The Chinese Lunar Mansions Oracle by Zhong Ling and Wu Xue might be the first of its kind. And with its companion guidebook that details the classical attributions for the 28 lunar mansions, the deck is a great beginner step for learning about this system of Eastern astrology.
This will be both a review of Chengdu Arcana’s Lunar Mansions Oracle and an introductory overview of Chinese lunar mansions astrology.
The Oracle is a set of 28 cards in a standard finish, typical of mass market decks, though longer and wider than standard tarot card size. The card back design features the four directional animals that are the basis of lunar mansions astrology.
Lunar mansions astrology, much like saying “Western astrology,” consists of differing systems, traditions, and approaches. It’s like seeing one astrologer reading a Placidus Tropical chart versus another reading a Whole Signs Sidereal and then asking, “Wait, which one is correct?” 😉
One approach, which the guidebook notes as being the oldest, dates back to the Zhou dynasty (1046 – 771 BC) and tracks the nightly cyclic movement of the moon across the skies. Each nightly transit of the moon is one mansion, for a total of 28 mansions that is also the 28 days of the moon’s orbit around Earth. Thus, the earliest system of lunar mansions astrology is believed to be around 3,000 years old, tracked by the lunisolar calendar.
Each lunar mansion is a segment of the Moon’s ecliptic. In concept, the 28 lunar mansions might be likened to the 36 decan rulers of Egyptian/Babylonian astrology that mark the segments or subdivisions of every zodiac sign.
A second approach to lunar mansions astrology, dating to the Warring States period (770 – 221 BC), sections the sky into four directional quadrants. The location of the Big Dipper in each quadrant signals the four seasons. That basis is why you see the pictorial symbol of the Big Dipper as part of the card captions design.
Oh, and technically there are five sections, the center being the pole star. Each of these four directional quadrants are further subdivided into eight mansions, for a total of 28 mansions.
Here’s a listing of the 28 (4 directional quadrants x 7 in each quadrant) mansions and thus the 28 cards in the Oracle deck:
|EAST: Azure Dragon 青龍|
|1||Horn (Jiao 角 Xiu)||WOOD. The Jiaolong Dragon 蛟龍. In constellation: Virgo. “Horn” is in reference to the two horns of the azure dragon. Promising future. Steady ascent prognosticated.|
|2||Neck (Kang 亢 Xiu)||METAL. The Dragon 龍. In constellation: Virgo. The neck of the azure dragon. An exceptional talent and personality. Confidence and fortitude. Naturally lucky and born with a great potential for accruing power. Generous and self-disciplined. Kind and noble.|
|3||Root (Di 氐 Xiu)||EARTH. The Badger. In constellation: Libra. The chest and claws of the dragon. Tough exterior, vulnerable and sensitive interior – someone with both talons and heart. Changeable. Adaptable. Fluid. Seeking balance.|
|4||Room (Fang 房 Xiu)||YANG. The Rabbit. In constellation: Scorpio. Chest cavity of the azure dragon. Childlike innocence and curiosity. Compassionate. Persistent. Exudes warmth. Calm and peaceful. Avoids conflicts. Refined taste. Exudes elegance.|
|5||Heart (Xin 心 Xiu)||YIN. The Fox. In constellation: Scorpio. The heart of the azure dragon. Empowered consciousness. Willful. Determined. Opinionated. Unconventional. Can be both timid and affectionate but also cunning, shrewd, and focused. Complex.|
|6||Tail (Wei 尾 Xiu)||FIRE. The Tiger. In constellation: Scorpio. The tail of the azure dragon. Passionate. Visionary. Fearless in the face of challenges. Creative. Impulsive. A doer. Warm-hearted yet can be perceived as intimidating.|
|7||Winnowing Basket (Ji 箕 Xiu)||WATER. The Leopard. In constellation: Sagittarius. Tail tip of the azure dragon. Mysterious. Modest. Gentle. Low-key yet unruly. Poise. Highly intelligent. Seeks independence.|
|SOUTH: Vermilion Phoenix 朱雀|
|1||Well (Jing 井 Xiu)||WOOD. The An (Dog). In constellation: Gemini. An explorer, one who is open-minded. Fair. Free-thinking. Objective. Comprehensive. Always with a readiness to help, and to be of help.|
|2||Ghost (Gui 鬼 Xiu)||METAL. The Goat. In constellation: Cancer. Crown of the vermilion phoenix. Gentle in appearance; introverted. Goal-oriented; focused on spirituality. Philosophical. Clarity of thought.|
|3||Willow (Liu 柳 Xiu)||EARTH. The Roe Deer. In constellation: Hydra. The beak of the vermilion phoenix. Destined for professional success or position of authority. Talented. Strong need for security.|
