Gongfu Tea

In China, there is an old saying which states: “Wherever people from Chaozhou live, you’ll find Gongfu Tea.” While the art of Gongfu Tea or “Kung-Fu Tea” is popular throughout China, it is widely believed to have originated from the city of Chaozhou in Guangdong province. To this day, most families in Chaozhou will have a special tea table in their home and a traditional tea set that is specifically designed for serving Gongfu Tea. Now you’re probably thinking: What’s so tea-rrific about Gongfu Tea?

This style of tea, which has been popular among the locals of Chaozhou since the Song Dynasty (960-1279), is known for its formidably strong and bitter flavour, earning it the nickname the “espresso of Chinese teas.” Traditionally Gongfu Tea is served before and after a meal in most restaurants throughout Chaozhou, but it can also be savoured on its own in one of the city’s many teahouses. The term “gongfu” or “kung-fu” does not refer to any tea-related martial arts, and instead is used to mean “making tea with skill.” This term extends even further, as the art of tasting the tea is similarly believed to require a certain level of skill. There’s no time to relax when it comes to this cup of afternoon tea!

Gongfu Tea is not a type of tea specifically, but is in fact a style of tea ceremony that involves the ritual preparation and presentation of tea. Nowadays, this method of making tea is popular throughout Chinese tea shops and is used by tea connoisseurs worldwide in order to maximize their tea drinking experience. For lovers of Gongfu Tea, it is as much about self-cultivation as it is about the preparation of the tea itself. By focusing on the movements of the tea ceremony, as well as the taste, aroma, and appearance of the tea, the practitioner of Gongfu Tea will become aware of what is known as the “cha qi” (茶气) or “tea energy” and will thus gain greater insight into how the tea affects both their body and mind.

When it comes to the tea ceremony itself, black teas such as oolong and pu’er are preferred. White and green teas can also be used, but their delicate flavour means there is little benefit to brewing them in this way. It is also imperative to use the best grade of tea possible, as good quality tea will yield between 6 to 10 brews with consistent flavour. Lower quality tea may have a pleasant taste for the first couple of brews, but its flavour will significantly weaken thereafter, meaning you’ll have to use more tea leaves in the long run.

In essence, the purpose of Gongfu Tea is to utilize the best materials, instruments, and methods to brew the tea in order to get the maximum flavour and maximum number of brews out of the tea leaves themselves. Its thoroughly practical nature means it is distinctly different from the well-known Japanese tea ceremony known as Chanoyu, where the focus is on the symbolic meaning behind each step rather than on its functional purpose. The history behind these two tea ceremonies, however, is delicately intertwined.

During the 12th century, Japan began growing and producing tea following Chinese models. Towards the end of the 14th century, loose leaf tea became a popular household product in China and it was eventually used by the imperial government during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Once the status of loose leaf tea was raised, related teaware such as the teapot became an essential item. More attention was thus being paid to the act of brewing tea, which resulted in the Gongfu Tea ceremony becoming popularised sometime during the 18th century. This had a major impact on tea-drinking culture in Japan and their tea ceremony began taking shape almost simultaneously.

Arguably, the most important instrument for making Gongfu Tea is the teapot. The best teapots are unglazed clay teapots made from special “Yixing clay” from the county of Yixing in China’s Jiangsu province. This clay comes in three types that influence the colour of the teapot: purple, red, and green. The porous nature of these teapots and their heat handling properties mean they are superior to glass, porcelain, and glazed teapots. The main downside, however, is that one teapot should only be used to brew one type of tea and Yixing teapots are generally quite expensive. Over time, the Yixing teapot will absorb the flavour of the tea and thus enhance the tea-drinking experience. High-fired teapots with thinner and finer clay work best with green, white, and oolong teas, while low-fired teapots with thicker and more porous clay should be used for pu’er and black teas. 

When it comes to the brewing of the tea itself, there are two essential factors that need to be considered: the water being used; and the temperature the water is boiled at. It should come as no surprise that water which tastes or smells bad will not yield a pleasant tasting tea. However, distilled or extremely soft water can be equally unpleasant, as it lacks minerals and can results in a “flat” or flavourless brew. That being said, high content mineral water should similarly be avoided, as it can overwhelm the flavour of the tea. Local and natural spring water is ideal, although bottled spring water will suffice. 

When it comes to boiling the water, the optimal temperature varies between different types of tea. For example, water used to brew oolong tea should be heated to 95 °C (203 ℉), while water used to brew compressed teas such as pu’er should be boiled at 100 °C (212 ℉). Most tea masters don’t need to use a thermometer and can accurately gauge the temperature of the water based on both the timing and the air bubbles in the kettle. According to Chinese tradition, the bubbles formed at between 75 to 85 °C (167-185 ℉) are known as “crab eyes” due to their size and are typically accompanied by loud, rapid sizzling noises. At 90 to 95 °C (194-203 ℉), the bubbles are called “fish eyes” because they are much larger and they are accompanied by a slower, quieter sizzling noise. Once the water has reached boiling point, there should be no visible air bubbles and no discernible sizzling sounds. 

