2011 -The year of the rabbit

The Chinese traditionally follow a lunar calendar, meaning their New Year begins on the second New Moon after the December solstice, usually at the New Moon in Aquarius. In 2011, the Chinese New Year starts on February 3 and the year runs until the next New Moon in Aquarius on January 22, 2012.

The Chinese zodiac is based on an intertwined system that combines 12 animal totems with five elements to create a cycle that spans 60 years. The 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac are the rat, buffalo (ox), tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat (sheep), monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The five elements are metal, water, wood, fire and earth. Each year, one animal is linked to one element to create a unique energy that won’t repeat for 60 years. When working with Chinese astrology, it’s important to know both the animal sign under which you were born and the element of your birth year.


There’s a number of myths and legends about how these 12 animals came to have a place in the Chinese zodiac. Most involve Buddha and either a race or river crossing to which the first 12 across the line were given coveted places in the zodiac; or a gathering to which Buddha invited all the animals, but legend has it only these 12 showed up and were thus rewarded for their attendance with a place in the zodiac. The order in which the 12 animals crossed the finish line in the myth of the race is also the order in which the animals take turns ruling the energy of the year ahead. The most recent Chinese zodiac cycle began in 2008 with the year of the rat; 2010 was the year of the tiger, while 2011 is the year of the rabbit and 2012 the year of the dragon.

Jupiter and cycles of 12

Early Chinese astronomers are said to have closely observed the planet Jupiter, which has a 12-year cycle and was known as the “Year Star”. Many believe the importance ancient Chinese astronomers placed on Jupiter to be the reason the Chinese zodiac follows a year system rather than a month system. The yearly influence in Chinese astrology is referred to as the 12 earthly branches. It’s this influence most of us in the West think of when we identify a totem animal for any given year.

Jupiter’s almost 12-year cycle closely follows the cycle of the Chinese zodiac animal totems. The coming year, 2011, is the year of the rabbit and Jupiter moves through the whole sign of Aries and half of the sign of Taurus. In 1999, the last year of the rabbit, Jupiter also moved through the whole sign of Aries and half of the sign of Taurus.

Jupiter in Aries brings a pioneer spirit and shows luck literally favours the brave. New initiatives are especially well aspected as confidence helps open doors. In both 1999 and 2011, Jupiter moved/moves into Taurus in June. This creates a slower pace that encourages taking time to enjoy life. Physical pleasures and little luxuries become more important.

Four Pillars chart

The Chinese system is also applied based on the year, month, day and time of your birth in a system known as the Four Pillars. The combination of influences from these four pillars (your birth information) creates a unique picture of you as seen through their symbolism and mythology.

Because of the Four Pillars system, there are actually four different Chinese animals that have an impact on who you are. You are assigned one animal based on your birth time, another based on your birth day, a third based on your birth month and a fourth based on your birth year. Each of these animal totems is also assigned a different element, creating eight pieces of information or energy that influence you.

The animal associated with your year shows the outer you and is the one you’re most likely to be familiar with. The element of this animal also influences how you respond to the energies at play in 2011. If you’ve never looked beyond your Chinese animal totem, you can do so via this online calculator. An approximate time of birth is sufficient. This calculates what’s known as your Ba Zi, or Four Pillars chart.

Five elements and yin/yang

The Chinese follow a five element system. Each element has unique correlations that include directions, shapes, colours, images and qualities. This five element system is thought to connect each of the five original planets to one element, as follows.

Planet Mercury Venus Mars Jupiter Saturn
Element Water Metal Fire Wood Earth

The five elements have a supporting and inhibiting cycle, whereby each element supports the expression of another and in turn reduces the effects of another.

The elemental support cycle is as follows: Wood feeds fire, which in turn makes earth, which in turn creates metal, which in turn holds water, which in turn nurtures wood.

The elemental inhibiting cycle is as follows: Wood consumes earth, which in turn dams water, which in turn extinguishes fire, which in turn melts metal, which in turn cuts wood.