|4||Star (Xing 星 Xiu)||YANG. The Horse. In constellation: Hydra. The eye of the vermilion phoenix. Energetic. Broad-thinking with great foresight. Bold, unrestrained thinker. Innovative. Swift movements. Courageous.|
|5||Extended Net (Zhang 張 Xiu)||YIN. The Deer. In constellation: Hydra. Body joints of the vermilion phoenix. Clear and quiet as moonlight, nimble as the deer. A healer, a lover of the arts and culture. A great imagination. Sensitive. May be detached from reality; a dreamer.|
|6||Wings (Yi 翼 Xiu)||FIRE. The Snake. In constellation: Crater. Wings of the vermilion phoenix. Impulsive. Seeks ascension and always in flight toward new heights. Active and restless. Instinctive, spontaneous.|
|7||Chariot (Zhen 軫 Xiu)||WATER. The Earthworm. In constellation: Corvus. Tail of the vermilion phoenix. Empathetic, resilient. High concept and not materialistic. Accepting and tolerant. Introspective. Cautious. Can be restrained or solitary.|
|WEST: White Tiger 白虎|
|1||Legs (Kui 奎 Xiu)||WOOD. The Wolf. In constellation: Andromeda. Front of the white tiger, spirited and courageous. Instincts and personality of the wolf. Both an independent creature and one who fares well in teamwork. Loyal. Alert. Reacts quickly to changes in the environment. Trustworthy and steadfast. Dutiful.|
|2||Bond (Lou 婁 Xiu)||METAL. The Dog. In constellation: Aries. Neck of the white tiger. Prognosticates financial success and material abundance. Fosters goodwill. Charismatic. Friendly and warm. Exudes a great deal of self-control.|
|3||Stomach (Wei 胃 Xiu)||EARTH. The Pheasant. In constellation: Aries. Works well under pressure. Takes in a lot of stress and pressure without breaking. Hard-working, a rock and anchor to their loved ones. Responsible and diligent. A good listener. A problem solver.|
|4||Hairy Head (Mao 昴 Xiu)||YANG. The Rooster. In constellation: Taurus. The back of the white tiger. An individualist; confident and competitive. High achieving. One who shines, one with pride. Character of a rooster. Is often misunderstood.|
|5||Net (Bi 畢 Xiu)||YIN. The Crow. In constellation: Taurus. The underbelly of the white tiger. Potential power stored. Waits in the shadows for the right opportunity to pounce. Wise. Elusive. Highly intelligent and cunning.|
|6||Turtle Beak (Zi 觜 Xiu)||FIRE. The Monkey. In constellation: Orion. Expressive and articulate, the tail of the white tiger. Can be impatient; doesn’t like following the rules. Playful. Great sense of humor. A free spirit and tendencies toward the radical.|
|7||Three Stars (Shen 参 Xiu)||WATER. The Ape. In constellation: Orion. The hind legs of the white tiger. Great at long-term planning. Possesses the art of transformation. Accomplished and conversant in many fields. Dexterous. Resourceful.|
|NORTH: Black Tortoise 玄武|
|1||Dipper (Dou 斗 Xiu)||WOOD. The Xiezhi Unicorn 獬豸. In constellation: Sagittarius. Head of the black tortoise. One who seeks justice. Righteous. Advocate of rules, order, and traditions. Analytical; highbrow; learned. Great managers.|
|2||Ox (Niu 牛 Xiu)||METAL. The Ox. In constellation: Capricorn. Neck of the black tortoise. Reserved and reliable. Possesses a great deal of inner strength. Pragmatic. Stubborn. Strong prospects of achieving financial success and material abundance.|
|3||Girl (Nu 女 Xiu)||EARTH. The Bat. In constellation: Aquarius. Nape of the black tortoise’s neck. Calm; seeks stability and security. Likeable personality; can achieve rapport and affinity with many. Strong organizational skills. Strong coordination skills.|
|4||Emptiness (Xu 虛 Xiu)||YANG. The Rat. In constellation: Aquarius. Middle section of the black tortoise. Intelligent, popular, sociable; charismatic. Possesses a keen understanding of human nature. Gives good advice. Quick-witted and resourceful. One who will always thrive, no matter the circumstances.|
|5||Rooftop (Wei 危 Xiu)||YIN. The Swallow. In constellation: Aquarius. Tail of the black tortoise. Agile; light on the feet. Introverted and prefers solitude. Prefers nature. Meticulous. Does not seek worldly achievements; seeks understanding. Roams freely in one’s own spiritual world.|
|6||Encampment (Shi 室 Xiu)||FIRE. The Pig. In constellation: Pegasus. Belly of the black tortoise. Pragmatic; one who builds the architecture of society. Can be depended upon for security and stability. Learns from experience. Down-to-earth optimist.|
|7||Wall (Bi 壁 Xiu)||WATER. The Yu Owl 禺鳥. In constellation: Pegasus. The yu is a mythical creature with a human head and the body of an owl, with four eyes and four ears. Capable and proficient. A multi-tasker. Quick to action. Introverted and prefers to hides one’s own strength.|
You would then identify which lunar mansion each of your natal planets is in.
