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, February 12, 2018

Year of the Brown Earth Dog: Some Background

Friday, February 16, 2018 begins the Year of the Dog. It is the beginning of the year 4715 (in some traditions, 4716) in the Asian lunar system, which is the Year of the Brown Earth Dog.

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

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

1)  Lunar New Year Customs around the world at

2)  Year of the Dog: 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. 


In today’s posting, though, we look only at the background to the Year of the Dog 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, February 16  marks the beginning of the Asian lunar calendar only this year  for the Year of the Dog in 2018. For instance, it began last year on January 28 for the Year of the Rooster; 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 Dog, the eleventh 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 dog, this year's governing animal, corresponds to the 11th 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 Earth.

Each element is also associated with a color. In the case of earth, that color is brown.

Thus, this year is the Year of the Brown Earth Dog.


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.

While for most of the lunar animals, views of that year's animal are commonly held across cultures, this is not always the case. The Year of the Dog is such an instance. 

It should be noted that both Chinese and Japanese have two different characters meaning dog. The Chinese use the character (gǒu) for the Year of the Dog rather than the more formal word (quǎn) which has more of a sense of canine. In Chinese, the character (gǒu) used for the Year of the Dog refers to dogs in general and this  is the more commonly used in everyday speech. By contrast, the Japanese  (inu) is the usual Japanese word for dog in regular speech, even though the kanji for this word is identical to the less-used, more formal Chinese character for dog. This usual Japanese kanji of (inu) carries with it the association of a dog as a good, loyal friend. This usual word, though, significantly is not the one the Japanese use for the Year of the Dog. Instead, the Japanese use the kanji , which carries more of the meaning of a mutt or common dog. Because of this, the Chinese and Japanese differ in their interpretation of the Year of the Dog.

As Kaori Shoji (2018) explains in her article “In dog-loving Japan, a year for the mutts among us to make our marks”: 
if you’re wondering why Inu-doshi uses the kanji instead of the more familiar , the former means “a good or valuable dog,” the latter your garden-variety plain mutt. The 干支 (eto, Chinese zodiac) uses special kanji, so it’s https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2018/01/29/language/dog-loving-japan-year-mutts-among-us-make-marks/#.Wm9At0zMzAw

Association with the character used aside, though, the Year of the Dog is associated with loyalty, genuineness and honesty. The Earth Dog (this year's elemental sign) is associated with stubborness and commitment or "doggedness," with a sense that as long as one works hard, one will succeed.

The Year of the Dog is a good one for gaining wealth. This association comes from the Chinese  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 Dog in Buddhist and Taoist Tradition

The dog in Buddhist and Taoist tradition was actually second choice to the cat for inclusion in the Lunar Zodiac, but his steadfastness and honesty earned him a place, while the cat -- which had lied and cheated to beat out the dog -- lost its place in the Zodiac altogether. It is for this reason that there is a Year of the Dog but no year for the cat.

Man-Ho Kwok in his book on Chinese Astrology (listed in the bibliography below) relates the 
Ai Weiwei (2011)
from The Circle of the Zodiac
rest of this Taoist tale regarding the Dog, Cat (and Rat) and the Jade Emperor as follows: 

 When the animal signs were being selected, the cat and the dog were in fierce competition. Each tried to prove that they had done more to help humans. The cat argued that the dog ate too much and all he did was guard the door, while the dog argued that the cat ate all the best food and all he did was scare mice. The argument became so fierce that they turned to the Emperor for judgement. The Emperor listened, then asked how much food the dog ate every day; the dog replied honestly that he had one bowl of food for each meal. When the cat was asked the same question, he lied and claimed that he only had a small bowl of food every meal. Impressed, the Emperor ruled that the cat had a greater claim but that both could take part in the competition.

When the day of the race came, the dog got up early and secured a good place. However, the cat was so scared of the dog attacking him for his lies that he hung behind and came in just after the pig. He thought he was in the first twelve, but the rat had cheated to come first, meaning that the cat had not gained a place as an animal sign. As a result, to this day cats chase rats because they cheated and, in turn, dogs chase cats because they cheated.  (p. 32)

The dog in Buddhist and Taoist tradition is also the adversary of the rooster (last year's animal sign). 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 Dog

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 Dog Traits
 Dog, Kim Duryang (1743), Joseon Period, Korea
Those born in the Year of the Dog are – on the positive side -- are usually seen as hard-working, fearless, and honest. They are the epitome of the hard worker. 

People born under the sign of the Dog are felt to have to be extremely responsible. They are particularly reliable when it comes to following details but at the same time they are somewhat unable to see the bigger picture.