Adding further complexity to the Chinese system is the concept of yin and yang. Each element can be either yin or yang, so some metal years are yin and others are yang. Yin represents the feminine, things that are cool, cold or dark, curves and rounded shapes, being low to the ground, horizontal, wide, floral or small. It’s the principle of softness. Yang symbolises the masculine opposite, which is warm, hot and bright, straight, angular, high above ground, vertical, narrow or plain. It’s the principle of hardness.

Each element is combined with both yin and yang to create a 10-pronged system known as the 10 heavenly stems. In one cycle fire is yin; in the next it’s yang. The yin and yang influence serve to qualify the kind of fire energy. According to the Chinese system, odd calendar years are yin (2009, 2011, 2013) and even calendar years are yang (2008, 2010, 2012). In 2011, the combination of wood and metal is said to be difficult, as metal cuts (damages) wood in the inhibiting cycle. However feng shui practitioner Derelle Ball says, “When wood and metal meet under the right circumstances, then metal can carve wood into something new, unique and beautiful.”

2011: The yin metal rabbit

2011 is a metal year and the totem animal is the rabbit. The yin metal year influence comes from the heavenly stem branch of Chinese astrology while the rabbit is part of the 12 earthly branches. The rabbit is sometimes considered “the most fortunate of the 12 signs” and a symbol of longevity. What you begin or put effort into this year may have great lasting potential, so direct your energy and efforts wisely. Both the element of metal and the animal of the rabbit have yin influences in 2011, making it a double yin year. While the last rabbit year was 1999 (12 years ago), it was an earth rather than metal year. The last time the same combination of metal rabbit occurred was 1951. You may notice some similar themes from either of these years reflected in the energy and issues you face in 2011.

Emotions, the Moon and families

The Moon features prominently in many tales of the rabbit, showing emotions and insight taking centre stage in the coming year. This is also reinforced by the connection from yin to emotions. With 2011 being a double yin year, it’s like there’s a double-up of emotional energy. Making sure your self-care practices are in place will help you deal with extra feelings that may surface in the year ahead. For some, this means introspective journal writing, while for others it involves ongoing sessions with healers, therapists or support workers; for others still, it means regular time with friends and family. The Moon is also a symbol of fluctuating moods, and managing the ebb and flow of feeling and motivation may take more of your time this year.

We’ve all heard the saying “going at it like rabbits” and, according to Chinese astrology, the rabbit has a strong association with family and quality time with loved ones. It’s generally a positive year for those looking to create or expand their family and for those looking to enhance romance, either in existing relationships or through the creation of new ones.

Industries in focus

The rabbit is associated with diplomacy, tact, beauty, art and good money sense. In the story of the 12 animals crossing the river, the rabbit received assistance from the dragon, and people born in the year of the dragon may be especially helpful in 2011. It’s also important to remember that the rabbit mostly got himself across the river and this concept of using one’s own resources to achieve or deal with challenges is also likely to be a theme in 2011.

The rabbit is most often calm and able to talk himself into or out of things, so having access to the right kind of information to support authentic decision-making is important this year. Rabbit is said to be a good communicator and industries or hobbies that rely on communication (writing, teaching, therapists of all kinds, publishing and the creative industries) will be positive and offer growth in 2011.

Balance and harmony

The tiger year, 2010, is known for heightened levels of tension, energy and movement, and you may find the start of the Chinese year brings a shift in pace and attitude. The rabbit seeks to create and maintain harmony — sometimes to the detriment of self-assertiveness. Beauty, art and enjoying life become more important, especially from June when Jupiter changes signs. The rabbit is a more peaceful energy than the tiger and on both global and personal scales you may find it easier to create and maintain harmony.

