Posts Tagged ‘Chinese New Year’

Richard Ashworth’s Diary from the Hebrides: Refugee

March 16, 2018


“The least we can do is wave to each other”. Peter Hammill.

Right now I’m hiding on the Isle of Arran for a few weeks to write and research. As I look across the roofs through my cottage window, I’m listening to Karla Bonoff’s plaintive version of “The Water is Wide”, a traditional Scottish tune dating from at least the 18th century. It’s not really about Water by the way.

On my morning walk I pass what appears to be The Sporran Arts Club. I blink, no it’s the Arran Sports Club. It’s February, neither as quiet or as cold as I expected but quite sleepy nonetheless. An LED sign in a coffee shop window blinks “Closed” welcomingly. The spring sunlight plays across the bay; dappled stripes are divided by lighter channels. Snow-capped across the water stands Goat Fell (elevation 974m) high over the protective arm of the sound; in the lee, Brodick Castle ancient seat of the Hamilton family, stands out from the pines in its Victorian splendour. Uncrenellated red brick is not really my idea of a castle and feng shui bore that I am, I note that the conifers in front have grown so tall as to block the space directly in front. Such an open space (known as ming tang) represents the future, here an impeded one.

Flat-topped goy moon hills embrace the sea. The Chinese words translate as something like “open gate”. These are welcoming slopes. The land meets the Water too gradually for a natural harbour but it makes for a sheltered beach. Such feng shui implies openness and comfort rather than power or wealth. Hong Kong it isn’t but it is a place where people belong.

Feng shui is sometimes defined as “doing the right thing at the right time in the right place.” Which will do. I have a brief to research for a client and I have a book to write. The research is into timing. Since our understanding of time is principally derived from the Sun’s apparent journey across the sky and that journey always starts East and concludes West, time and place like the Arran sea and the sky, fold into one. I am in the extreme North West of Britain which right now is a powerful place to be. This is early in Spring, the season of Wood. And one expression of Wood is the written word.

The proposed book is a follow-up to my “Feng Shui Diaries” which despite modest sales appears to have changed lives from Russia to Vancouver by way of Bermuda, Poland, Spain, Kuala Lumpur and other exotic points too numerous to list. I stopped writing the regular diary entries that make that book up for several reasons: one was that miracles don’t happen every fortnight. Another was that I feared twisting the truth to make a better story. Reading it back now as the cold weather sets in around my cottage here, I am happy I never did that. The third reason was that so many people don’t want to be written about. This includes the famous and – wait for it – those who sought me out over thousands of miles because of that book. Go figure.

Someone once said that they didn’t know the secret of success was but they were pretty sure it wasn’t achieved by pleasing everybody. The Feng Shui Diaries has some good jokes in it and it’s mostly stories of course but some found it too technical and some not technical enough. I notice that its author was a simpler, gentler person than the one writing this.

The bulk of Brodick Castle dates from 1844. Fifteen years before that, a ship load of crofters set sail for a new life in Canada. They had little choice; the Duke of Hamilton had taken their homes. Brodick Heritage Museum dismisses such “clearances” as something like necessary modernisation. They’re currently embroiled in an argument with local historians who see it a bit differently. My son Jaime who is a proper professional historian tells me history is always about the present day. The only constant is change and yet nothing changes.

To everything there is a season. The task my client has set me is identifying her perfect moment for certain types of action. To do that I have to delve into real time; that is not time as dictated by clocks and calendars. It’s time as marked by the Sun, the Moon and nature itself. We all recognise it, I think. Before we’re fully awake and reach for ipad, phone or laptop, we are all able to tune into what season it is, what day of the week and what time. We are not distinct from nature but part of it. This morning I woke at 5:30; I knew by the light that it was Spring and barely dawn. It was cold but not the ambient cold of Winter, dark but not night. And there’s more.

Up to a point I can do this detective work with ba zi (or Four Pillars, sometimes misleadingly referred to as the Chinese Horoscope). Ba zi which is probably what I’m best known for, is drawn from the Gan Zhicycle of 60 Animals which is not subject to the phases of either Sun or Moon. But what I plan to do is work with a more demanding method of divination called Qi Men Dun Jia. Qi Men is relatively simple to calculate (though the Masters whose material I have studied disagree over how) but lengthy. It starts with ba zi and then factors in Sun, Moon and much more. Because calculation is lengthy there are Qi Men apps for phone and tablet. I don’t use these for ba zi and I’m not about to for Qi Men. To do that is to completely miss the point.

At the weekend I trek to Lamlash, some four miles away cross-country. The initial climb simply follows Strathwhillan Burn. When the burn peters out at the summit, another replaces it following the downward slope. Mountain follows Water, Water follows Mountain and Mountain follows Water.

It’s cold but the sun is shining. I notice where moss has run rampant in shadow and where stretches of trees are starkly brown against the green of their neighbours and I climb to a plateau by the main road from where as I marvel at the view, I call my son Alex at work. It’s Sunday but he’s an industrious man. It’s the first time in a while we’ve both had time to catch up. I thank the pace of the island for this opportunity.

It was an anomaly in Scottish property law that allowed the  laird to turf out tenants whose families had been in Brodick or Lamlash or Whiting for centuries. As I walk I’m thinking of those families huddled together against the Atlantic gale, knowing they had several weeks to brave followed by a future that was at best uncertain in a land where they owned nothing. That much is history but it’s the image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach in 2015 that keeps superimposing itself. A refugee is a refugee is a refugee. I don’t know how many of the crofters made it but I do know that little Alan’s parents were also heading for Canada where they had family.