The site Senn sums this up well, noting: 
The Dog is someone who will get the job done but rarely go beyond the scope of what is asked of them. https://senn.cocoloni.com/chinese-zodiac/characteristics/dog/
Man-Ho Kwok in his book on Chinese Astrology approaches this from a somewhat different angle, noting that Dog people
can be relied upon to act responsibly and can be trusted with sensitive information. You need to have a clear sense of the job description and its final aim but once sure of your role, you are a dedicated and steady worker. (p. 33)
People born in the Year of the Dog are believed to be the most honest of all signs, metaphorically tracking down dishonesty as a dog tracks down the scent of those for whom it searches. As astrologer Susan Levitt puts it
Dog sniffs out the truth, corruption is exposed, and the underdog is championed. https://susanlevitt.com/astrology/dog-year-2018/
Dog people also likely to understand human nature, reading others quickly in much the way a dog intuits people as friends or enemies of the household. As the astrologer of The MalaysiaSite.com explains, people born under the sign of the Dog are
intuitive, good judge of characters and are able to figure out human nature almost instantly.  http://www.malaysiasite.nl/signdog.htm
Han Dynasty terra cotta dog (ca. 100 CE)
Musée Guimet, Paris 
Dog people are viewed as one of the hardest signs to discourage. Once they begin on a project, they will continue to its end. Yet within dog people, there is a conflicting dualism. On the outside, the appear to persevere in a manner that seems essentially to disregard obstacles that would discourage others. On the inside, though, Dog people are subject to depression and feeling hurt when others criticize them although they do not show the degree of hurt they feel behind their bark. 

Regarding that bark, in Chinese, the sound dogs make when they bark isn't "bow-wow" as in English but wang-wang... and wang means "prosperity." From this, it is felt that those born in the Year of the Dog will have good fortune in monetary terms.

Dogs are an earth sign and 2018 has the elemental branch of the earth. When an animal's intrinsic element is matched by the individual year's element (earth with earth, fire with fire, etc.), it intensifies the characteristics of both the animal and the element. This occurs rather rarely in the 60-year Asian Lunar Cycle. In short, because this is an Earth Dog Year, the earth characteristics of the Dog are intensified due to the doubling of the elemental stem. 

Negative Traits

Dog people are famously protective of their own and quick to call out what they see as injustice.  the negative side, people born in the Year of the Dog can be seen as highly critical to the point of self-righteousness. Others may see Dog people as too quick to make judgements, and too stubborn to change their minds even when warranted. These negative traits tend to be the exaggerated version of their positive attributes. In fact, intense stubbornness is simply the flip side of the trait of loyalty and perseverance which are the animal sign's most positive attributes. 

Famous Dog People 

Dog people of any year, though, are believed to excel at things through hard work as well as sizing up people quickly, defending those under their watch, and intuitively touching on the emotional needs (or fears) of others. 
Clay dog, Eastern Han tradition (ca. 25-220 CE)
The Shanghai Museum, Shanghai
Dog people often make strong political leaders based on their ability to intuit people's needs, their dedication to hard work and their willingness to follow through on promises to which they have committed. Notable politicians born in the Year of the Dog include US Presidents Donald Trump, Herbert Hoover, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, First Lady Melania Trump, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, American Revolutionary Benjamin Franklin and African revolutionary/first President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere. 

Year of the Dog people also include people who are groundbreakers in their fields, based on their dogged commitment to seeing things through once they have committed to achieving them. Examples of these traits would include Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space), French ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, innovative director Steven Spielberg, beatnik movement founder Jack Kerouac, creator of the escape artist concept Harry Houdini, fashion innovator Pierre Cardin, creator of the activist sit-com concept (All in the Family, The Jefferson and Sanford and Son) Norman Lear, comic innovator Redd Foxx, humanitarian Mother Teresa, Peanuts comic strip creator Charles Schulz and Marvel comics creator Stan Lee. 

Because of their ability to read the needs of others and fill those needs on an intuitive basis, many creative greats in the fields of fiction, music and film were born in the Year of the Dog. Examples of these include singers Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Mariah Carey, Cher and Madonna, songwriter Leonard Cohen, actors Dame Judi Dench, Alan Arkin, Vince Vaughn, Sylvester Stallone, Sally Field, Jennifer Lopez, Uma Thurman, Queen Latifah, Susan Sarandon, Doris Day, and literary greats Voltaire, Marcel Proust, Kurt Vonnegut, and Victor Hugo. 

Also, Year of the Dog people are seen as most likely to succeed as entrepreneurs. Examples here would be (again) Donald Trump and Samsung founder Lee Byung-Chul. Finally, the most famous (to East Asians, at least) example of a person born under the Year of the Dog is Confucius (and for Westerners, so was Socrates). Not bad company!