The complexity of the ceremony means that any tea master must be equipped with an arsenal of instruments at their disposal! The main instruments used in Gongfu Tea are: the teapot or a covered bowl known as a gaiwan; the tea pitcher or decanting vessel, which is used to ensure the flavour of the tea is consistent when its poured into multiple cups; the kettle; the brewing tray, which is specially designed to hold spills; a tea cloth; a tea spoon or tea pick, which is used to clear excess tea from the spout of the teapot; the timer; the tea strainer; a special type of wooden tea spoon that is used to measure the correct amount of tea leaves required; and tea cups, preferably three that are of matching size and style.

If that wasn’t complicated enough, there are also several optional instruments that are believed to enhance the tea-drinking experience. These are: the tea basin, which serves as a receptacle for used tea leaves; a set of scales to weigh the tea leaves; a scent cup, which is solely used to appreciate the tea’s aroma and is never drank from; a pair of tongs known as “jia” (挟) that are used to pick up and empty the tea cups; and a calligraphy-style tea brush, which can be used to spread the wasted tea across the tea tray and ensure that the tea soaks into the tray evenly, endowing it with a pleasant colour. 

While all of these instruments are considered necessary for the proper preparation of Gongfu Tea, there is one addition to the ceremony that is purely aesthetic. Most tea shops and tea masters will have at least one “tea pet,” which is a small statue that is typically made from the same unglazed clay as a Yixing teapot. The use of tea pets dates all the way back to the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and they are often modelled after classical Chinese figures, such as the dragon, the zodiac animals, the lion turtle, and the toad. Each tea pet will have a special symbolic meaning and they are believed to bring good luck to their owners. The first brew of the tea and any leftover tea is poured over the tea pet as an offering, but it has the added benefit of preventing the water from splattering on the tea tray. After all, the last thing you want during a leisurely tea ceremony is to end up in the splash zone!

Finally, you’re probably wondering: What actually happens during Gongfu Tea? First, the teapot is filled with boiling water and allowed to sit until it has become warm. The boiling water is then poured over the strainer and the tea cups in order to sterilize them. Once the teapot is emptied, the tea leaves are measured and placed into the teapot. Boiled water is then added to the teapot until it is overflowing and, after the lid has been placed back on, this water is immediately poured off either onto the tea tray or the tea pet. This process is believed to “wake up” the tea leaves in preparation for the second brew. 

After that, the water is heated to the requisite temperature, added to the teapot, and left for few seconds. Warm water should be poured over the teapot while the tea is brewing, in order to maintain an even brewing temperature. Once the tea is finished brewing, it is poured into the tea pitcher or decanter and the lid is placed on top. The teacups should now be emptied of the warm water used to sterilize them, preferably with a pair of tongs. When the teacups are empty, the tea can be served from the pitcher. Ideally the tea cups should be placed close together and filled continuously in a circle, so that the strength of the tea is the same in each cup.

Multiple brews can be yielded by simply repeating the process of adding water to the teapot. When the process is finished, the leaves are removed and the teapot should be rinsed with hot water before being allowed to air-dry. In order to ensure that all of the instruments remain clean, they should also be rinsed and allowed to air-dry.  

Try cups of Gongfu Tea on our travel: Explore the Ancient Fortresses of Southeast China

Teochew People

Chaozhou City and Shantou City on the map

The history of the Teochew people has long been shrouded in mystery and, although there are many theories about their origins, there is still desperately little that is known about where they came from. Known alternatively as the Chaozhou people, they are a sub-group of the Han Chinese ethnic majority that are native to the Chaoshan region, which is largely made up of the cities of Chaozhou, Shantou, and Jieyang in Guangdong province. Nowadays, however, vast contingencies of Teochew people can be found throughout Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. There are even some small communities of Teochew living in places as far-flung as the US, Canada, Australia, and France!

Alongside the Hakka and the Cantonese people, the Teochew are estimated to have lived in the Chaoshan region for hundreds of years. According to the most widely believed theory, their ancestors originally lived in modern-day Henan province, but were forced south when the north was repeatedly invaded and captured by nomadic groups during the Jin Dynasty (265-420). Initially they settled in Fujian province, yet unfortunately it seems tragedy was doomed to follow them! They were uprooted again during the 13th century when Kublai Khan and his Mongol army invaded the area, which is when they finally moved to the sparsely populated Chaoshan region. At first, it seemed they were safe in their new home, but fate had more trouble in store for the Teochew!

After the First Opium War (1839-1842), the coastal regions in which the Teochew lived were ravaged by bandits and plagued with famine. Many Teochew people decided to immigrate abroad via one of the four treaty ports established along the southern coast, so that they could enjoy a better quality of life and send money back home to their families. It is these people that served as the ancestors for the Teochew diaspora that we find throughout the world today. In fact, due to this mass migration, the Teochew people are now the second largest ethnic group in Singapore!    

Like most sub-groups of the Han ethnic majority, the Teochew people have their own distinct language and culture. In fact, the dialect that they speak is widely considered to be the oldest and most well-preserved of all the Chinese languages. This is largely because the dialect spoken by the Han Chinese living in northern China was influenced by the languages of the Mongolian people, who ruled during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and the Manchu people, who ruled during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The Teochew people, who were living down south by this point and were thus not as heavily impacted by these changes, were able to preserve a more primitive version of the language. That being said, the Teochew dialect is not a uniform language and there is thus substantial variation between different Teochew communities. In their own dialect, the Teochew people refer to themselves as “gaginan,” which translates to mean “my own people.” 

