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How the Summer Solstice, the Heart and the Spirit are All Connected

Summer Solstice is now only one week away. This date marks the return of yin in Chinese medical theory. While in Western cultures and calendrical sciences the Summer Solstice is said to represent the start of summer, in Eastern cultures and ancient Chinese calendrical sciences it actually represents the MIDPOINT of summer. This is a hard concept for many Westerners to wrap their brain around, as it seems contradictory to what we were raised to believe. This article will attempt to help you make sense of how both are correct, and that it is simply a matter of perspective and understanding.

The best way to understand this seemingly contradictory information is to realize that the current worldview is that our weather and seasons are based more on the apparent PHYSICAL manifestations on Earth, whereas most ancient cultures viewed the weather and seasons based on the ENERGETIC changes taking place that might not be apparent yet to the naked eye. Chinese medicine views the spirit and energy of the body (the non-physical/invisible) to be of primary importance. Think of it in a linear or hierarchical model where shen (spirit) creates qi (energy) and qi becomes the basis for the xing (physcial/material body). In Chinese medicine, the shen is considered the most important and sacred aspect of the human. At all costs we must guard the shen with great care to preserve our health.

The Heart and blood is said to house the shen in Chinese theory. I said the shen is the most important part of our being, so it should come as no surprise that the Heart is also the most important organ network in Chinese medicine theory, just as it is in Western medical science. The Heart is considered the emperor of the organ systems in Chinese medicine, and once again, it is because the spirit resides within it, not because of its physical functions. So, here we see the parallel between the relationship of the East vs. West calendars playing out in the body itself. The Heart is the most important organs in both Eastern and Western medical thought, but in Eastern thought it is because of its associations with spirit (non-material) and in Western thought it is because of its ability to pump the blood (physical).

Let’s look at another association of the Heart from a Chinese medicine perspective to help you understand the energetic realms that pervade the Chinese way of thinking. In Chinese medical theory, each organ system is associated with a 2 hour period of the day. It is said that this is when the qi is strongest and most concentrated in that particular organ network. The time of day associated with the Heart is 11AM-1PM.

In most parts of the country, that time frame is considered the hottest part of the day (most yang). As yang reaches it terminus, that is when yin slowly begins to dominate again. So, if the hottest part of the day is somewhere near 12-1PM, why is the temperature still really hot for the next few hours? Because yin doesn’t just magically take over, but gradually the energy is shifting throughout the afternoon until at some point (on the physical/manifest plane) we can obviously say it is much cooler and darker (yin associations) out now than a few hours ago. The sun is starting to get closer to the horizon but yet it is still warm and sunny out for many hours later after 1PM. At some point in the evening the dark has taken over and we declare the sun has set, but don’t forget this process has been unfolding for many hours. We can’t really see the process happening with our eyes, we can only see the end result. So, at around 9PM we might say it is 15 degrees cooler out now and it is officially dark, but we can only say that because of the process that was unfolding all afternoon while it was still warm and sunny out.

If we were not aware and had no prior experience of this daily cycle, one might be surprised and confused as to why the sun was out one moment and then the next moment it disappeared and became dark out. The seasons work the same way. Because of our experiences with yearly cycles, we know roughly when the physical changes on Earth should take place based on the date and season. If we could “see” the energetic shifts happening underground and in the air, maybe then we could really predict the weather much more accurately in advance. In fact, their is a whole branch of Chinese medicine dedicated to understanding how the energetic shifts in the liuqi (6 atmospheric energy) affect our health and whole being. The liuqi are as follows: wind, cold, damp, heat, fire and dry. All of these elements and their balance/proportions, as well as arriving on time or late on earth, effect everything from the weather, to plants to human health. It is quite powerful information to have, yet few people in the world are well versed in this ancient knowledge!

Hexagram 44 Gou “Coming to Meet”

Here are some scholarly interpretations of this hexagram:

Richard Wilhelm: “This hexagram indicates a situation in which the principle of darkness, after having been eliminated, furtively and unexpectedly obtrudes again from within and below. Of its own accord the female principle comes to meet the male. It is an unfavorable and dangerous situation, and we must understand and promptly prevent the possible consequences. The hexagram is linked with the fifth month [June-July], because at the summer solstice the principle of darkness gradually becomes ascendant again.” 

