Chinese Constellations

The Western zodiac consists of constellations located along the Earth’s ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun across the sky. The Chinese, too, have important constellations on the ecliptic, but they are not related to the Chinese twelve-year zodiac. Rather, these four massive constellations correspond to the four seasons, and four of the five elements (or phases) and directions.

Steve Renshaw and Saori Ihara have produced several excellent star charts showing the major features of these constellations, and how they correspond to Western constellations. Traditionally, each constellation is broken into different “moon stations.” The brightest star of every moon station has been circled on these charts, and its astronomical name provided.

1. The Horns, perhaps Angle or Corner: Alpha Virginis (Spica)

2. Neck: Kappa Virginis

3. Root, perhaps Shoulder or Base: Iota Librae, sometimes Alpha Librae

4. Chamber, perhaps Breasts: Delta Scorpii, sometimes Pi Scorpii

5. Heart: Sigma Scorpii

6. Tail: Mu Scorpii

7. Basket : Gamma Sagittarii, sometimes Eta Sagittarii

8. Dipper, Measure: Phi Sagittarii

9. Cow: Beta Capricorni

10. Woman, perhaps Waiting Maid: Epsilon Aquarii

11. Emptiness: Beta Aquarii

12. Rooftop, perhaps Danger or Steep: Alpha Aquarii

13. Room, perhaps Encampment: Alpha Pegasi (Markab)

14. Wall: Gamma Pegasi

15. Stride, Foot: Delta Andromedae

16. Hill, Lasso, perhaps Bellows: Beta Arietis

17. Stomach: 35 Arietis

18. Stopping Place, United, perhaps “Getting Together:” 17 Tauri, sometimes 16 Tauri

19. Net, perhaps related to rain: Epsilon Tauri (Oculus Borealis, the Northern Eye)

20. Turtle Snout, perhaps Tuft on Owl’s Head: Lamda Orionis, sometimes Phi Orionis

21. Investigator, Three: Delta Orionis, sometimes Beta Orionis (Rigel, Orion’s foot)

22. Well: Mu Geminorum (Tejat Posterior, back foot of Castor)

23. Ogre, Devil, perhaps Ghost: Delta Cancri, sometimes Theta Cancri

24. Willow: Delta Hydrae

25. Stars: Alpha Hydrae (Alphard)

26. Stretched Net: Nu Hydrae

27. Wings: Alpha Crateris (Alkes)

28. Chariot Cross-board, perhaps Strings of Koto: Gamma Corvi (Gienah Corvi)

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As you can see, the vast Azure Dragon formation spans the constellations of Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and part of Sagittarius. The Black Tortoise contains part of Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius, and also includes part of Pegasus (which is not part of the Western zodiac). The White Tiger covers Aries and Taurus, and also includes part of Andromeda and parts of Orion. Finally, the Red Bird contains Gemini and Cancer, but drops below the ecliptic (skipping Leo) to include parts of Hydra, Crater and Corvus.

These four animals are some of the oldest themes found upon Chinese artifacts uncovered by archaeologists, and an important part of feng shui. The fifth element/phase and direction, by the way, is Earth and Center, and is represented by a Yellow Dragon.

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2 responses to “Chinese Constellations

  • Damocles Loraine

    Very interesting post which I would like to refer back to refer to. Does it stay posted like Henadology or should I download it?

  • heathenchinese.wordpress.com

    As far as I know, this post should stay up. That’s assuming that WordPress doesn’t run into unexpected difficulties, and that you have consistent internet access. Which kinda makes me think that I should print out some copies myself. 🙂

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