In the Chaoshan region, Teochew culture has been fiercely preserved and ancestor worship in particular plays an important role in daily life. Many elderly members of the Teochew community believe that their departed ancestors are capable of protecting them from danger and misfortune, while simultaneously blessing them with wealth and other boons. Throughout the year, clan elders will lead other descendants through rituals to show reverence to the deceased at ancestral tombs, particularly on special occasions such as the Qingming or “Tomb Sweeping” Festival.

On dates of minor significance, the family will make modest offerings to their ancestors, including bowls of steamed rice, cups of tea, incense, and baskets of fruit. On the more important occasions, however, lavish offerings such as whole roasted pigs and goats are paraded through the streets before being placed on the ancestral shrine. During these grand rituals, firecrackers will be lit, a band of drums and wind instruments will be playing as loudly as possible, and the family may even hire a professional emcee to announce the festivities. 

Alongside ancestor worship, the Teochew people are well-known for their style of opera, music, tea culture, and woodcarving. Teochew Opera, also known as Chaozhou Opera, has a history that stretches back over 500 years ago and was heavily influenced by Nanxi Opera, which is one of the oldest styles in China and dates all the way back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). This style of opera is well-known for its fan dances and acrobatics, which add a touch of vivacity to each performance.

Traditional Teochew music often serves as the accompaniment for these performances and is based predominantly on plucked or bowed string instruments and wind instruments. Each ensemble typically utilises three different types of two-stringed bowed lutes known as the rihin, tihu, and yehu, along with a plethora of other traditional instruments, such as the pipa (a four-stringed plucked lute), the erhu (a two-stringed bowed fiddle), and the guzheng (a 21-stringed zither). In order to keep the music as even as possible, it is common to only have one of each instrument within an ensemble. 

The best place to hear traditional Teochew music, however, is arguably in one of the many teahouses scattered throughout the Chaoshan region. It is widely believed that a traditional style of tea ceremony known as Gongfu Tea originated from Chaoshan and it has become an integral part of tea culture for the Teochew people. This ritual method can theoretically be used to prepare any type of tea, but the Teochew people have a preference for a type of oolong tea known as Tieguanyin or “Iron Buddha.” It is conventional for Teochew people to enjoy a cup of tea before and after every meal, and no Teochew home would be complete without a traditional tea-set. 

Drinking bittersweet tea such as Tieguanyin after a meal is also believed by the Teochew people to be a palate cleanser, as several signature dishes in Teochew cuisine utilise pork lard. That being said, Teochew cuisine, more commonly known as Chaoshan cuisine, is renowned for its freshness and quality of ingredients. They rarely use oil or stir-frying techniques, and instead prefer to braise or steam ingredients in order to enhance their natural flavour. Since Chaoshan is a coastal region, it should come as no surprise that seafood is an integral part of Chaoshan cuisine. In particular, the oyster omelette is a beloved snack that can be found at any night market in Chaoshan.  

The attention to detail and quality in their cuisine is matched only by their woodcarving, which is breathtakingly intricate and is often incorporated into traditional Teochew buildings. This style of woodcarving dates all the way back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and typically features tableaus from ancient daily life, such as imperial scholars musing under trees or wealthy families enjoying an evening of festivities. 

Get more stories about Teochew people on our travel: Explore the Ancient Fortresses of Southeast China

The Chinese Zodiac – The Pig

As we come to the end of the Chinese zodiac, we’ll be discussing its final animal: the cheerful and cherubic Pig. During the Jade Emperor’s great race to determine the animals of the zodiac, the Pig was the last to emerge from the river and kept the Emperor waiting for an inordinately long amount of time. When asked why it was so late, the Pig replied that it had stopped first to eat and then had become sleepy, so decided to take a nap! Thus it became the twelfth and final animal in the zodiac.

Years of the Pig

If you were born in the year 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, or 2031 then you belong to the sign of the Pig. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on January 27th in 1971, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Dog and not the Year of the Pig. In short, you’ve literally just trimmed the fat!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

Those born in the Year of the Pig should take note of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and 9. Two, five, and eight signify good fortune is coming your way, but one, three, and nine herald disaster! Your lucky colours are yellow, grey, brown, and gold, while you should steer clear of red, blue, and green.

Characteristics of the Pig

The Pig has a much maligned reputation throughout the world as a slovenly, lazy, and generally unclean character, but there’s more to this paunchy porker than meets the eye! Those born under the sign of the Pig are believed to be diligent, compassionate, generous, calm, responsible, loyal, honest, optimistic, and gentle. Once they set their mind to task, they will devote all of their time and energy into accomplishing it. While they rarely ask anything of others, they are always willing to lend a helping hand. 

Unfortunately for the Pig, their talents are easily taken advantage of. They are gullible and naïve by nature, meaning they never suspect trickery and are often fooled or cheated by others. Much like the Dog, they can become short-tempered and disillusioned if their goodwill is taken for granted or abused. They may be incredibly industrious when they have goals, but they can become sluggish and lazy when they lack focus.

Romantic Compatibility

Much like the Dog, the Pig should be cautious when it comes to matters of the heart. For a lasting partnership, they should seek out the Tiger, the Rabbit, or the Sheep, although they can form pleasant matches with the Rat, the Horse, and the Dog. They should be careful with the Ox, as they can either fall head over heels in love or end up as sworn enemies! A match with the Rooster will be quite average, while the Dragon and other Pigs should remain simply as good friends. They should avoid the Snake and the Monkey at all costs for fear of inevitable heartbreak.