James Legge:A single, magnetic line enters at the bottom of the hexagram. This is the figure used to represent the time of year when light and heat begin to wane. In the divided line we see the symbol of the inferior man, beginning to insinuate himself into the government of the country. His influence, if unchecked, would go on to grow and fill the vacant seats with others like himself. The objective of the Judgment is to arouse resistance to this evil influence.”

The History and Clinical Application of Cupping

Cupping is a treatment modality of Chinese medicine that has been part of the medicine for over 1500 years.  In China, the earliest use of cupping is attributed to the famous Daoist alchemist and herbalist, Ge Hong (281–341 A.D.). Since many historical records from China have been lost or destroyed, it is likely cupping was used prior to his time. Cupping is not only native to China, as evidence and historical records show it being used as a treatment modality in ancient Egypt, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and to a lesser extent, other parts of the world.

Cupping treatment was originally performed with animal horns or cups made of bamboo, but today cups used in practice are glass, plastic or silicone. Traditionally, cups were applied with a flame place inside the cup for a moment and then the flame is quickly removed and the cup is placed on the skin as soon as possible to create a vacuum. This is still used in modern Chinese medicine and is called “fire cupping” by most acupuncturists. The other ways cups are employed in modern times include cups that use a hand pump to create the suction, or ones that have a squeeze bulb on the end of the cup to create the suction (this kind is most commonly used for facial cupping).

Three main types of cupping treatments exist, and the practitioner chooses which to use based on the patient’s constitution and conditions, so a proper medical diagnosis should be arrived at first before the practitioner starts cupping. The first and most common method is known as “stationary cupping” and it consists of the cups being placed on specific areas of the body and then they are left in place for about 4-7 minutes. This can then be repeated on different areas of the body after the first round is completed. The second most common method is called “moving cups” or “sliding cups” and this is most frequently performed on the erector spinae muscles of the back, but can be done on the abdomen, arms and legs as well. This consists of first putting some kind of oil or balm on the skin, and then the cup is placed on the skin and is manually moved up and down or from side to side by hand so that the cups glide over the areas being treated. The last method of cupping is known as “flash cupping” and this consists of placing the cups on the skin for only a brief second and then they are removed and rapidly applied again. This process is done repeatedly for several minutes, so think of it more like a “rapid fire” cupping session.

Cupping therapy is indicated for various types of acute and chronic pain. Acute trauma from sports injuries or car accidents often leave the muscles in a tense, contracted state and/or create pockets of stagnant blood, which leads to inflammation, pain, and consequently, poor circulation of blood and qi to the injured area. Cupping helps to stretch and pull the skin, muscles and fat to release and relax the muscles, pull the stagnant blood out of the injured area and circulate the lymph fluid. As a result of this action, the flow of qi and blood is restored so that the healing process can happen, and the recovery from the injury will be increased since cupping releases what is stuck to make room for the fresh blood and qi to enter the injury site directly to heal it quickly. In addition to painful conditions, cupping can also be used to treat various respiratory ailments such as asthma, wheezing, shortness of breath and respiratory infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, influenza and the common cold. Facial cupping is becoming a new trend for helping with the microcirculation in the face in order to help with wrinkles, giving the skin a nice tone and rosy glow, as well keeping it soft and supple.

At Life Qi Holistic Medicine we offer 30 minute cupping sessions, or your acupuncturist might work it into the end of your acupuncture session if it is indicated for your current condition.

Happy Year of the Dog!