The last few hundred yards of the walk into Lamlash are across the camber of the slope and parallel with the main road, so I cross several burns running right to left under the road. Now there are houses either side and I am relieved to find a bus stop. The time table tells me there’s a bus back to Brodick in four hours’ time. There are actually five buses running today, Sunday. I’m impressed; that’s five more than in rural Surrey. Transport – don’t start me talking; privatisation plus monopoly equals chaos. All part I guess, of the periodic “need for reform” as the museum put it.

There’s an extraordinary view across Lamlash Bay to Holy Isle. Like other such isles around the Northern coasts of Britain, the island is named for the monks and kings who settled there down the ages. St Columba himself was based on Iona just a few miles North and it’s likely he sent a cell of monks here possibly including his most famous successor St Aidan.

I sit on a bench a while taking in the view. Then I investigate ferries across to the island.

“Not before Easter,” says the boat man dourly.

Then I stop for a pot of tea and I buy some local marmalade. As I walk back towards the bus stop, my attention is drawn to a monument to the displaced crofters by the side of the road. Funded from Canada it lists many of the individual economic migrants by name. Most ended up in Quebec, many gravitated to Nova Scotia where some erected crofts which wouldn’t look out of place right here.

The bus is on time and the return journey takes about quarter of an hour. The map made Lamlash look so distant and walking is such an on-the-ground experience. My ipad tells me the rest of the country is snow bound but none has fallen here. It’s cold and windy now so I stop at the Douglas in Brodick for a further cup of tea.

3 million Scots emigrated following the clearances. These were rural people used to rising with the Sun and resting when it set. They did what work they had to, then rested, danced, constructed and repaired things, cared for their children and wrote and sang songs like “The Water is Wide.” It wasn’t perfect of course; they lacked penicillin, flush toilets and tv remotes but they worked as they had to and prior to lightbulbs and central heating, lived pretty much in tune with nature.

Unlike Alan Kurdi, many of these economic migrants didn’t of course venture far from home. Many ended up in the satanic mills of Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham and even distant London. And there they became part of a system that paid them just enough to keep returning at 7am each morning.

Looking out over the goy moon hills from the Douglas, I remember that it was Cecil Sharp, famous for his far and wide search for folk song who tidied up the lyrics to the “Water is Wide.” He concluded that there was no such thing as a London folk song.
Richard Ashworth © 2018

For more information on Richard’s courses and services, please email or visit his website.

Richard Ashworth©

The Pig in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 24, 2018

Pig 2018

Who is a Pig?
Years:  1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007.
Month*:  November
Hour: 09:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Day: ask us
* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too.
What is a Pig?
The weakness and the strength of the yin water Pig is to think they know what is good for them. Generally they do, and the maddening thing is that they are actually right often enough to make advice close to impossible. By extension this means you may believe you know what is right for everybody else.
Versatile and wilful, gifted at whatever they do, the Pig is the sign of the inventor. Edison was a Pig, as is Hillary Clinton and Wikileaker Julian Assange. Perfectly-balanced Pigs can literally do almost anything but they don’t always handle the truth well. They don’t much like reflective advice from others and they often hate not to know for sure. Remember Fire Pig Elton John in “Tantrums and Tiaras”?
But vagueness is also uncomfortable for the Pig: Edison was of course an obsessive patenter, Hillary determined to get Wall Street onside in the teeth of her liberal credentials and Assange, confident that he knows better than anyone else what the world needs to know. This does not make any of them mistaken but the truth can be a moveable feast.
The Pig is communicative because it is a water sign. A balanced Pig (perhaps March birth around mid-afternoon) is a great audience and typically gets the listening/talking ratio just right. An unbalanced Pig can shoot off at the mouth and give (or take) away the farm before she knows it. Does any of this sound like – to pluck a name from nowhere – Earth Pig Simon Cowell?
More likely, you are prone to withdrawing into silence. The Pig can sulk but can also withdraw simply out of disinterest and be perfectly cheerful when challenged on the withdrawal. The Pig child needs just the right mixture of carrot and stick. Too much disincentive and he is suppressed or resentful. Too much carrot and he can be smug. The balanced Pig is the most sensitive of the animals; the unbalanced Pig suffers an empathy bypass. As the parent of a Pig, just remember you are instrumental in this process. Your Piglet does not need to become a boor.
The Pig embodies the wood of creativity so they can be as adept with the written as the spoken word as well as the yang earth that makes them able to concentrate deeply. Many Pigs prefer to study in noisy rooms and many are effortless A-students as teachers of third year undergraduates of 2017 may notice. Bear in mind though that there is a near-epidemic of depression and anxiety among millennials and that Water is the associated element. Don’t ever take a Pig’s good cheer for granted.
The Pig does not tend to like the Snake; one way or another they immobilise each other. The Snake’s intimate, the Monkey, can be a source of annoyance also.
The Pig’s most natural team is with the Rabbit and the Sheep. This is a domestic alliance. Together these three naturally make anywhere home. A perfect family might be Pig father, Rabbit mother and Sheep first-born. Once home, the Rabbit entertains while the Sheep ensures compatibility and the Pig does skilfully the tasks that are beyond her partners.
Traditionally the Pig also enjoys the company of the Tiger as Water Pig David Furnish can attest. You might think she’d be more cautious but she knows that the Tiger is uninterested in conquering anyone he considers easy meat. Of course he’s missing something here but the Pig’s fearless approach often disarms the Tiger before he realises.  And by the bye, Pig’s literary ambition may burgeon in a Tiger year and flourish in a Rabbit one.
Although she may herself be more adventurous, the Pig also understands the loyal and consistent Dog. She respects the fact that every home needs its guardian. These two will tend to develop a camaraderie with its own distinctive banter. The Pig respects the Dog’s diligence and the Dog knows the Pig will compensate for his weakness.
The Pig also operates well as factotum for a group consisting of the Snake (whom she can’t otherwise stand for any length of time) the Monkey (see above) and the Tiger. For these she is, interestingly, the peacemaker and setter of standards. Without the Pig this grouping whose common interest is travel and mobility, can’t get off the ground.
One final note: the Pig suffers what is called the self curse. That is to say that she has limited patience with other Pigs. The Chinese character for a house is one Pig under a roof. Just the one.

