Year of the White Rat


Chinese New Year 2020 is upon us. However, there are many new beginnings outlined within Chinese philosophy and therefore within classical Chinese medicine; all are contextual and attempt to facilitate a dynamic relationship between Heaven, Earth and Man – often through the use of and interaction between different calendars.

With this in mind, there are several ways in which we can view new beginnings.


Winter Solstice is the first of these new beginnings and is considered to be Heavenly. It relates to the solar calendar, occurs approximately around the 22nd of December, and describes the height of Yin and the birth of Yang – a seed, unmanifest potential. Within Wu Yun Liu Qi (Stems & Branches theory), while Winter Solstice is not a static annual event, it always relates to and occurs within the period of the first Earthly Branch, Zi (子) – Seasonal/Deep Energy Water (Winter), the Rat and the Gallbladder.


The Farmer’s Calendar is considered to be Earthly. Again, it is based on the solar calendar and begins on the 20th of January. In line with Wu Yun Liu Qi, this is also the beginning of the ‘Great‘ or ‘Heavenly Movements‘ or ‘Stems‘. Within the Farmer’s Calendar, the year is divided into 24 sections of approximately 15 days each – i.e. twenty-four solar terms, based on the sun’s position in the zodiac, that existed as a guide for farmers in ancient China and relates to farming activities and agricultural affairs. Since the 20th of January, we have been within a period known as ‘Great Cold‘. ‘Great Cold‘ will continue until the 4th/5th of February – ‘beginning of Spring‘ – another new beginning, also known as Peasant’s New Year, which relates to the level of Man.


Finally, today is Chinese New Year. Chinese New Year exists at the level of Man and may be defined as the second New Moon following the Winter Solstice. It is based, therefore, on the relationship between the solar and lunar calendars – i.e. the relationship between Heaven and Earth. Today also marks the beginning of the Spring Festival – a fifteen-day period that ends with the Lantern Festival at the next Full Moon.


2020 is a Year of the Rat – the Rat being the first of the 12 zodiac animals, and therefore marking the beginning of a new 12 year cycle. According to mythology, the order of the zodiac animals and the Earthly Branches came about as follows; the Jade Emperor stated that the structure would be decided by the order in which the animals arrived at his celebration. Within this context, the Rat manipulated the Ox into giving him a ride on his back. Just as they reached the finish line, however, the Rat jumped down and ran ahead of the Ox, thereby coming first. As a result, the Rat is considered to be incredibly smart and resourceful, and is abundant in spirit, wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility and vitality.

As above, the Rat is associated with the first Earthly Branch, Zi (子), Seasonal Energy Water (Winter) and the hours from 11pm to 1am. Within the context of Yin and Yang, the Rat is Yang and represents the beginning of a new day. In Chinese culture, rats are a representation of wealth and surplus. Due to their reproduction rate, they are seen as symbols of fertility. Couples often pray to them with this in mind.

While rooted in Water (Seasonal/Deep Energy), Zi also represents the Yang movement of the Wood element and the evolution into Spring. Within the body, Zi is represented by the Gallbladder, which is governed with making decisions and actively seeing them through. The Gallbladder is also one of the Six Extraordinary Fu.

For 2020, the dominant Heavenly Stem is Metal in its Yang expression – known as Geng. Within Chinese astrology, Geng represents the seventh of ten Heavenly Stems. When interacting with the twelve Earthly Branches, which form a 60-year cycle, 2020 is known, therefore, as the year of the Metal Rat – or Geng Zi. So while Zi represents new beginnings, Geng represents the active expression of Metal – control, physical and mental strength, truth, and setting and maintaining clear goals.

From all of us at Acupuncture West London, we wish you a very Happy New Year.

2020 – Year of the White Metal Rat

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