  On February 16, 2018 the Chinese Lunar New Year begins. This is a two week long celebration in China with many traditional customs, including wearing the color red for good luck, eating particular foods for health and longevity, and traveling to see family members.   According to the traditional Chinese calendar, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. The dog is a domesticated animal that most of us know well. Some of the common qualities associated with these furry creatures you might have observed are loyalty, camaraderie, playful, faithful, unconditional love, and the common saying that a dog is “man’s best friend.” So, what does the dog symbolize in Chinese culture, and how does it relate to Chinese medicine?   Derek Walters, renowned author of several Chinese astrology books says, “In ancient Chinese writings, the sign we know as the Dog showed a hand holding a spear. It indicated the time of day when the homestead was secured for the night, and a watchman put on duty. With its determination, bravery and fortitude the Dog was the obvious choice to represent this function of security and defense.” This quote tells us that the dog is not only obedient and brave, but is loyal and willing to fight for humans to protect us. The spear is also symbolic of the sharp and piercing teeth dogs use to attack when they feel threatened. Like a good security alarm, the dog will first notify us with sound by barking to alert others around of the intruder.   In Chinese medicine, the dog is associated with the organ network of the pericardium. On a physical level, the pericardium is a membrane enveloping the heart. It serves as a protective layer that prevents harmful pathogens from entering the heart directly. In other words, it is the “heart protector” according to Chinese medicine theory. Not only does it protect on a physical level, but according to Chinese medicine is takes on all of the mental and emotional stress for the heart so that the heart can function at a high level and focus on its main functions. The pericardium is not only the mental and emotional center of the heart, but it also is associated with love and sexual desires of the heart, thus the dog and pericardium are associated with the two hour period of the organ systems clock from 7-9PM, which is “romantic dinner time.” Dogs truly “wear their hearts on their sleeve,” as they are not shy to show their emotional state, and they are also not too shy to show their sexual affections in public either.   According to Chinese Astrologer Amanda Starr, “People born in the Year of the Dog are congenial, honest, loyal, courageous, intelligent, multifarious, and inventive. People born in the Year of the Dog are by nature original, humanistic, and deep-thinking. They can be trusted with secrets, and know how to listen to others; they are reliable and sociable, but also need solitude in order to read or contemplate mysteries of the universe.”

15 Tips for Cold and Flu Season

15 Tips for Preventing and not Spreading the Common Cold and Flu

  We all know that we can go to the doctor for help when we get sick, but isn’t it better to not get sick and have to go to the doctor in the first place? If you agree, then this article is for you. So, what can you do at home and around the office to minimize the chances of getting sick this winter?  


  Dress appropriately for the season! DO wear warm pants, heavy jackets, gloves and a winter hat. DON’T be the person in shorts or a T-shirt on a cold winter day.  Protect your neck! The Chinese culture is fond of wearing scarves to protect their neck to prevent wind and cold from penetrating the nape of the neck. In acupuncture theory, points exist near the base of the neck that are used to treat cold symptoms since it is thought wind strikes here first.  Wash your hands often around sick people and when in public places. “Germs” are everywhere! Don’t touch your food and orifices of your body with dirty hands unless you want to take a major risk of getting sick. Exercise routines are not just for nice weather and looking good. Make sure you keep up with your exercise year round. Don’t stop in the winter because it is too cold and too dark to leave the house. Exercise at home if you don’t want to do it outside or at the gym. Even if you have no equipment, you can find other ways to keep in shape, as this will stimulate your immune system.  Eat healthy to prevent getting sick. Whole foods are packed with nutrient rich minerals, vitamins, essential fatty acids and proteins that play a key role in keeping us from coming down with illnesses. Eating junk foods with sugar weakens the body and causes inflammation. This will lower your defense shield making it possible for viruses and bacteria to penetrate into the body. Stay well hydrated. 6-8 glasses of water a day will prevent dehydration. All of the human cells rely on water to function properly. Drinking water will also help to flush out the toxins living in our body that can harm us if not disposed of in a timely manner. After all, we are mostly composed of water.  Vitamins and supplements are essential to optimize intake of healing nutrients. Probiotics and multi-vitamins are a good starting point if you are unsure what your body needs more of currently. Working with a nutritionist or other healthcare professional to tailor your supplements and vitamins to your needs is ideal so that you don’t end up wasting money or overburdening your body taking too many pills and powders. The reality is that many foods are denatured in processing, soil quality is poor, and many humans have trouble absorbing nutrients from food. We need all the help we can get in addition to eating whole foods. Herbs and essential oils as medicine. Using herbs and essential oils either preventively or as a treatment when you get sick is better for your body than just reaching for over the counter and prescription medicines right away since they are often as effective and less harsh on the body and don’t normally have side effects. Drinking herbal teas daily rather than coffee in the fall and winter is a great starting point if you are not well versed in herbal medicine. An acupuncturist or herbalist can guide you further when a specific remedy is needed.  Sanitize! Disinfectant wipes should be kept on hand so you can use them to clean things that get touched often like phones, doorknobs, computers, steering wheel, remote controls, etc. Hibernate! Well, not really, but making sure you get adequate sleep in the winter is essential for recharging the mind and body to keep your immune system functioning at an optimal level. Get the flu vaccine. Over half a million people die each year from complications from the influenza virus. It might not be 100% effective, and it might not be what you want to hear, but it just might save your life. Avoid alcohol and smoking. Simply put, these things are bad for us if done on a daily basis, and they will increase your susceptibility to illnesses of all kinds, including the flu and common cold.  Stay calm. As in, don’t get stressed out. The more stress you have the easier it is for bacteria and viruses to attack you when you are weak. Try taking a yoga class or meditation class if you find work or family life to be stressful and you don’t know how to cope. Buy an aromatherapy diffuser. They are awesome for both preventive purposes as well as for clearing out the air and your body of viruses that can do harm. Simple, fun and effective. Get a HEPA filter air purifier with UV light. Like the aromatherapy diffuser, they can be useful for destroying bacteria, viruses, mold and are great for people with allergies to smoke, pets and dust.