Job Prospects

The Pig’s strong work ethic and ability to deal with high pressure situations means they are well-suited for careers in medicine, veterinary science, catering, interior design, transportation, entertainment, retail, and hospitality.

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Pig

Those born under the sign of the Pig are renowned for being easy-going and trustworthy, meaning they make for stable and reliable friends. Their short-temper can at times be off-putting, but they rarely stay in a negative frame of mind for very long. Anyone wishing to forge a relationship with the Pig is advised to be tolerant and patient, as their candid personality can sometimes result in them saying rude or hurtful things without intending to. 

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introductory article, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1935 or 1995 belong to the Year of the Wood Pig, meaning they are good-natured, kind, easy-going, generous, and brave, but have a tendency to be quite irritable. The Fire Pigs, who were born in 1947 and 2007, are known for being ambitious and tenacious, which results in them also being impatient.

Anyone born in 1959 is an Earth Pig, making them communicative, popular among their friends, and exceptionally well-organised. Those born in 1971 or 2031 are Metal Pigs, who are open-minded, amicable, and always willing to help others. Finally, the Water Pigs of 1923 and 1983 are particularly gentle, modest, earnest, and reliable, but are prone to close-mindedness.

So, the next time someone calls you a lazy swine, remind them that you’re actually a perseverant Pig!  

The Chinese Zodiac – The Dog

The penultimate place along the Chinese zodiac brings us to man’s best friend: the goofy and loveable Dog. During the Jade Emperor’s great river race to determine the animals of the Chinese zodiac, the Emperor was greatly puzzled when the Dog arrived in eleventh place. After all, the Dog was one of the strongest swimmers in the animal kingdom. It turned out, after seeing that the waters of the river were so clean, the simple Dog had decided to stop and take a bath first! Thus it became the eleventh animal in the Chinese zodiac.

Years of the Dog

If you were born in the year 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, or 2030 then you belong to the sign of the Dog. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on February 2nd in 1946, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Rooster and not the Year of the Dog. You might not be as cute or cuddly, but you just inherited a mean set of spurs!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

Those born in the Year of the Dog should be wary of the numbers 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9. Three, four, and nine are a sign of prosperity, but one, six, and seven are sure to bring you woe! Your lucky colours are green, red, and purple, while you should avoid blue, white, and gold at all costs.

Characteristics of the Dog

The Dog may not be the brightest spark, but its plucky and kind-hearted nature more than make up for its lack of smarts! Those born under the sign of the Dog are said to be loyal, brave, responsible, enthusiastic, honest, decisive, amicable, easy-going, hard-working, compassionate, and selfless. They prize their family and friends above all others, and will go to the ends of the earth for those they love.

Unfortunately, it is the Dog’s unflinching desire to assist others that often causes it so many problems. Since they are unwaveringly good by nature, they cannot understand why anyone would want to deceive others and, when they are betrayed or hurt, it can deeply traumatise them. They are sensitive and emotional individuals, who can become easily pessimistic or taciturn if they are mistreated.

Romantic Compatibility

The Dog’s trusting nature means that they must embark on romantic ventures with care, so that they find a partner who won’t abuse their kindness or take advantage of them. The Dog should ideally look for love with the Rabbit alone, but they can form compatible matches with the Rat, the Tiger, the Monkey, and the Pig. Romantic encounters with the Ox, the Snake, the Horse, and other Dogs will be distinctly average, while those with the Dragon, the Sheep, and the Rooster are certain to end in heartbreak.   

Job Prospects

With their devoted character and helpful nature, those born under the sign of the Dog are well-suited for careers that involve serving the public, including the police force, the fire department, the military, counselling, teaching, law, science, interior design, and civil services.    

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Dog

When it comes to forging any kind of relationship with the Dog, it is important to remember how sensitive and loyal they are by nature. They would rather suffer than make trouble for others, and they will never do anything that they perceive to be immoral. This means that, as long as you remain true to them, the Dog will make the ideal close friend or romantic partner.

When it comes to friendships, the Dog can initially seem conservative and cautious, as they put a lot of effort into getting to know people during first encounters. Once they have established a close friendship, however, they will be unwaveringly reliable and steadfast. Those born under the sign of the Dog are similarly careful when it comes to romantic relationships and do not fall in love easily. Though their love is hard to earn, it is deeper and purer than you could possibly imagine. In short, much like their animal counterparts, those born in the Year of the Dog will be faithful to those they love to the bitter end. 

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introductory article, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1934 or 1994 belong to the Year of the Wood Dog, meaning they are sincere, reliable, considerate, understanding, and patient. The Fire Dogs, who were born in 1946 and 2006, are known for being intelligent, diligent, and truthful.

Anyone born in 1958 is an Earth Dog, making them communicative, markedly serious, and particularly responsible in their careers. Those born in 1970 or 2030 are Metal Dogs, who are conservative, physically attractive, cautious, and always ready to help others. Finally, the Water Dogs of 1922 and 1982 are exceptionally brave and meticulous with their finances, but can come across as egotistical and selfish. 

So, if you’re going through a bad patch, always remember: every Dog has his day!

The Chinese Zodiac – The Rooster

As we continue along the path of the Chinese zodiac, we come to the loudest member of them all: the well-groomed and hardworking Rooster. Since the Rooster could neither swim nor fly over the river during the Jade Emperor’s great race to determine the animals of the zodiac, he was forced to strike up a bargain with the Sheep and the Monkey.