Year of the Earth Dog Predictions

 Puppy netsuke by Ohara Mitsuhiro (Japan, mid-1800s),
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Predictions for the Year of the Earth Dog are based on the personality attributes ascribed to the characteristics believed to describe all people born under the Dog zodiac sign. The attributes of earth 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 Dog were described in greater detail above. Generally speaking they are intuitive people with a dogged determination to see their commitments through to the end.

The central characteristic of years governed by the element of earth is steadiness, caution, pragmatism and faith. 

Since the dog is the animal most associated with with dogged determinism and the element
Dog with decorative collar,
Han Dynasty (ca. 25-220 CE),
Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou 
of earth embodies groundedness, the Year of the Earth Dog is one in which there is on the positive side the opportunity for stability (a relief after the predicted -- and fulfilled-- year of upheaval and passion in 2017's Year of the Fire Rooster). lt is supposed to be a year of promise for those who are hard-working and show great determination. It is also a year that will be favorable for those beginning long-term projects ranging from erecting buildings or undertaking infrastructure projects to establishing a long-term, stable relationship with a partner for work or romance.  On the negative side, the year 
is not favorable for rapid changes, new projects or entrepreneurs and self-starters.  

The professional astrologer Master Raymond Lo places the year within the 60-year cycle. Ng explains that this is a Fai Kong or Earth Mountain [or "double Earth"] Yang" in that cycle, with an intensification of both earth and dog elements. This is because the Dog's natural element is earth, and the element for the current cycle is also earth. As Lo explains:

However this year 2018 the two elements are earth supporting each other. Normally such configuration will mean more harmony and less conflict. But the nature of Earth over Dog is a pair of elements called “Fai Kong” in the 60 Heavenly stem and Earthly Branch cycle of the Chinese calendar system. A person born on a “Fai Kong” day is exceptionally tough in character and never surrender. Such person has strong determination to achieve his goal and will fight to the end. Hence the atmosphere is that people may choose to stick to principles and take a firm stand and hard to compromise. Under such atmosphere, there will be harsh confrontation and clashes in the international relationship and not easy to achieve harmony and peace. http://www.raymond-lo.com/14552/year-of-the-dog

Professional astrologer Master John Tsai warns that unlike other dog years, the mountain dog year represents an untamed dog (e.g., living in the mountains) that can block one's path:

2018 is a Mountain Dog year. Mountain Dog might be a wild dog. It could block your way out. That implies you might encounter some obstacles before executing your plan. You need to use your wisdom to remove the blockage first, then you will see the wide-open road. https://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2018/default.htm

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.

Whatever your outcome for the year, Happy Year of the Earth Dog!

Want to Learn More

For more on the animal for 2018, please see 

Chinese Zodiac.com, "Chinese Zodiac -- Dog," http://www.chinesezodiac.com/dog.php

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

Susan Levitt, "2018 Earth Dog Year": https://susanlevitt.com/astrology/dog-year-2018/  

Master Raymond Lo, The Year of the Dog," November 14, 2017: http://www.raymond-lo.com/p/14533/nr/100045/the-year-of-the-dog

Master Tsai, "2018 Chinese Zodiac Dog Year Dates and Meaning": https://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/2018/default.htm

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.

Susan Levitt and Jean Tang, Taoist Astrology: A Handbook of the Authentic Chinese Tradition, Destiny Books, 1997.

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

Malaysia Site, "Chinese New Year,"  http://www.malaysiasite.nl/newyear.htm

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:

Year of the Dog sidewalk plate Philadelphia Chinatown: Own photograph

Dog, Kim Duryang (1743), Joseon Period, Korea: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gim_Du-ryang#/media/File:Kim_Duryang-Sapsalgae-1743.jpg

Han Dynasty terra cotta dog (ca. 100 CE), Musée Guimet, Paris: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dinastia_han_posteriore,_cane_stante,_sichuan,_I-III_sec.JPG  

Clay dog, Eastern Han tradition (ca. 25-220 CE), The Shanghai Museum, Shanghai: http://faineg.com/china-shanghai-museum/

Puppy netsuke by Ohara Mitsuhiro (Japan, mid-1800s), Walters Art Museum, Baltimore: http://art.thewalters.org/detail/18025/netsuke-in-the-form-of-a-puppy/

Dog with decorative collar, Han Dynasty (ca. 25-220 CE), Henan Provincial Museum, Zhengzhou: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_dynasty#/media/File:Pottery_dog_1.JPG

Year of the Dog final clip art:  https://openclipart.org/detail/292592/year-of-the-dog-3

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