  as Korea or Vietnam generally celebrate the holiday. The same holds true for those people in cultures with strong Confucian customs who have no religion at all or for those with mixed traditions.

Personality Traits and Asian Astrological Year

Year of the Rooster sidewalk plate
Philadelphia Chinatown
Many people attribute a great deal of significance to the personality traits attributed to the animal associated with the year in which they are born.  Each animal has its own traits, and then each animal and element combination has their own subtraits. These are explained later in the blog.

The Year of the Rooster is associated with punctuality and faithfulness (just as the rooster wakes up everyone each morning at the start of day). The Year of the Rooster is a good one for negotiations and getting one's message across to others -- just as the rooster is associated with clear communication (just as everyone can hear the rooster's morning call) and with common agreement (the rooster's call is, all agree, the start of the day). As with most Asian Horoscope years, those believers born in a previous year of the same animal will meet with good fortune.  

It is important to note that the animal of one’s birth year is not seen as fully able to stand on its own in understanding an individual’s personality traits and tendencies. These must at a minimum, as we have discussed, take into account the associated five elements. Additionally, East Asian astrologers account for the inner or secret animal assigned by the day of the month and hour of the day on which one is born.  In all, there are 8640 combinations (e.g., 12 months, 5 elements, 12 months, 12 times of day).

Chinese Astrology Not A Particular Accurate Term

The system discussed here is often called Chinese astrology. This is a misnomer for two reasons.  First, the holiday is far more widely observed than in just China, especially in Korea, Singapore, Bhutan, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia and Vietnam as well as those from these backgrounds living in other countries. 

I have described the holiday in general in this post. In a future post, I will discuss followed the culturally specific differences in customs at the close of this summary.

East Asian lunar zodiac
That said, for all the culturally diverse places in which the Asian New Year is celebrated, the calendar on which it is based does have its origins in China. The first written records of the calendar and the celebration of the New Year date to China’s Shang Dynasty (1766-1050 BC), although traditionally it is believed to date back to the rule of the semi-mythical Yellow Emperor Huang Di around 2600 BC.

A second reason the phrase Chinese astrology is a misnomer is that the system really has nothing to do with constellations as astrology does in the West. It is less a reading of the stars than an interpretation of the importance of the time, date and year in which one is born.  To the extent that when one is born matters to Western-style astrology, there is a correspondence. Moreover, there is another similarity as the five elements in the system, in fact, do correspond with the five planets known in ancient China.

Because of these corresponding commonalities with Western astrology, many people call the Asian system’s combinations of animals and elements the lunar or Chinese “horoscope”.  This is a bit of a misnomer, however, not only for the reasons just described but because the way in which people view the two “horoscopes” is very different.  

The difference here is that many people (although with many exceptions) in Europe, Australia and the Americas consider the Western zodiac horoscope of star signs (Scorpio, Sagittarius, etc.) to be a form of superstition, a game or something believed only partially. 

This is NOT the case with the Asian lunar horoscope cycle, where people follow their sign very seriously. As a result, the system, though it transcends that of any specific religion, should be treated with the respect accorded religious beliefs. In any case, the point here is that in a cross-cultural and inter-religious sense, the issue of lunar horoscope animal element signs should be treated with respect.

The Rooster in Buddhist and Taoist Tradition

The rooster is the only bird in the Lunar Zodiac.  The rooster was not a first choice for inclusion but in time earned his way.
 "Black Rooster and Bamboo" by Soga Shōhaku, Edo Period, Japan
Boston Museum of Fine Arts
Man-Ho Kwok in his book on Chinese Astrology (listed in the bibliography below) relates the rest of this Taoist tale regarding the Rooster and the Jade Emperor as follows: 

Originally, the rooster was a disruptive and aggressive animal. When the twelve signs were being chosen, he was not considered as a candidate. Disturbed, he spoke to his friend the horse, asking him how he'd been chosen. The horse replied that it was simple -- he helped the people by ploughing the land, bearing goods and fighting in wartime. The rooster said that he would also like to be a sign. 'You will have to do something for humanity, then," replied the horse, 'All the others do -- the ox ploughs, the pig provides meat, the dragon controls the rain. You have a wonderful voice; why not use that?'
The rooster thought this over, and came to a decision. He began to use his voice to wake people in the morning, so that they would get to work. Moved, the people asked the Jade Emperor to grant him a place in the competition. (p. 30)

The rooster in Buddhist and Taoist tradition is the adversary of the dog (next year's animal). This relates back to the initial race to greet the Jade Emperor. Again, Man-Ho Kwok in his book on Chinese Astrology provides an explanation. 

