Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year

Gong Hey Fat Choy! It's now the Year of the Water Dragon.

The Chinese zodiac is decently well known in Western parts of the world. I know in the US if I go into the right type of Chinese restaurant I might even find the zodiac printed on the tablemat. Since the zodiac runs on a twelve year cycle, most of my friends from high school and college fit within a three year span.

We're all dragons, snakes, and horses. I admit, I'm just a bit sad that I was born a snake rather than a dragon, just because the dragon by virtue of what it is, is the coolest animal in the zodiac.

A little less commonly known is that the Chinese calendar also cycles through the five elements. So it's not just the Year of the Dragon this year, but the year of the Water Dragon. (How appropriate that it's raining for me today.)

Five elements, you say?

The Chinese have a five element system which is slightly different from the Western version of Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water. We use Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, which move in a cycle. Wood feeds Fire, which turns into Earth, which yields Metal, which carries Water. (The last one is a little harder to picture, but Wikipedia suggests thinking of how water condenses on metal.)

I'm actually playing a bit with the five elements in a new story I'm squeezing in on the weekends when I'm not working on the current novel. It's very easy to write a character who uses magic based on the Western elements because we've seen it done so much. Using metal-based magic, that's a little trickier.