Treating Insomnia with Holistic Medicine

One of the most common complaints seen in most health clinics by practitioners and doctors of all kinds is sleeplessness. Insomnia is a condition that can negatively affect our well being on many levels if it is not treated right away, as it can turn into a chronic problem. If you have only experienced restlessness randomly a few times in your life you might not be as aware of the health implications it has on your body the way a person who has suffered from it for weeks, months or years.   Unfortunately, many of the pharmaceutical drugs used for insomnia have side effects that can be quite dangerous. This makes holistic health options for insomnia a very attractive alternative for those who do not want to use pharmaceuticals as a first line of treatment, and also for those that have experienced bad side effects from the pharmaceuticals and no longer want to depend on them as the only option for better quality sleep.   Here at Life Qi Holistic Medicine, we have many services that positively impact one’s sleep. Sleeplessness can have many causes at its root, so depending on the root cause the recommended combination of modalities and results may vary. It is a good idea to first set up an appointment with one of our acupuncturists to get a full assessment so we can come up with a Chinese medicine diagnosis to inform us of what the cause may be in order to create an appropriate treatment plan and to recommend the best modalities in your case.

Acupuncture, aromatherapy, Chinese herbs, cupping, ear seeds and massage are all potentially beneficial treatment options for insomnia, in my experience. As clinicians, we get to hear from our clients and patients how these modalities have helped them through times when they are trying to function and be productive while being sleep deprived. Once we get to the root cause and make progress, it is not uncommon to quickly hear how symptoms can quickly start to disappear.   Some of the benefits for insomnia received from these modalities include: clearer thinking, better memory, mood enhancement, increased energy, greater desire for sex, improved immunity, no nodding off in the day or need for naps, and less bags under the eyes with all around better skin complexion. And this is only a short list of things that can improve with better quality sleep. In fact, it is not uncommon for new acupuncture patients to first comment on how acupuncture impacted their sleep in a positive way. It is not uncommon for patients to say, “I slept like a baby for a couple days after my first treatment” or “I don’t think I have slept straight through the night without waking for years until the night of my first acupuncture session!”