Richard Ashworth©

The Rooster in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 22, 2018

Rooster 2018

Who is a Rooster?

Years:  1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005.
Month*:  September
Hour: 05:00 pm -07:00 pm
Days: ask us
* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too. 

What is a Rooster?

The Rooster is yin metal, the night bird, glamorous with an eye for presentation and detail. She appreciates an argument and likes to win but has little patience for causes that drag on. She will appreciate jewellery, fine art and good living and create wealth easily. Conversely of course, a dangerous Rooster like Qaseem Soleimani (Iranian General i/c of the Iraqi Army – Google him) can reject such distractions in order to serve a cause that has indeed dragged on for decades. This is yin and yang.

The rule this illustrates (by violating it) is that a typical Rooster is suited to work that involves short decisive arguments such as that of an advocate. Her brief passion is the perfect support for a client. She can defend with enormous commitment and then move on to the next one. That commitment is 100% but it is short lived. If she is in a job that involves holding her peace she may fret and become ill.

Osama bin Laden was a typical 1957 fire Rooster: one big splash and he was off. For you, a car must be fast, a partner challenging and life full of twists and turns. The Rooster is likely to be quick witted rather than profound, with a short attention span.

Her allies the Snake and the Ox are sometimes impatient with her because she can digress so widely and so easily but she brings to the metal alliance the pure competitiveness that the Ox might otherwise misuse and the Snake misunderstand. Think Ed Miliband snatching leadership of the opposition from under his brother's nose. The Rooster is pure metal – that is determined to prevail at all costs – Snake and Ox are not. They will not win many cases or many contracts without her and they would do well to pay and respect her appropriately despite the fact that she demands longer holidays and a better remuneration package.  Conversely if she fails to respect a support system that dots i’s and crosses t’s in order to support the intuitive flashes that s/he can exploit but seldom generate, she will not prosper.

Her pitfalls are sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. She likes to party and her personality may be addictive; the Rooster prefers dusk to dawn and also the small hours.

The Rooster enjoys a powerful alliance with the Dragon in which she, uniquely in the average Dragon’s experience, may hold the whip hand. This is not always entirely healthy. She can bend the Dragon out of shape just as the Ox can bend the Rat. This sway must be employed responsibly otherwise both can be damaged. With that proviso this is one of the strongest and longest-lasting alliances in the Chinese zodiac.

Predictably the Rooster is one of the charismatic Flowers of Romance. Success and glamorous partners come easily to her. Often a Rooster can punch above her weight in this regard. Cinderella was a Rooster and so is Yoko Ono. This effortlessness can make for complacency; bitterness is more common among middle-aged Roosters than any other animal. Not the remarkable Ms Ono btw. Roosters are often long-lived also.

With the Monkey she can form a commercial alliance. A business co-run by these two will be irresistibly attractive but may not open on time. It may not close promptly either and may also suffer the cash flow problems that come from poor financial prioritisation. A marriage would risk the same types of problem: great parties, early divorce. The unbalanced Metal creatures – Monkey and Rooster – sometimes know and understand precision but don’t respect it.

The cautious domesticated Rabbit is the nemesis of the Rooster who likes bling while the Rabbit can see no life in a stone. Any such relationship would generally be full of obstruction and passive aggression. The insistent wood of the Tiger is almost as maddening although his fierceness would at least engage the Rooster’s attention. The loyal, consistent Dog risks boring her rigid.

Richard Ashworth

The Monkey in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 21, 2018

Monkey 2018

Who is a Monkey?

Years:  1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004.
Month*:  August
Hour: 03:00 pm – 05:00 pm
Day: ask us
* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too. 

What is a monkey?

The image of the Three Wise Monkeys, See no evil, Hear no evil, and Speak no evil is a mediaeval Japanese summary of the qualities of the unbalanced Monkey. The image is of someone of course who shrinks from involvement. In elemental terms, this is about too much yang Metal. What is meant by yang Metal is precision; in human relations that distils down to is competition. Often the Monkey is so competitive he dare not enter the race. For many Monkeys, a man is an island. He is, like Hugh Grant’s character in About a Boy, “bloody Ibiza”.

As well as competitive, the Monkey is typically charming, loveable, dextrous, logical and quick witted and has a gift for precision. The balanced Monkey uses these qualities constructively and in the service of his fellow man. The unbalanced Monkey (born say, late afternoon in August ) does not clean up behind himself. He is in short a monkey.

The Monkey is often the most acquisitive as well as the gentlest beast but he is above all, competitive. In the extreme this means warfare. In its milder forms it is the ruthless competition that involves the belief that another’s gain is our loss. This is a mistake. It’s what leads to steroid abuse in athletics and ballet dancing in the Premiership penalty box. The metal Monkey may learn this lesson early; it’s what makes him particularly gentle. All Monkeys subscribe to this delusion to a greater or lesser extent. Just as you’d expect, the pitfall of the Monkey is frivolity. If he can’t win he takes the Mickey.

The Monkey’s natural allies are the Rat and the Dragon. This is a pretty heavy-duty grouping, perhaps the most powerful in the Chinese Zodiac. The naturally dominant Rat and the egotistical Dragon are not, as a rule, a bundle of laughs. But they get stuff done; most of the big revolutions of ideas involve this team. The influence of this trio spreads everywhere: Sigmund Freud perhaps the most influential thinker of the 20th Century, Michele Obama for a little while yet, possibly the most influential woman in the world. Dragons. Even Jesus if you take AD32 as his birth year.* And somewhere in there if we delve deeply enough, we find unsung Monkeys and Rats making it happen. The Rat plots, the Monkey gets out there and competes. Probably St Paul, the man who sold Christianity to the world was a Monkey. Someone who is a Monkey for sure is Karen Armstrong author of a History of God and Fields of Blood, founder of the Charter for Compassion and arguably the most important thinker of the 21st Century. This is a Monkey who has learned to speak no evil while seeing much. For her forgiveness is the fundamental value.