 Although flying animals were not allowed to compete [in the race], the Emperor made an exception... During the great race, the dog and the rooster were neck and neck until, as they both were nearing the finish, the rooster resorted to flying to arrive before the dog to gain a place as the tenth sign. Since then, the dog has hated the rooster, which is why dogs chase roosters to this day.  (p. 30)

Personality Traits Associated with Year of the Rooster
Ai Weiwei (2011)Rooster from the Circle of the Zodiac
It is important, again, to emphasize that for many people, the traits described here are taken very seriously and, by many others, at least somewhat seriously. The descriptions that follow are general traits. Professional astrologers in East Asia bore down through the specific year in the 60-year cycle (the element), the specific day and the specific hour of birth. As mentioned above, this produces 8640 possible permutations. The characteristics of  any given year's zodiac animal, therefore, is considered by believers to be a very general influence.

Positive Rooster Traits
Those born in the Year of the Rooster are – on the positive side -- are usually seen as hard-working, fearless, and honest on the positive side. They are the epitome of self-starters. The site Senn sums this up well, noting: 

The Rooster is an animal guided by its instinct, welcoming the morning sun for no other reason that it just feels right. Similarly, those born under the sign of the Rooster will often find success when they allow themselves to be led by their instinct. This way compromise is swift, respect is steadily gained, and the overall pace of their life is one in which they continue to achieve rather than dwell or worry. https://senn.cocoloni.com/chinese-zodiac/characteristics/rooster/
Roosters, Seoul Museum of the Chicken
Professionally, people born in the Year of the Rooster are believed to have great communication skills.  As Man-Ho Kwok in his book on Chinese Astrology explains, Rooster people
are suited to a career in public relations, commercial sales, or politics...[They] would also be a good author, entertainer, beautician or member of the armed forces. (p. 31)
People born in the Year of the Rooster are believed to be innately flamboyant and to have the knack of being heard by others. The characteristic of fire exaggerates those abilities... making Rooster people's natural qualities enflamed with heated attention and fiery rhetoric.

Rooster people of any year, though, are believed to excel at any calling that requires discussion, debate or being at the center of attention. People born in the Year of the Rooster are the sign thought most well-equipped to be performers, and most notably so to be singers. Consequently (for believers), it does not seem unusual that so many singers are born in Rooster years. Famous Year of the Rooster people include Dolly Parton, Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys, Neil Young, Gwen Stefani, Willie Nelson, Bob Seger, Britney Spears, Donny Osmond, Bette Midler, Van Morrison, Jennifer Lopez, Jose Feliciano, Bob Marley, James Brown, Lou Rahls, Carly Simon, Gloria Estefan and Eric Clapton. Because Rooster people are (for believers) inherently good at having their ideas heard and -- more importantly -- understood, it seems likewise fitting that such great codifiers of thought as Confucius and Benjamin Franklin were also people born in Rooster years.

Negative Traits

On the negative side, people born in the Year of the Rooster can become rigid in their behavior to the point of being blindly loyal. At their worst, Rooster people are arrogant and -- like the strutting barnyard bird -- vain and full of overly self-advancing "crowing."

The negative traits tend to be the exaggerated version of their positive attributes. For instance, their the positive trait of loyalty and consistency are in their extreme unquestioning and unbending.  Rooster people are hard to ignore -- which is good when people need to hear what they have to share but not so good when their message lacks tact or consideration of the bigger picture. 

Year of the Fire Rooster Predictions

 Rooster, Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE)
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Predictions for the Year of the Fire Rooster are based on the personality attributes ascribed to the characteristics believed to describe all people born under the Rooster zodiac sign. 
 The attributes of fire are then superimposed on this.

Whatever one's own view on such predictions personally may be, it is important to keep in mind that somewhere in the realm of one billion people believe such predictions to be true, with perhaps 500 million taking such predictions seriously enough to affect decisions on business, investments, marriage, and having children among others.
The personality attributes of people born in the Year of the Rooster were described in greater detail above, generally speaking they are dynamic communicators,

The central characteristic of years governed by the element of fire is passion, action, leadership and dynamism. Fire is also associated with creative change and intensity.

Since the rooster is the animal most associated with communication and self-motivation and fire is the element most associated with change, the Year of the Fire Rooster is one in which there is on the positive side the opportunity for clear communication and in which those who are self-starters will advance.  On the negative side, the year promises to be one in which vociferous elements can become entrenched in blind loyalties and insensitive rhetoric that could lead to greater tensions.

The professional astrologer Paul Ng  places the year within the 60-year cycle. Ng explains that this is a" Fire Thunder Yang" in that cycle, with an uneven balance of yin and yang (2 yang influences as against just one yin influence). The Year of the Rooster prediction this year is less gloomy than the prediction of the past two years (in which for the Year of the Ram, he seemingly correctly anticipated both the Ebola virus outbreak and economic uncertainty in China or with last year's Monkey prediction -- again seemingly correctly -- of political upheavals). Still, Ng  cautions that in this coming year will be "
"like teeth biting lips. Hence it needs extra effort to get anything done. There would be resistance and oppositions." http://www.paulng.com/CMS/uploads/2017-geo.pdf

This is, however, one sentence in a an extensive prediction that varies according to where one is located and what one's own zodiac sign and time of birth are.