Diagnosis and Treatment Plans in Chinese Medicine

Many new patients often ask what we are looking for when we take pulse and tongue, and also are curious to know how we select our acupuncture points for each treatment. This post is intended to answer these questions and more as we walk through the general process of diagnosis and acupuncture point selection. The Chinese medicine diagnosis process is broken down into what are collectively called the “four pillars” of diagnosis. These four are looking, listening, question asking and palpation (touch). Each practitioner and style of acupuncture might have some variations about how they go about incorporating these “four pillars” in the clinic, and some might put more emphasis on one pillar over another, but ALL acupuncturists should be using a combination of these methods in practice regardless of style and training. This is a methodology that is so crucial to the medicine that it is considered one of the defining foundations of acupuncture practice. It is important to distinguish Chinese medicine diagnosis from Western medicine diagnosis. Legally, an acupuncturist is unable to diagnose a according to Western medicine unless one is licensed as an MD, so it is important for all acupuncturists to be well versed in the four pillars even if the patient comes in having already been given a diagnosis from a conventional medicine practitioner. The terminology we use and how it guides our treatment is unique to our medicine. For example, when your acupuncturist says “Liver,” they may or may not be referring to your physical liver. In Chinese medicine the “Liver” means three things- 1) the physiological functions associated with the Liver according to Chinese medicine theory. 2) The acupuncture channel/meridian called the Liver. 3) The actual organ. Thus, when referring to the Liver of Chinese medicine we often use a capital L to distinguish it from the liver of biomedicine so as to prevent confusion when writing about the two. Looking/Observing The first of the four pillars is looking, or observing the patient. This happens the minute the patient comes into the clinic as we first observe their gait and then their eyes as they come closer as we greet them. The classics of our medicine state that the shen (spirit) is best observed in the eyes. In fact, the medical classics also go so far as to say the eyes can give us an indication as to the prognosis of the patient as well. If the quality of the shen is very weak, the prognosis is poor for the patient being able to heal quickly or fully recover, whereas prognosis for a quick recovery or full healing is greatly increased if they person has good shen in their eyes. Other things we observe are the skin color and tone, the nails, the lips and the tongue. Since many people ask what we are looking for in the tongue, I will tell you that we look at the color, coat, shape and for other abnormalities like cracks, bumps, and deviation of the tongue. Listening/ Question Asking The part of the initial treatment that often takes the most time is the conversation we have before the actual treatment. For Chinese medicine practitioners, listening carefully to your story and asking many questions is a primary way we gather information to determine our Chinese medicine diagnosis and the point selection for treatment. We do a detailed initial intake asking many questions about the chief complaint as well as gathering information about different bodily systems to try and obtain the whole picture. The intake form for new patients also includes gathering information such as family health history, any medications, surgeries, or other things that may be impacting your current situation. All this information is very important, so don’t forget to mention something even if it seems trivial or unrelated to your primary reason for coming! The more information the better, as it gives us more to work with for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment. Information is to INFORM us of what is going on inside your body. Question asking is a real skill, and the best doctors know how to ask the right questions to obtain pertinent information for the case. Palpation In classical Chinese pulse diagnosis we look for much more than in Western pulse taking. Yes, we do observe the speed and if it is regular or irregular like Western doctors do, but we also look for quite a bit more. This is why we feel the pulse on both wrists, not just one. We are feeling 6 different positions and at 3 depth levels. And we are not feeling only for rate and rhythm but particular qualities all of which have their specific meaning in the diagnosis. Chinese medicine has over 25 different pulse qualities! Many Acupuncture practitioners utilize abdominal palpation. This is especially popular in Japanese styles, as originally only blind people were allowed to practice acupuncture in Japan, thus extra emphasis was placed on palpation of the body since the blind are unable to use the observation of the patient to obtain information. When palpating the body, we look for masses, tender spots, temperature changes and other factors that help diagnosis excesses and deficiencies of the channels, organs and other layers of the body. So, now you hopefully have better insight into what it is we are doing when we assess you before we stick you with the needles. Hopefully, this information is helpful and answers some of the burning questions you have about the whole acupuncture process. Also, don’t forget to tell us if you ate or drank anything that might affect your pulse or tongue, such as coffee, candy, curry, etc. Changes in medications are also important to mention not just for contraindications of herbs, but also because it can affect the pulse and tongue.  