The Monkey tends to understand engines; he is the grease Monkey. He also tends to understand maths, science and argument. He is suited very often to a career in engineering or the law, also accountancy. Unbalanced, he neglects all of the above. The Monkey month of August spans Leo and Virgo and to see him as a hybrid of Virgo control and Leo passion is not far from the truth.

When the Tiger and the Snake meet the Monkey, there’s often trouble. The Monkey both co-operates with and fights the Snake. The presence of the Tiger pushes this competition over the edge. Keep them apart.

So the Monkey should mind his p’s and q’s every February, the month of the Tiger and every May, the month of the Snake. So that’s the Monkey: argumentative, practical, mischievous, so competitive he can withdraw altogether. But you knew that already didn’t you?

* That’s up for debate of course but presumably he was a Capricorn anyway.

Richard Ashworth


The Sheep in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 20, 2018

Sheep 2018

Who is a Sheep?

Years:  1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015.
Month*:  July
Hour: 01:00 pm – 03:00 pm
Day: ask us
* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too. 

What is a Sheep?

Idealistic, yin earth, not the top getter-onner, the Sheep has well-meant judgements about everybody which can sometimes keep her stuck in first gear. For the unbalanced Sheep (July birthday and/or mid-afternoon birth) ambition and foolishness are pretty much the same thing. On the other side of the fence the grass is not greener; it’s actually brown on both sides. The balanced Sheep though, as well as being an expert judge of people, knows exactly what matters and is not easily diverted from it. Metal Sheep Rupert Murdoch as an example, may be all sorts of deluded but not in the above regard.

Conversely, the value of caution and conservatism is often clear in Sheep relationships. The most obvious of these is with the extrovert, spontaneous Horse whose sidekick the Sheep often ends up being. With the Sheep beside him, the Horse’s fun may be a little less riotous but he will also stay out of serious trouble. The Horse and Sheep of 1978 and 1979 for instance, are often a tag team who go out drinking and clubbing together. The Sheep may stand back in amazement at the Horse’s daring but she is there both to pick up the pieces and to take advantage when these risks bear fruit. The Horse dances on tables, the Sheep buys the drinks. This of course illustrates a psychological truth about the Sheep: the risk-taking they shy away from is exactly what attracts them most. What often follows also is that a desirable partner, on the rebound from a Horse, finds a steadier proposition in the Sheep.

Anyway, placed as you are between the Horse and the Monkey in the Chinese Zodiac, you understand the tricky Monkey. There is generally a certain mutual wariness but this unorthodox team is capable of magic. Consider btw the eternal rectangle of Monkeys Wendi Deng and Jerry Hall, Horse Mick Jagger and Sheep Rupert Murdoch. Perhaps throw in Horse Cherie and Snake Tony Blair to make it interesting.

The Sheep also affiliates easily with the Pig and the Rabbit. This is a very domestic alliance. The Chinese ideograph for home is a Pig under a roof and the average Rabbit would also happily stay home 24/7 if allowed to. The Rabbit is the diplomat and mixer while the Pig who is inherently versatile, takes up the slack of whatever jobs there are to perform. The Sheep makes things safe. She will have ensured for instance that there are no mutually sworn enemies on the guest list. The typical Sheep is an ideal social secretary as well as a master resolver of conflict. Psycho-therapy is among the appropriate career paths.

The Sheep is passionate, representing the yin or feminine side of sexuality, but whether male or female, he is more seducer than chatter up.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Sheep forms a team with the Dog, the Dragon and the Ox. Individually each of these three is somewhat intimidating to her but when this group gathers, the Sheep’s unique gifts become essential: drawing flexibility from the Dog, humility from the Dragon and cheerful co- operation from the autocratic Ox. Above all she ensures peace among them. Even if all she does is make the coffee, the Sheep is a comforter of the insecure. She understands that most barkers never bite and that aggression is simply inverted fear. When in doubt, join.

Richard Ashworth©

The Snake in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 18, 2018

Snake 2018

Who is a Snake?

Years:  1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001.
Month*:  May
Hour: 09:00 am – 11.00am
Day: ask us
* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too. 

What is a Snake?

The balanced or mature Snake has absolute integrity; this is the goal to strive for.

Snake is yin fire and sits flanked by Horse and the Dragon, possibly the most powerful pair of animals in the Zodiac and certainly among the most difficult stools to fall between. So a typical weakness of the Snake is indecision. Next to that is lack of commitment and finally a propensity for sudden and uncharacteristic dishonesty. The Snake is the prisoner who breaks at the threat of torture; a reasonable decision if you know you’re going to give in anyway. Snakes being of Candle Flame fire, are easily discouraged and sometimes they should be. A Snake may even stick long term with an inappropriate choice so as to put off making any choice at all.

The most powerful Snake in the world right now is probably Xi Jinping, born in Snake in the Grass year 1953 and appointed at a time when the internal tensions in China – between efficiency and self- expression, between industrial wealth and rural poverty and between cohesion and corruption – were quite stark. Repetitive tasks for cheap labour have been travelling East from Europe since the 18 th century. Once the last few hundred million Chinese have been urbanised, there’s nowhere else for manufacture to go because growth can’t go on forever. This is the conundrum that faces Xi. The smartest and bravest Snakes confront it head on, the typical Snake pretends there’s no issue and proceeds to “reform”. Do not deceive yourself that the Chinese authorities are no longer imprisoning the innocent without trial or protecting those of the corrupt who can be discreet. In Tibet some of the actions sanctioned by Xi – torture, dispossession, summary execution – make Assad (1965 Wood Snake) look like Paddington Bear. These are karmically at least, very young Snakes to whom the truth is a flexible tool but this is your shadow figure, your worst, most plausible self, walking.