As the Sheep swam across the river, the Monkey and the Rooster both rode on its back. The Monkey cleared away any reeds in their path with its hands, and the Rooster kept time with its mighty voice. In true diplomatic fashion, they decided that the Sheep should be eighth, since it did the most work, and the Monkey should be ninth, since it put in the most amount of effort after the Sheep. The Rooster graciously accepted tenth place, thus becoming the tenth animal in the zodiac. 

Years of the Rooster

If you were born in the year 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017, or 2029 then you belong to the sign of the Rooster. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on January 23rd in 1993, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Monkey and not the Year of the Rooster. In short, you’ve just traded in your wings for a pair of very dextrous limbs!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

Anyone born in the Year of the Rooster should always look out for the numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9. Five, seven, and eight are a sign of good fortune, but one, three, and nine are distinctly bad omens! Your lucky colours are gold, brown, and yellow, while white and green should always be avoided.

Characteristics of the Rooster

While Roosters may be notoriously cocky, there’s so much more to these songful birds than their good looks and characteristic strut! Those born under the sign of the Rooster are believed to be exceptionally hardworking, independent, capable, warm-hearted, active, humorous, popular, talkative, straightforward, honest, and loyal. They are known to be very physically attractive and love to be the centre of attention. With their charming nature, they thrive at large social gatherings.

That being said, it is the Rooster’s outstanding features that also prove to be its downfall. Their good looks and abundant talents mean they have a tendency to be vain and boastful, while their constant need for attention can easily frustrate those around them. They are highly sensitive and are prone to bouts of stress or moodiness. With their superior attitude, they can come across as selfish, overly critical, impatient, and narrow-minded.

Romantic Compatibility

The Rooster’s negative characteristics can make it especially difficult for them to forge romantic relationships. The Rooster will effortlessly find love with the Ox or the Snake, but can equally form reasonably complementary matches with the Tiger and the Dragon. Romantic relationships with the Sheep, the Monkey, and the Pig will be average at best, while they should absolutely avoid the Rat, the Rabbit, the Horse, the Dog, and even other Roosters!

Job Prospects

Roosters are highly motivated and ambitious individuals, meaning they are well-suited for a wide range of careers, including broadcasting, sales, hospitality, hair and beauty, public relations, agriculture, athletics, teaching, journalism, medicine, the military, the police force, and the fire department. 

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Rooster

The Rooster might seem superficial and arrogant, but they actually make incredibly loyal and devoted friends. They are known for always keeping their promises to those close to them and are invariably true to their word. If you are of a sensitive disposition, however, a friendship or romantic encounter with the Rooster might not be for you! They often brag about their accomplishments and talents, meaning they can sometimes rub others up the wrong way or make people feel uncomfortable. 

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introductory article, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1945 or 2005 belong to the Year of the Wood Rooster, meaning they are both energetic and gentle, although they have a tendency to be overconfident and unstable. The Fire Roosters, who were born in 1957 and 2017, are known for being trustworthy, punctual, responsible, and incredibly industrious at work.

Anyone born in 1969 or 2029 is an Earth Rooster, making them generous, lovely, reliable, and particularly popular with their friends. Those born in 1921 or 1981 are Metal Roosters, who are determined, brave, perseverant, and diligent. Finally, the Water Roosters of 1933 and 1993 are intelligent, quick-witted, tender, and compassionate. 

So the next time someone calls you a yellow-bellied chicken, remind them that you’re actually a red-blooded Rooster!

The Chinese Zodiac – The Monkey

From the mundaneness of the farm to the lofty heights of the tropical canopy, we’re moving from the Sheep to the ninth animal in the Chinese zodiac: the chirpy and mischievous Monkey. While most of the animals in the zodiac earned their position on their own, the Monkey struck up an unlikely bargain between the Sheep and the Rooster!

During the Jade Emperor’s great race, the Monkey and the Rooster both rode on the Sheep’s back while it swam across the river. The Monkey cleared away any reeds in their path with its hands, and the Rooster kept time with its mighty voice. When they reached the finish line, they came to a diplomatic arrangement: the Sheep would be eighth, since it did most of the work; the Monkey would be ninth, as it did more work than the Rooster; and the Rooster graciously accepted tenth place.  

Years of the Monkey

If you were born in the year 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016, or 2028 then you belong to the sign of the Monkey. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on February 8th in 2016, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Sheep and not the Year of the Monkey. In short, you’ve just fallen out of the trees and into the fields!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

If you were born in the Year of the Monkey, be wary of the numbers 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 9. Three, seven, and nine will bring tidings of joy, but two, five, and eight are sure to ruin your day! Your lucky colours are white, blue, and gold, while red, black, grey, and dark coffee act as bad omens.

Characteristics of the Monkey

If you happen to be a cheeky Monkey, then you’re blessed with the ability to charm others and learn new skills quickly. Those born under the sign of the Monkey are said to be intensely clever, curious, enthusiastic, self-assured, innovative, quick-witted, versatile, gentle, honest, and creative. 

Even with all of their talents, Monkey people are often plagued by their own crafty nature. They are masters of practical jokes, which will win some friends and lose others. Their eccentricity means that some people regard them with suspicion, finding them restless, sly, and overly inquisitive. With such a high level of intelligence, they are prone to arrogance, selfishness, and jealousy.