Year of the Fire Rooster

  January 28th marks one of the most important days of 2017 in China. This is because it is the first day of a two week long New Year celebration. The date changes yearly, as the celebration occurs on the second new moon after the winter solstice each year. The Chinese use both a lunar and solar calendar, but many of the traditional celebrations follow the lunar cycle, so the dates can vary by several weeks from year to year. In Mandarin, the pinyin (written spelling) for Happy New Year is gōng xǐ fā cái.   The Chinese eat lots of traditional foods, travel to see family, participate in parades and dragon dances, and hand out red envelopes filled with money to children. People wear red for good luck, as it is also said to repel the mythical creature named Nian. Each day of the festival is associated with different activities, culminating with the release of red lanterns into the sky on the 15th day for what is known as the Lantern Festival.   Twelve different zodiac animals exist in Chinese astrology, and this year will mark the Year of the Fire Rooster. According to Amanda Starr in Chinese Astrology, people born in the Year of the Rooster are congenial, independent, industrious, brilliant, well-groomed and original. They make friends easily, are witty, cheerful, intelligent, charming, and love to impress and be the center of attention. Roosters enjoy engaging in verbal sparring and are quick to anger, but also quick to simmer down. By nature, Roosters are often inclined to be conceited and impatient, and those born in the Rooster year take themselves very seriously. Morally speaking, they are honest and brave, as well as daring and optimistic. They have a penchant for exaggeration, are not critical, and loathe criticism.   The last paragraph refers to Roosters in general. As far as the Fire Rooster goes, this is what Theodora Lau has to say in The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes: This type of Rooster will be more authoritative and highly motivated compared to other types of Roosters. This Rooster will be even more independent, and will act with great precision and skill. On the negative side, their temperament might be more over-dramatic and nervous. They will possess above average managerial abilities and leadership. The Fire Rooster will fanatically stick to his or her own views and conduct his own fact-finding tours and feasibility studies. He will be unswayed by the feelings and personal opinions of others, although he is professional and ethical in his dealings.   At times he could be too inflexible for compromises. As a result, he will take to putting people and situations under a microscope for observation. If things do not measure up to his expectations, this could cause major upheavals. The Fire Rooster does have organizational talents and can project a stimulating and dynamic public image. And despite his shortcomings, this type of Rooster will have the noblest intentions behind his actions.

Dōngzhì Festival- Winter Solstice and the Return of Yang

    On December 21, 2016 the Winter Solstice was celebrated by cultures all over the world. This day has been a significant one in the history of humankind ever since ancient cultures started to track time and the movements of the sun and stars. In China, the Winter Solstice Festival is called Dōngzhì, which translates as the “extreme of winter.”  Unlike in Western culture, this date does not mark the start of winter, but the midpoint, or height of winter and cold, thus the “extreme” rather than start of the season. What does this “extreme” indicate? It is also the extreme point of yin, as the Chinese see this day as the return of yang. Since yin represents darkness, cold and stillness, this day is celebrated as a return of light, warmth and movement on our planet. Since it is the end of yin, it is also the darkest day of the year. It is also the day our shadow is the longest or tallest. These all indicate the extreme of yin according to Chinese medicine theory. Chinese philosophy views the yin/yang symbol as one of movement. Energy moves around the outside of the taiji and when it reaches the top of the taiji circle we have arrived at the summer solstice, or the time when yang is at its peak. The bottom of the taiji circle represents the Winter Solstice, as this is the day when yin reverts to yang. This endless interplay of yin and yang goes on without end. One always turns into the other, just as fall always turns into winter and winter into spring, etc. The seasons are part of a yearly cycle, and the repeated patterns of nature allow us keep track of things on our planet. The predictability of this is paramount to human life. Without such predictability our lives would be full of chaos, as unpredictability could mean, for example, that we wouldn’t know when to plant seeds and harvest the bounty. In Chinese medicine, we often advise patients to “recharge their battery” this time of year in order to get ready for the next year. This means, limiting strenuous activities such as vigorous exercise in favor of more gentle and nourishing spiritual and physical activities such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation rather than running and lifting weights, for example. Patients are told to try and go to bed earlier and sleep in a little later to help preserve their qi for the more active time of year- spring and summer. Yang is also preserved by keeping warm, so bundle up in layers and don’t forget to wear your hat, gloves and scarf when you go outside! In the clinic, moxa is a very popular treatment in China leading up to the solstice because it is said to bring warmth and yangqi into the body. It helps to tonify the body in order to reinforce this recharging of life. We can also do specific points and needle manipulation techniques that are tonifying to the body in order to strengthen the organ systems and increase the supply of blood and qi in the acupuncture channels and other layers of the body. The treatment point selections are also often influenced by the seasons and the state of yin and yang in the body, so a skilled acupuncturist can modify the point prescription to incorporate the influences of the seasons into the treatment plan.