It can be different. And if it is your dreams come true. The Snake remains the seeker after truth. This can mean that an immature or unbalanced one is a purveyor of untruths. The balanced or mature Snake, as I said, reveres the truth and calls out falsehood. But meanwhile what you see may not be what you get. Taking into account the Umbrella sit-ins in Hong Kong and a push-me- pull-you approach to liberal reforms, you might well say that about Mr Xi. Compare perhaps with triple 1953 Snake (year, month, day) Tony Blair. But also with 1941 Metal Snake Bernie Sanders.

So the choice for the Snake is between opposites: the extroversion of the Horse and the subtlety of the Dragon, instinct and logic, process and end product, long and short term, relationship and freedom, employment or entrepreneurship. In the face of this dilemma, a balanced Snake will often develop sufficient charm to get through without having to make the hard decisions. Typically in a relationship, the Snake of either gender is not the decision maker and the decisions she has not made may include that of being committed to the relationship. The partner of the Snake (best choice probably Ox or Rooster though Monkey lady and Snake man works well) would be well-advised to drag at least this minimum communication from the Snake early on. Interestingly the water Snake of 1953 is one of the best makers and keepers of relationship of all 60 pillars.

One of the advantages of being between the autocratic Dragon and the unruly Horse is that the Snake has her ego in check. Many would consider her wise because what she has to say is well-considered and she never says too much. The Snake can be a brilliant collaborator, especially with the Ox and the Rooster who are in a sense similar to her two neighbours: the Rooster is blatant and the Ox determined while the Snake anchors them to each other. There may be moments of doubt when the Snake’s loyalty wavers. At such times, the Snake asks searching questions which should have been settled long ago and then usually re-commits. The high minded Brutus was probably a Snake. Not Judas though. To know this, grants the Snake both power and integrity. Snakes who know themselves earn undying trust.

The Snake can also work with the Dragon in what is called the House of Magic. Only the Snake can subordinate ego to the extent that the Dragon demands, while also keeping up. One ideal vocation for a Snake is high-level p.a. Usually (and wisely) the Snake opts for the role of No 2 rather than Big Chief.

Being substantially of yin fire, the Snake often has intellectual and visual gifts. She makes a good critic as her judgement is good and she is not out to destroy egos. She will generally have natural and effortless style.

The Snake’s relationship with the Monkey is a love-hate one. Both have hands-on and logical abilityand both attract the occasional tussle but where the Monkey welcomes the opportunity for mischief, the Snake treats dispute as a necessary and regrettable evil. When a Tiger appears either in the form of a Tiger-born person or a Tiger year like 2010, this misunderstanding can turn nasty. In the Metal times of 2016 and 2017 however, the issues are very different.

The Snake is opposed to the Pig and as both of these are members of the informal group sometimes called the Four Terminals or Stations, they can impede each other’s movement. Snakes may develop mobility issues in a Pig year (or month) and vice versa. Your momentum may for instance slow in November this year. Be sure to have achieved your year goals by then.

The Snake prefers a short menu and yes/no questions. In a Rat year the Snake may be overwhelmed; there is just too much choice, The Snake’s dreams may come true only for her to run in the opposite direction. Often communication has to be wrenched from the Snake and in the water years of Rat and Pig there is little support for the tight-lipped. In a typical Ox year there is just enough water but not too much. This makes scope for just the restricted level of communication the Snake prefers. The Rooster year on the other hand is very different.

Snakes have a complex relationship with fire. They are not usually sun-worshippers but often their skin needs just a little regular sun and without it they may fall prey to easily avoided ailments such as vitamin D deficiency.

Richard Ashworth©

The Rabbit in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 16, 2018

Rabbit 2018

Who is a Rabbit?

Years:  1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011.
Month*:  March
Hour: 05:00 am – 07:00 am
Day: ask us

* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too.

What is a Rabbit?

The Rabbit is yin wood, which makes him essentially gentle and domestic. Her time is early morning; the legend has it that she and the Rooster swapped places which is why the cock of the Chinese Zodiac crows not at dawn but at dusk. Accordingly the Rabbit rules the Spring – think of March Hares and Easter Bunnies – and the Rooster the autumn.

The Rabbit is subtle, in keeping with his yin nature. He provides service readily and is often suited to catering and caring. But her preparedness to roll up her sleeves makes her the unexpected queen of networking. If you want to be introduced to the person in charge, ask a Rabbit. As a business person however, you open deals much better than you close them. There is no hardness about you. Do not confuse hard with tough; the Rabbit is the most resilient of all Animals.

You are accordingly well able to wait your turn; vigilance and patience are typical. Natural allies are the Pig and the Sheep. This is a house-proud team and the Rabbit is a team player. Your unexpected friend is the Dog who values your ability to charm without threat.

The Rabbit also belongs to the gathering known as the Flowers of Love (or Plumflowers) along with the Horse, the Rooster and Rat. She may often find herself clearing up behind these three extroverts and quite often the cuddle-bunny will obtain a life partner from the leavings of more obviously glamorous colleagues. Be aware that these extroverts and schemers need you in order to function properly.

The Rabbit tends to be conservative with a small “c”. Early rising is typical but this tendency to the yang of early alertness may be demonstrated by the yin of sleeping in. Lazybones or insomniac, sleeping is an issue. This is better cured by adjusting your timing than by pharmaceuticals.