Romantic Compatibility

When it comes to romance, the Monkey can be easily bored and predisposed to promiscuity, meaning they are often regarded as heart-breakers. While they will struggle to commit to the Tiger and the Pig, they’ll form a long-lasting partnership with the Ox and the Rabbit. They can form reasonably complementary matches with the Rat, the Dragon, the Sheep, and the Dog, while relationships with the Horse and the Rooster will be purely average. When it comes to the Snake and other Monkeys, they will forge strong friendships, but shouldn’t venture further than that.  

Job Prospects

The Monkey’s hard-working nature, innate intelligence, and adaptability means they are well-suited for careers in accounting, banking, stock market trading, engineering, science, film, and sales.

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Monkey

Anyone looking to forge a friendship or romantic relationship with the Monkey should be both patient and cautious, as they are not quick to settle down. Since they are known for being promiscuous and become quickly bored, it is highly likely that your romantic relationship with the Monkey will end swiftly and painfully.

Once Monkeys do find the perfect partner and decide to commit, however, they will be dedicated to that person for life and will never stray. Those born under the sign of the Monkey are highly sociable and can effortlessly make conversation, meaning they are easy to befriend and relate to.

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introductory article, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1944 or 2004 belong to the Year of the Wood Monkey, meaning they are compassionate, self-confident, and always willing to help others, although they can be quite stubborn. The Fire Monkeys, who were born in 1956 and 2016, are known for being especially ambitious and adventurous, but have a short-tempered nature.

Anyone born in 1968 or 2028 is an Earth Monkey, making them frank, optimistic, and fearless. Those born in 1920 or 1980 are Metal Monkeys, who are particularly clever, quick-witted, and confident, but can also be irritable and obstinate. Finally, the Water Monkeys of 1932 and 1992 are smart, witty, and fond of being in the limelight, which in turn can make them markedly conceited. 

So the next time someone tells you to stop monkeying around, just let them know that it’s in your nature!

The Chinese Zodiac – The Sheep

We’re staying firmly on the farm as we move from the Horse to the eighth animal in the Chinese zodiac: the humble and gentle Sheep (or Goat). The Chinese character of “羊” (Yáng) can refer to both sheep and goats, so no one knows exactly which one this zodiac animal is meant to be! During the Jade Emperor’s great race to determine the animals of the zodiac, the Sheep struck up an unlikely bargain with the Monkey and the Rooster.

The Sheep swam steadily with the Monkey and the Rooster on its back, the Monkey cleared away the reeds with its hands, and the Rooster kept time with its mighty voice. Since it was the Sheep that arguably did the most work, it was granted the eighth place in the race and is thus the eighth animal in the zodiac.

Years of the Sheep

If you were born in the year 1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015, or 2027 then you belong to the sign of the Sheep. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on February 15th in 1991, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Horse and not the Year of the Sheep/Goat. At the very least, you’ll be saved from having an identity crisis!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

If you were born in the Year of the Sheep, be on the lookout for the numbers 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Two, three, and seven will bring you good tidings, but six, eight, and nine are sure to be bad omens! Green, red, and purple are your lucky colours, while gold, brown, and black should be avoided at all costs.

Characteristics of the Sheep

While they might rank quite low on the food chain, Sheep people enjoy a reputation as one of the kindest and most likeable signs in the Chinese zodiac! Those born under the sign of the Sheep are celebrated as gentle, mild-mannered, stable, sympathetic, amicable, creative, clever, thrifty, persistent, and wise individuals with a strong sense of justice. Much like their animal sign, they prefer to work and socialise in groups, but by no means wish to be the centre of attention.

That being said, Sheep people should be careful not to let their shyness and timidity get the best of them. Their tendency to be indecisive, moody, pessimistic, and weak-willed means that they can often lose out on valuable opportunities.

Romantic Compatibility

When it comes to love, the Sheep will find the perfect partner in the Rabbit, the Horse, or the Pig, but can still form a pleasant match with the Monkey and other Sheep. The Rat represents a dangerous prospect, as they can either end up madly in love or the worst of enemies! Matches with the Rooster will be average at best, while they’re better off remaining just friends with the Tiger.  Romantic encounters with the Ox, the Dragon, the Snake, or the Dog, however, are certain to end in heartache. 

Job Prospects

The Sheep’s humility, creativity, and capacity to care for others means they are well-suited for careers in health-care, music, acting, editing, illustration, teaching, interior design, hair and beauty, and flower arrangement.

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Sheep

While those born under the sign of the Sheep are renowned for their kind and gentle nature, they are also incredibly private individuals. This means you’ll have to invest a lot of time and effort into getting to know them, although it will all be worth it in the long run. Friendships and romantic relationships with the Sheep are peaceful and fulfilling. In short, those born in the Year of the Sheep will do anything for the ones they love, making them ideal friends and partners. 

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introductory article, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1955 or 2015 belong to the Year of the Wood Sheep, meaning they are extremely amicable, gentle, and compassionate. The Fire Sheep, who were born in 1967 or 2027, are known for being especially good-natured, frank, and honest, with a penchant for keeping things clean and tidy. 