This may also prove to be a year of narcissistic behavior among key figures since fire enhances the rooster's self-centeredness. This is because, as the popular site ChineseHoroscope.com puts it: "Roosters are extremely sociable and prefer being the center of attention, always bragging about themselves and their accomplishments." http://www.chinesezodiac.com/rooster.php

Whatever your outcome for the year, Happy Year of the Fire Rooster!

Want to Learn More

For more on the animal for 201, please see 

Chinese Zodiac.com, "Chinese Zodiac -- Rooster," http://www.chinesezodiac.com/rooster.php

Senn, "Chinese Zodiac Rooster Sign,"  https://senn.cocoloni.com/chinese-zodiac/characteristics/rooster/

Susan Levitt, "2017 Year of the Fire Phoenix (Rooster)  Year":  http://susanlevitt.com/astrology/phoenix-year-2017/  

Paul Ng, "Predictions for 2017 (Year of the Fire Rooster)",  http://www.paulng.com/CMS/uploads/2017-geo.pdf 

For more on the Asian Zodiac and Astrology in General, please see:

Camlo de Ville,  "The Fascinating World of Chinese Astrology," http://camlodedragon.com

Man-ho Kwok, Chinese Astrology: Forecast Your Future from Your Chinese Horoscope, Tuttle Publishing, 1997.

Theodora Lau, The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes (6th edition), Collins Reference, 2007.

Kah Joon Liow, "12 Chinese Zodiac Sign," Living Chinese Symbols http://www.living-chinese-symbols.com/12-chinese-zodiac-sign.html

David W. Pankenier, Astrology and Cosmology in Early China: Conforming Earth to Heaven, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Xiaochun Sun, "Crossing the Boundaries Between Heaven and Man: Astronomy in Ancient China," in Astronomy Across Cultures, ed. Helaine Selin and adv. ed. Sun Xiaochun: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2000.

David Twicken, Five Element Chinese Astrology Made Easy, iUniverse, 2000.

Derek Walters, The Complete Guide to Chinese Astrology, Watkins Publishing, 2005.

Suzanne White, The New Chinese Astrology, Thomas Dunne Books, 2009.

Charles Alfred Speed Williams. Chinese Symbolism and Art Motifs (2000), New York: Castle Books.

Shelly Wu, Chinese Astrology: Exploring the Eastern Zodiac, New Page Books, 2005.

Ho-Peng Yoke, Chinese Mathematical Astrology: Reaching Out to the Stars, Routledge, 2003. This is the pre-eminent book on the mathematical science of Asian lunar horoscope calculations. It is downloadable at http://www.ebook3000.com/Chinese-Mathematical-Astrology--Reaching-out-for-the-stars--Needham-Research-Institute-Series-_130932.html

For general popular websites on Asian Astrology and the Zodiac, please see:

China Voc.com "Zodiac" http://www.chinavoc.com/zodiac/index.asp

Chinese Fortune Calendar http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/5EBasic.htm

Chinese Horoscope-e.com, "Basic Chinese Horoscope," http://chinesehoroscop-e.com/index.html

Online Chinese Astrology http://www.onlinechineseastrology.com/

Topmarks Education, "Zodiac Story, Chinese New Year."  http://www.topmarks.co.uk/ChineseNewYear/ZodiacStory.aspx

Clip Art Sources:
Yin Yang animation: http://www.eharrishome.com/Kungfu.html

Year of the Rooster sidewalk plate, Philadelphia Chinatown: Own photograph

The 12 Zodiac animals in their race:  http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/firefoxthief/zodiaccolor.jpg'

East Asian Lunar Zodiac:  http://www.china-family-adventure.com/chinese-zodiac.html

 "Black Rooster and Bamboo" by Soga Shōhaku, Edo Period, Japan, Boston Museum of Fine Arts: http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/black-rooster-and-bamboo-26105

Ai Weiwei (2011), Rooster from the Circle of the Zodiac, 2011  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/8488073/Ai-Weiwei-Circle-of-AnimalsZodiac-heads.html?image=12

Roosters, Seoul Museum of the Chicken, photo by Valerie Crosswhite: http://apexart-journal.tumblr.com/post/23659326602/chicken-museum-and-others

Rooster, Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE),Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh: http://theancientworld.tumblr.com/post/15086517674/rooster-chinese-c-206-bce-220-ce-carnegie


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