Because of the unflattering connotations of the local word for Rabbit, in Vietnam this Animal is called the Cat. Intuitively this does not sit right. The ideogram so clearly has ears. Yin wood relates to the eyes and to the Spring, leaves and flowers and grass, none of which are feline attributes.

In some ways the Rabbit epitomises yin. Yang wood may be best characterised as an outwards and upwards movement like the growth of a tree. Yin wood is more of a pure outward expansion like the spreading of grass. What these two expressions of wood have in common is irresistibility. But they are very different types of irresistibility. To counter yang wood we need yang metal: an axe will cut down the biggest tree. But you could attack a lawn with that same axe and not remove all the grass in a lifetime. This is the power of yin wood. I often use Water Rabbit Michelle Obama as a good example of such irresistibility. Remember her on the stump for Hillary? A month of that and Trump would have been consigned to history.

Wood is both stubborn and flexible. Yin wood (as characterised by soen, the wind of the South East) is thorough as well as organised. Hexagram 53 of the Book of Changes, Gradual Progress describes the ability of the little tree to grow on the hilltop despite the wind, either by throwing itself absolutely upon the mercy of the tao or following a detailed plan that it follows meticulously. Or some combination.

The Dragon is said to lose money when the Rabbit arrives. This may be because the Dragon is distracted by a neighbour so apparently different in nature. The Rabbit is a borrower as well as a burrower and the Dragon thinks little of tomorrow. So this is not generally a great pairing but the fact is that the Rabbit sitting between the Tiger and the Dragon shares qualities with both. Partnership with the Tiger is sometimes formalised as the House of Diplomacy. The Rabbit offers carrot while the Tiger wields a stick. This arrangement exemplifies the truism that more is achieved with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.

Other prominent Rabbits include Russell Brand, who despite his wild exterior, is that most romantic of Animals, the 1975 Wood Rabbit. Wood represents bone, spine and hair as well as eyes: the light is fire but the receiving organ is wood. The Rabbit is often not strong in these regards, unlike the Tiger. This is yin and yang.

Richard Ashworth

The Ox in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 14, 2018

Ox 2018

Who is an Ox?

Years:  1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009.
Month*:  January
Hour: 01:00 am -03:00 am
Day: ask us
* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too. 

What is an Ox?

The Ox is deeply sensitive, psychic even but also quite insistent; rather than persistent; Ox yin Earth makes for a certain fragility, more of a curtain than a rampart. The Ox is in many ways, the most sensitive Animal. This is often expressed in what looks like obstinacy but is better understood as puzzlement. In discourse you may find that an Ox has firm principles that on examination are not principles at all but more like prejudices or assumptions. They are often firm as well as correct for all that. Jane Austen’s Mrs Bennett reads like an Ox.

As a rule, don’t expect flexibility of mind from an Ox; they know what they know and are often not keen to venture beyond. The detail that really distinguishes the Ox however, is that (s)he often craves power and often doesn’t notice either that the power has waned or that it is time to relinquish it. Famous Oxen include Margaret Thatcher, Napoleon Bonaparte and Barack Obama. You get the picture? Power tends to peak in the Rat year btw – 1984, 1804 and 2008 respectively.

The Ox is frequently practical rather than intellectual although the intellectually gifted Ox packs power; take 1961 Ox Yanis Varoufakis for instance. Because of your position between the Rat and the Tiger, you can sometimes vacillate between a fierceness that does not suit you and a Rat-like charm that may not be sustainable. Neither of these are strengths in academe.

With her allies the Snake and the Rooster, the Ox forms a team which is of the Metal element. That is to say that the alliance is linear, judgemental and competitive. Where the ground rules are clear, this is an unstoppable combination. These three make a great legal team with the Rooster charming the jury, the Snake unearthing information that no one else could find and the Ox sticking to the point. When the rules are unclear however, the alliance can falter. Then the Ox can become judgemental in a more covert sort of way, being less liable to argue than to judge silently. Without the Snake and the Rooster, the Ox becomes more barrack room lawyer than barrister.

To the metal of such a team which stands for logic, reason and competition, the Ox brings the earth that means consistency. Which is vital but in dealing with the Ox, it is important to encourage linear thought and to unmask the unreasonable (and consistent) for what it is. Often your position is just habit; you may still quibble though.

The hour of the Ox (1am-3am) is the time that the worlds of spirit and flesh are closest.  She has a deep spiritual agenda. The gifts of mediumship and divination are essentially Ox and Sheep gifts. Often squaring strict logic with intuition is a life lesson.

The Ox may be attached to ancestral dogma. Fundamentalism of all sorts – political and social as well as religious – stick to you. She is not always good at questioning tradition or second-hand wisdom that has come down on good authority. She will often quote great men and prophets, not because their words are wise but simply because they are reckoned great. Maggie Thatcher probably made both Maynard Keynes and John Wesley rotate in their graves.

With the Dragon, Dog and Sheep, the Ox forms the Literary Alliance. Some call this confluence the Four Earths and think of it as negative. The fact is that it is a demanding combination and when only three of these meet, the weakness of the grouping is defined by the one missing. When all four are present, great achievement follows. If the Dog is absent for instance, the association may be short-lived. On the other hand, the combination of Dog, Ox and Sheep is a challenge to a strong ba zi and can be the ruin of a weak one. Obviously the magic Dragon is missing from this last conjunction, sometimes called a “bullying punishment.” When the three appear together, expect suppressed communication and rigid rules. Which the Dragon simply wiggles his nose and dissolves.

Barack Obama may currently be the world’s most famous Ox and a good example of this. He actually has a Sheep in his month pillar but no Dogs and no Dragons; this makes for a home-loving and secure man. Which is heightened by a day stem (the yin earth character that rules the day he was born) having a special affinity both with the Ox and the Sheep. This like so many Oxen, is a man who loves his babies. But what about those of the rest of the world?