Year of the Fire Monkey

Celebrating the Year of the Fire Monkey

berber-monkey-226884_1280 In China, the New Year is celebrated for several weeks starting on New Year’s Eve. Families take a week off from work and school to travel in order to spend quality time with their loved ones. Married couples will often be seen handing red envelopes with money to unmarried people, especially children. Chinese people will also wear lots of red around the New Year, as this color is considered good luck and helps ward off evil spirits. Along with spending quality time with family comes good food. Some foods traditionally eaten by the Chinese on New Year’s Day symbolize good fortune and longevity. Some of these traditional foods include dumplings, oranges, tangerines, congee, whole fish and long noodles.   The Chinese New Year celebration always begins on the 2nd new moon after the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. Since the Chinese use a lunisolar calendar, the first day of spring and the New Year can vary from year to year. The start of the seasons in China is based on the location of the sun, so they are much less variable, and spring almost always starts on February 4th or February 5th. The 2nd new moon date varies considerably, and this is why the Chinese New Year can fall anywhere between the middle of January and the middle of February.   For 2016, the 2nd new moon after the winter solstice falls on February 8th, making this the official start date for the Year of the Fire Monkey. The Chinese zodiac has 12 animal signs that are continuously cycled through from year to year. Right now we are at the end of the year of the 8th sign of the zodiac, the Sheep. We are now in transition to the 9th sign of the zodiac, the Monkey. Each of these animals is also associated with a particular time of day, days of the month and one of the twelve months, but this level of detail is only significant when talking about an individual’s astrological chart. Let’s take a deeper look into the symbolism of the Monkey.   Out of all of the 12 animals of the zodiac, the Monkey is the one that actually has the most association with human beings. First off, they have opposable thumbs like humans. This means that they are able to use their hands in ways that humans can in order to grip things. They have the unique ability to use tools like humans. Thus, the Chinese associate this sign with being able to do intricate work with their hands, such as making jewelry, watches and construction of other elaborate engineering feats such as building bridges. As we know, engineers are usually smart people. This leads us to a second trait that humans have in common with monkeys more so than the other signs of the zodiac- intellect.   The intellectual capacity of Monkey type personalities allows them not only to be good at professions like engineering, but also professions that require quick, deep thinking, the ability to articulate ideas and outwit others, such as lawyers do. The combination of the intellectual capacity and the ability to use tools with precision also makes Monkey individuals potentially good candidates to become surgeons.   However, because Monkeys are usually quick-witted, clever intellectuals, they can also be quite guile. The cunning nature of a Monkey means that they are capable of becoming quite mischievous at times. Sometimes in a playful way, other times in a hurtful way. While Monkey people are quite capable of succeeding at whatever they put their mind to, sometimes their ego can lead to a lack of respect for others. Their competitive drive can sometimes lead to this self-centeredness that leads to lack of compassion for those around them.   The Fire Monkey is especially driven to succeed compared to the other 4 types of Monkeys. They are the most egotistical, driven to succeed, suspicious, stubborn and jealous. On the positive side, the Fire Monkey has great drive and a competitive nature, strong willpower, vivid imagination, potential to be a great leader and immense energy and creativity. If you were born in 1956, you are a Fire Monkey!