Anyone born in 1979 is an Earth Sheep, making them righteous, honest, straightforward, and enduringly loyal to their friends. Those born in 1931 or 1991 are Metal Sheep, who are ambitious, kind-hearted, and incredibly responsible in their careers, although they can be quite stubborn at times. Finally, the Water Sheep of 1943 and 2003 are always willing to help and will sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of others.

In short, why be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, when being a Sheep is so much better?

The Chinese Zodiac – The Horse

Galloping forward into the seventh place of the Chinese zodiac is the free-spirited and elegant Horse. Unfortunately, during the Jade Emperor’s great race to determine the animals of the zodiac, the Horse was cheated! As it headed towards the finish line, the Snake emerged from where it had been hiding under its hoof and terrified it, causing it to lurch back and allowing the Snake to slither into sixth place. For this reason, horses will always stomp on snakes when they see them! 

Years of the Horse

If you were born in the year 1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014, or 2026 then you belong to the sign of the Horse. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on January 21st in 1966, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Snake and not the Year of the Horse. In short, you’ve just become your own worst enemy!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

Those born in the Year of the Horse should take note of the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. Two, three, and seven are sure to bring you good fortune, but one, five, and six are to be avoided at all costs! Green and yellow are your lucky colours, while disaster comes in the form of blue and white.

Characteristics of the Horse

With their boundless energy and thirst for adventure, Horse people are said to be lively, humorous, sociable, warm-hearted, easy-going, generous, and fiercely independent. Their optimistic attitude and witty repartee means they attract friends with ease, and their strength of character allows them to effortlessly overcome difficulties. Whether it’s at concerts, performances, meetings, sporting events, or parties, Horses love to be part of the crowd. 

Unfortunately, the Horse’s positive attributes are the direct source of their weaknesses. With all the social activities they engage in, Horse people are prone to spending far too much money and can quickly find themselves in debt if they don’t manage their finances carefully. Their openness means that they are terrible at keeping secrets, and their superficial wit belies a general dearth of concrete knowledge. While they may come across as self-centred, their lack of academic intelligence means their self-confidence can actually be quite low.

Romantic Compatibility

Romantically speaking, the Horse should look to the Tiger or the Sheep for a lasting relationship, although they can forge a pleasant relationship with the Pig. Matches with the Rabbit, the Dragon, the Monkey, and the Dog will be distinctly average, while they’re better off being just friends with the Snake. When it comes to love, they should avoid the Rat, the Ox, the Rooster, and other Horses at all costs. 

Job Prospects

With their excellent communication skills and desire to work as part of a team, people born in the Year of the Horse are well-suited to careers in publication, performance, journalism, sales, translation, hospitality, management, and tourism.

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Horse

Those born under the sign of the Horse are well-known for their amicable and easy-going disposition, meaning they are extremely comfortable in social situations and are able to instantly put people at ease. Their quick wit and great sense of humour mean they are popular at large social gatherings and often have a wide circle of friends. In short, forging a friendship with the Horse couldn’t be easier!

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introductory article, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1954 or 2014 belong to the Year of the Wood Horse, meaning they are predisposed to be irritable and moody, but make up for it with their active imagination and unparalleled insight. The Fire Horses, who were born in 1966 or 2026, are known for being especially lively, smart, charismatic, and enthusiastic, although their stubbornness can be off-putting. 

Anyone born in 1978 is an Earth Horse, meaning that, in spite of their short-tempered nature, they are optimistic, kind-hearted, responsible, righteous, and always ready to help others. Those born in 1930 or 1990 are Metal Horses, who are kind, straightforward, calm, rational, and particularly popular among their friends. Finally, the Water Horses of 1942 and 2002 have a reliable, helpful, and amicable disposition with a capacity to skilfully charm the opposite sex, although they can be prone to sentimentality and cantankerousness.

So remember, don’t look a gift Horse in the mouth, because they’re bound to have a witty comeback!

The Chinese Zodiac – The Snake

From the lofty heights of the mythical Dragon flying in the sky, we’re brought crashing down to earth with the sixth animal in the Chinese zodiac: the sly and skilful Snake. When the Jade Emperor held his great race to determine the animals of the zodiac, the Snake curled up in the Horse’s hoof and hid there while the Horse crossed the river. Just as they were about to reach the finish line, the Snake emerged from the hoof, scared the Horse half to death, and sneakily nabbed sixth place. This is how the Snake became the sixth animal in the zodiac. It’s also why horses will always stomp on snakes when they see them!

Years of the Snake

If you were born in the year 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013, or 2025 then you belong to the sign of the Snake. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on February 6th in 1989, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Dragon and not the Year of the Snake. In short, you’ve just been given a new set of wings!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

Snake people should be wary of the numbers 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Two, eight, and nine are sure to herald good tidings, but one, six, and seven will only bring you woe! Black, red, and yellow are your lucky colours, while disaster comes in the colours brown, white, and gold.

Characteristics of the Snake

Throughout the world, the Snake has a somewhat maligned reputation as a thief, a snitch, and a downright villain. Even in Chinese culture, it is widely considered to be the most enigmatic animal in the zodiac. Yet those born under the sign of the Snake are said to be intuitive, sensitive, highly intelligent, humorous, persistent, artistic, sympathetic, wise, persuasive, and passionate. That being said, those bitten by the Snake won’t soon forget it! Snake people are known for being jealous, suspicious, materialistic, easily stressed, devious, and private.