As if to answer this question, Obama who knows his executive power is on the wane, is clearly going down fighting. As Napoleon did and Mrs Thatcher as well of course as 1889 Earth Ox Adolf Hitler*. None of these knew when it was all over, did they? Traditionally the chaos of “bullying punishment” is brought to a head by the Dragon.

The Ox is not that keen on the Rabbit who can help herself to the Ox’s fresh vegetables or the Tiger who somehow often manages to exploit her. And you have a love-hate relationship with the irritatingly spontaneous and extrovert Horse to whom you can not help nonetheless being drawn. For the Ox, the Horse represents the perhaps unwelcome daylight upon your true intentions and ultimately your true values. But to really know the mettle of the Ox, observe her with Sheep and Dog. *His peak Rat year was 1936.

Richard Ashworth

The Rat in the Year of the Earth Dog 2018

February 13, 2018


Rat 2018
Who is a Rat?
Years:  1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008.
Month*:  December
Hour: 11:00 pm – 01:00 am
Day: ask us
* Caution: the start of the Chinese month can be as early as the 4th & as late as the 9th, depending on the year. I can let you know this too.

What is a Rat?
The Rat is yang water but with a hidden stem of yin Water, the major Water animal of Chinese metaphysics. All Water on this planet, unless interfered with by outside forces, is connected with and on the same level as all other Water. Sea level at Zeebrugge is the same as sea level at Miami. If I spill my cup of tea here in Surrey and you spill yours in Taiwan, sooner or later they’ll mix. It may take aeons but they’ll mix. This powerful idea may clarify the connection between Water and communication.
Someone said that we have two ears and one mouth for a good reason: that we should listen twice as much as we speak. The issues relating to Water are listening and speaking while keeping the ratios right. The Rat can easily miss this. Some of us are elected primarily to talk and the yang Water of the Rat says it’s you. The Rat is the talker of the Chinese Zodiac. As you know, an unbalanced or distressed Rat tends to clam up or run off at the mouth. Which will it be this year?
The Rat is supreme in the realm of ideas. It is said that when you can tell water from fire, you are a master. The blue of the sky at mid-summer, for instance is not water but fire. Who can identify this consistently? The Rat who is a planner and a plotter and a deep thinker, is the most likely candidate. He thinks ahead, sometimes to the detriment of his awareness of the present. This makes him a good chess player but not so great at poker. He is apt to be too controlling for games that require openness to good fortune. That sort of uncertainty can be painful. Your average Rat wants the credit and to get that he has to be in control.
In conversation you may find that the Rat second guesses in a very distinctive way: typically he gets his correspondent to commit to a position before he states his; a very useful quality in a teacher but not everyone’s cup of tea in a collaborator. The Dragon and the Monkey, even the Ox, may find this reassuring but it drives the Horse and the Tiger wild and to some extent even the Dog.
Being big talkers and travellers, Rats are traditionally suited to work involving communication: sales, oratory and persuasion. In the collaboration with the Rabbit, Rooster and Horse that Derek Walters (himself a Rat) calls the Flowers of Love, the Rat is the talker, the chatter-up if you will, where the Rooster provides the glamour, the Horse the passion and the Rabbit the stamina. A Rat with these additional animals present is effortlessly successful and charismatic. The missing animals indicate his weaknesses. None of them others however is at ease alone in the company of the Rat.
An unbalanced Rat talks too much and listens selectively. A balanced one gets it exactly right; he is fascinating talker and a skilled listener. But this wilful deafness can be a point of pride. Blessed with an orderly mind and excellent retention, a Rat can consider his ignorance of a subject a reflection upon the subject rather than upon himself. This sort of Rat needs to learn to value the convictions of others, especially if they are derived from premises he does not accept.
The Rat is a guardian, a watcher. Sometimes he is self-appointed and the unbalanced Rat has a particular blindness that leads him to believe that his opinion is an absolute. This is more accentuated and less well-informed in his partner the Ox in what some call the House of Creativity (or Cleverness). The relationship between the Ox and the Rat is less that of partners than of pupil and tutor but the Ox can be a particularly obdurate and dominating learner, sometimes drawing conclusions to which he is not entitled and sticking like a limpet to any conclusion he can justify. In these circumstances the Ox is not so much partner or indeed student of the Rat as tormentor. When Ox and Rat are together it is the Ox who calls the tunes.
A very conscious Rat can make good use of his blindness to the value of other people’s positions. She is likely to be able to explain things that baffle others and to derive laws from this gift. To have no explanation however is to open himself up to chaos. If he knows this about himself he can master even the most abstract discipline.
The Rat is versatile and multi-talented though not as notably so as the Pig of whom he is often jealous or the Dragon who can baffle him despite their mutual affinity. Yang water can speak of profligacy with money. The Rat is a brilliant small businessman but often a poor tycoon. In the power triad with the Dragon and Monkey, the Rat may appear to overvalue the hands-on deftness of the Monkey because he finds the Monkey easier to control and may envy the Dragon his magic.
And it is this potential for envy that is the other big weakness of the Rat and lays him open once more to the Rooster of the year who of course shares it. The full-on spontaneity of Fire has always drawn resentment from certain Rats. He can’t admire what he can’t himself master. This can lead to him not getting credit for originality of mind. Consider Water Rat Alan Turing of Enigma fame. And finally the Rat can be a fickle partner but an attentive parent, albeit one who may have favourites. The awakened Rat is absolutely even-handed; that in itself is quite a gift.

Richard Ashworth©

A leap in the dark: the Month of the Wood Tiger 2018

February 7, 2018

Another Monthly Bulletin in our new format; it tells you briefly how the month may turn out for you as well as where to concentrate for best outcomes. And this time, a little more about the nature of the month. There’s no actual Feng Shui Diary here. Which as it is not so time-sensitive, will be with you later in the month. Watch this space.