In his book Your Chinese Horoscope 2011, Neil Somerville talks of rabbit years being those in which diplomacy and negotiation are in focus globally. He goes on to suggest 2011 is a year in which “a succession of summits can bring about a strengthening of ties between world leaders and nations”. Neil also points out that it was in a rabbit year that the Vietnam war ended.



The rabbit is said to have positive links to money, and taking care of your finances can bring great results under this influence. Income can be improved without a huge amount of effort, so the old adage “work smarter not harder” absolutely applies for financial and business decisions in 2011.


The metal influence gives a determined quality to the year ahead, showing that perseverance pays off and staying focused and on-task helps put you in the right place to celebrate achievements by the end of the year. The combination of metal and rabbit shows it’s a year to throw yourself completely into things, which can mean an “all or nothing” approach. The flip side to the ease of the rabbit influence can mean a tendency to avoid tasks or projects perceived to be challenging or difficult.


Feng shui and the compass

Many styles of Chinese feng shui use element associations to indicate compass directions that are challenging in a given year and it’s mostly through the five element system that Chinese astrology connects with feng shui. Based on the elements associated with the rabbit (2011’s totem animal) and the year (2011 being odd is a yin year and of the metal element) and their links to different compass directions, certain outlooks are more or less promising for 2011.

As a metal year, the west and northwest directions are highlighted, as are the east and southeast directions, as they correlate to the wood element of the rabbit for 2011.

Facing east in 2011 is said to put you in the direct line of negative or challenging energies, which can reduce chi (life-force energy), productivity and creativity, so if necessary, re-orient beds, desks and tables to avoid this. Alternatively, facing west puts you in the position of power in 2011, giving you strength over others. This may be useful to keep in mind when conducting meetings or giving presentations. According to Derelle, the centre space influences in 2011 show that security, competition, miscommunication and protection against theft are major issues for the year ahead.

Positive directions in 2011

In 2011, positive directions include the northeast, the southwest, the southeast and the northwest. This year, the northeast is linked to increased intelligence, money and career initiatives. You can enhance opportunities in these areas of life by stimulating this sector with the sound of metal. For this, Derelle recommends metal wind chimes, a brass bell, singing bowls or harmonious piano music.

The southwest sector is a positive area for study, love, creativity and anything to do with the arts. If these areas of life are major focuses for you in 2011, Derelle recommends strengthening your energy by placing three or four bamboo stems (growing in water) in this corner.

Over the next 12 months, the southeast sector highlights mentors and authority figures in a positive way. To ensure you get the most from those above you, Derelle suggests further enhancing this corner through displaying precious gems or stones, metallic ornaments or I-ching coins.

The northwest sector is arguably the luckiest in 2011 and is the area of your space to stimulate to encourage abundance. Spending time in this area helps ensure you benefit from abundance throughout the year. Derelle suggests placing yang objects, such as a fan, pets or light-reflecting crystals, in this corner to keep this positive energy active.

Negative directions in 2011

This year, negative directions include the north, east and west. The north direction is associated with arguments and legal concerns this year. “Placing objects or images to symbolise the fire element here (anything red or lamps/candles that are used regularly) can help calm this energy,” says Derelle.

East is a significant energy direction in 2011, known as the annual tai sui direction. As such, it’s best to avoid disturbing the ground here (eg through renovations, major landscaping or digging). Derelle recommends adding objects of the metal element (including the colours white, gold, silver, grey or golden yellow plus curved or round shapes) to help balance this energy.

West is also a significant energy direction in 2011 and should also be avoided for renovations, digging or major disturbances. According to Derelle, “If this area can be left alone, then this direction has the potential to attract happy social events for the occupants.”

In 2011, the south has both positive and negative qualities, depending on circumstances. South is associated with sickness this year, but adding something of the metal element can help alleviate this challenging energy, potentially turning it into a more nurturing, maternal energy that brings the possibility of increasing luck, especially regarding property or real estate. Derelle suggests placing round or gourd-shaped objects in this area to help neutralise the negative possibilities.


The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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