Romantic Compatibility

The Snake’s difficult and deceitful nature means, when it comes to romance, they tend to turn people off. They should look to forge a romantic attachment with the Dragon or the Rooster, but can form an amicable relationship with the Ox and an average one with the Dog. When it comes to the Rat, the Horse, and the Monkey, they’re better off just as friends, whilst they should steer clear of the Tiger, the Rabbit, the Sheep, the Pig, and even other Snakes!

Job Prospects

With their creativity, astuteness, and diligence, Snakes are perfectly suited for careers in science, analytics, painting, pottery, creative writing, astrology, and sociology.

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Snake

Unfortunately, it seems that the Snake’s reputation precedes it, because they rarely have many, if any, close friends. This is in part due to their own secretive nature, as they keep their feelings hidden and are very picky when choosing their friends. They are not the type to forgive and forget, meaning they will cut off anyone who breaches their friendship in any way. 

Once you have established a close relationship with the Snake, however, they will be willing to share all of their happiest and darkest thoughts with you. They guard their chosen friends much like one would protect valuable possessions, so be aware that they might become jealous or obsessive at times.

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introductory article, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1965 or 2025 belong to the Year of the Wood Snake, making them more orderly and intelligent, with a refined taste and an enhanced ability to appreciate the arts. The Fire Snakes, who were born in 1977, are known for being smart, insightful, communicative, and active, with a fondness for being in the limelight.

Anyone born in 1929 or 1989 is an Earth Snake, meaning they are exceedingly calm and have incredible self-control, although they struggle with remaining steadfast and completing tasks. Those born in 1941 or 2001 are Metal Snakes, who are renowned for being determined, courageous, confident, and able; in other words, they are born leaders! Finally, the Water Snakes of 1953 and 2013 have a clever, creative, lively, and outgoing disposition, although they can be prone to sentimentality.

So remember, there’s no need to be afraid of a Snake in the grass!

The Chinese Zodiac – The Dragon

The fifth animal in the Chinese zodiac is arguably its most iconic member: the noble and illustrious Dragon. During the Jade Emperor’s great race across the river, the Emperor was shocked when the Dragon did not come first. After all, the Dragon could simply fly over the river. It turns out the kind-hearted Dragon had noticed a village that was on fire, so he rushed over to douse out the flames before returning to the race. In this way, he landed fifth place and became the fifth animal of the zodiac. 

Years of the Dragon

If you were lucky enough to have been born in the year 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, or 2024 then you belong to the sign of the Dragon. It’s important to note that the Chinese zodiac follows the Chinese lunar calendar, which begins in late-January or early-February. For example, Chinese New Year fell on February 5th in 2000, so anyone born before that date actually belongs to the Year of the Rabbit and not the Year of the Dragon. In short, you’ve just become a little more grounded!

Lucky Signs and Symbols

Dragon people should take heed of the numbers 1, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9. One, six, and seven are sure to bring you good fortune, but three, seven, and eight will usher in disaster! Gold, silver, and greyish white are your lucky colours, while misfortune comes in the form of blue and green.

Characteristics of the Dragon

Among the Chinese zodiac, the Dragon is the only mythical beast, but it is also considered the most powerful. Those born under the sign of the Dragon are said to be courageous, tenacious, highly intelligent, ambitious, confident, enthusiastic, magnanimous, decisive, romantic, and inspiring. Yet all of these positive attributes come with a price! They can easily drive people away with their arrogance, hot-headedness, tactlessness, intolerance, aggressiveness, and impatience.

Romantic Compatibility

The Dragon’s cantankerous and dominant nature means they can be hard to establish a romantic relationship with. Dragons should ideally look for love with the Rat, the Tiger, and the Snake, while the Pig and other Dragons are best off as good friends. They can form complementary matches with the Monkey and the Rooster, but matches with the Rabbit and the Horse will be average at best. They should avoid matches with the Ox, the Sheep, and the Dog at all costs, as they are bound to end in heartache.

Job Prospects

The Dragon’s willingness to challenge themselves and take risks means they are well-suited to careers in journalism, education, management, law, engineering, architecture, brokering, and sales.

How to Manage Your Relationship with the Dragon

When searching for romantic partners or even friends, Dragons are often hesitant to commit themselves and move forward when it comes to deepening the relationship. Once they have firmly decided to make a permanent commitment, however, it is not a decision they take lightly, meaning they intend for that relationship to last potentially for the rest of their lives. When they are in a romantic relationship or close friendship, the Dragon will reveal their warm-hearted nature and they are known for being incredibly generous to their loved ones.

The Elemental Cycle

As we mentioned in our introduction to the Chinese zodiac, the 12-year animal cycle is part of a much wider 60-year elemental cycle, meaning that each year of the zodiac is also assigned an element. People born in 1964 or 2024 belong to the Year of the Wood Dragon, making them more introverted, less enthusiastic, but nonetheless very talented. The Fire Dragons, who were born in 1976, are known for being smart and easy-going, although they are distinctly unreliable.

Anyone born in 1928 or 1988 is an Earth Dragon, meaning they are exceedingly smart, ambitious, and hardworking. Those born in 1940 or 2000 are Metal Dragons, who are renowned for being sincere and straightforward, but can also be unpredictable, changeable, and moody. Finally, the Water Dragons of 1952 and 2012 have a vigorous, determined, and perceptive disposition.

So, if you were born in the Year of the Dragon, try not to let your fiery temper burn too many bridges!