Meanwhile you can top up daily on Twitter (@FengShuiDiaries), LinkedIn and FaceBook. Best to like my page rather than be my friend if you’d prefer to avoid politics, rants, cute micropigs and photos of my grandchildren.

Summary: a month when patience and integrity are the central virtues.

Info, diary, assistance:

A leap in the dark: the Month of the Wood Tiger 2018.

Bulletin for February 2018

(05:38 4th Feb to 23:25 5th March 2018 inclusive)


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Hexagram 211


Animal by Animal

During this Wood Tiger Month,

The Rat could be startled,

The Ox can breathe again,

The Tiger may overstep,

The Rabbit consolidates;

The Dragon abbreviates,

The Snake is gentle with him or herself,

The Horse may run amok,

The Sheep is back in,

 A smarter Monkey holds back,

The Rooster risks confusion,

The Dog feels very secure,


The Pig is finding meaning.


Remember: the 4 Pillars of your ba zi relate to Year, Month, Day and Hour of birth. Each represents different aspects of your life:              

Year Animal: physicality, forebears, heritage, the obvious and immediate;

Month Animal: the work environment, education, peers, siblings, exes;

Day Animal: you and your beloved;

Hour Animal: your most intimate thoughts, children, dreams, the future.


A 5 month features a return to base.

A Tiger month favours the rapid advance that follows patience.

Most helpful location: South (for East Group kuas 1 3 4 9)

North East (West Group 2 6 7 8).

Favoured Animals: Tiger, Horse, Dog, Pig.

Especially challenged one way or another: Monkey, Snake, Rat, Dragon.

The Hexagram (above): Tai, Peace; Earth over Heaven. Co-operation.

A Leap in the Dark:

Animal Fortunes for the Wood Tiger Month February 2018

The 4th February brings in the Tiger month. This is lap chun, the Spring Festival. And by most accounts sometime between the 4th and the 16th of February we also enter the Year of the Earth Dog. This means that our personal Fate or Destiny as represented by our Zodiac Animals, is subject to two new and powerful influences pretty much simultaneously.

Dog and Tiger are natural team-mates. Technically they combine to make Fire along with the Horse. So this is typically a month of passion and spontaneity and all three can expect a boost of energy all year. As can the Rabbit who is the Dog’s so-called “secret friend”. Which may come as a surprise; you might expect the Rabbit to live in terror of the Dog but no, this connection is an example of the Rabbit’s networking ability. If you want a hot line to movers and shakers ask a Rabbit.

For this month however the domestically-inclined Rabbit is mostly best staying home as the Tiger’s energy is a bit fast and furious for her. The Dragon on the other hand, although challenged by the Dog can generally keep a Tiger at a distance; a fast month for you Dragons, promising acceleration in mid-year. Equally the Snake may find the Fire of the month dazzling after the clarity of January. The untimely Fire makes this a month (as well as a year) of revelations and limelight for many of us.

The Sheep and Ox are likely to be snared by what is known as the “Bullying Punishment” intermittently during the year. Both may feel a little taken for granted right now; better that than the interventions and triangular relationships that can follow in July and October. The Monkey is at odds with the Tiger at the best of times, so your best bet may be routine for now. Roosters understand neither Dog nor Tiger; theirs is a yin Metal world of precision and proportion which makes it hard to maintain that immaculate front under Fire. The position of the Pig however as secret friend of the Tiger and neighbour to the Dog makes both his year and month periods of finding direction. Few Rats on the other hand will find this a straightforward time; they’re used to talking long and hard ahead of action, while the Fire creatures Dog, Tiger and Horse think the other way round. Stand back and allow what will be to be. The only constant of course is change.

There’s much more to say; watch this space.

Richard Ashworth ©2018. 

Where to be in February.

Summary: the place of creativity.

North East, Wealth Star: Year Star: 4/3 gip sat, Month Star:

8 is the best, it’s immediate and helpful. To kuas 2 6 7 & 8 in particular. Abundance is a bigger issue than money but the 8 may be the key to both. Bright light will encourage it as long as the underlying longer-term Stars are playing ball – which will be an issue related to the individual dwelling. Continues to be the location to settle in for concentration; outcome may be more commercial than usual.

Enhancement: Bright light.

Where not to be in February.

Summary: morbid all year.

Tai chi, Home: Year Star: 1/9 Month Star: 5.

For some this month may be as ferocious as the Tiger and as cantankerous as the 5 Star. Challenging. Don’t allow yourself to be marooned at the heart of the house and make it worse. A 5 in the heart of a building is only of help to very skilled Masters. The rest of us are best standing back. Don’t try this at home kids.

Solution: t’ang lung or Metal ie Metal stuff, 6-Pipe Metal Windchime, Red 6, wu lou – take your pick. Best to stay clear.

In the video I refer to remarkable anaysis of Harvey Weinstein’s ba zi by my student Seattle-based Stephanie Stewart. What drives a man like that? Now you know. Here’s the link:


Richard Ashworth is among the most respected Western Feng Shui Masters. He has worked from the Lebanon to Bermuda, in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and with stars such as Kelly Hoppen and Gillian Anderson. Unusually for a Western Master, he has addressed the Grand Masters at the International Feng Shui Conference in Singapore. His day job remains “walking round people’s spaces being enigmatic”.

We send out to Retainer Clients a (much) more comprehensive monthly bulletin covering in detail, the right places to be (and when) as well as helpful days Animal by Animal and much more from the Chinese calendar. It is available by subscription.

Subscriptions (and further info): 

And here’s the (Western Astrological) take of the very perceptive Lorna Bevan:
5D Astrology Report February 2018 Eclipsed and Uplevelled