For example, my sun sign (Libra 1°) is in the south, associated with the vermilion phoenix, in the lunar mansion Wings (Yi 翼 Xiu), associated with Fire, and the Snake. My moon sign (Leo 22°) is in the lunar mansion Star (Xing 星 Xiu), associated with Yang (the light of the Sun), and the Horse.
And to address the elephant in the room, which I’m sure you’ve already noticed and were wondering about, no the mansion names do not translate well from Chinese to English.
So culturally when you’re reading these mansion names, like Neck, Room, Extended Net, Legs, Turtle Beak, Hairy Head, Stomach, or Rooftop, it sounds a bit perplexing. I think the first to have standardized the translations could have done a better job finding more culturally palatable equivalents between East and West, but what’s done is done. These are the translations we now live with. =)
Thus, lunar mansions is not unlike saying my natal Mercury is ruled by the decanate Jupiter in Libra (Libra 27°), or saying my ascendant sign is under the decan ruler Venus in Aquarius. My natal Mercury is domiciled in the Horn (Jiao 角 Xiu) mansion.
Scroll back up to the reference table to locate Horn. Note how this mansion corresponds with the wu xing alchemical phase Wood, and the animal spirit of the Jiaolong Dragon 蛟龍. The Western constellation name equivalent is a segment in Virgo.
Note: Although I worked off a Tropical chart for the illustrated example, it would probably make more sense to cast a Sidereal Whole Signs chart and then note the lunar mansion correspondences. That would be more “accurate” in terms of the traditional casting methodology, i.e., historically a sidereal chart was used. However, given that we’re working off the four seasonal points (the equinoxes and solstices), using a Tropical chart still makes astrological sense.
In the Oracle cards, the cards for mansions associated with the Azure Dragon are color-coded blue, then red for the Vermilion Phoenix (noted as Bird in the guidebook), silver-white for the seven White Tiger mansions, and charcoal and black for the Black Tortoise.
Like noting the decan rulers of your personal planets and key sensitive points, you can note the lunar mansion that your natal features are domiciled in.
For example, my natal sun is domiciled in Wings (South, Fire, Snake); my natal moon is domiciled in Star (South, Yang, Horse); and my ascendant sign is domiciled in Ox (North, Metal, Ox).
By the way, since the illustrations are minimalist, you could take a metallic ink pen and write in the alchemical and animal correspondences for the 28 cards, though the animal correspondences are depicted on the cards, which I really love.
Locate those cards from the Lunar Mansions Oracle deck. From the guidebook, read the indications for each of those lunar mansions/cards. For instance, my natal sun is domiciled in the Wings palace (mansion), which according to the guidebook indicates one who is outwardly perceived as action-oriented, naturally active, restless, and full of vitality. Their wings are always ready to take flight.
While the deck is perfectly suitable for divinatory readings as an oracle deck, I think what I love most about it is how it helps you to map out and pictorialize your natal chart, per lunar mansions astrology. Doing so will require a third-party resource for casting your birth chart, first, however.
Practice Tip: If you’re an astrologer who uses Solar Fire, generate your horoscopic chart, then click on “Charts Reports & Tabulations” (see above highlighted icon), then the tab “Tabulations” and the chart “Chinese Mansions.” You’ll get an output of all the lunar mansion correspondences of your natal planets and key personal sensitive points.
INTERMEDIATE ASTROLOGY EXERCISE:
Lunar Mansions Astrological Profile
[Worksheet PDF Download]
Download and print out the above-linked PDF worksheet for putting together your own lunar mansions astrological profile. You will need an astrology software program that generates your birth chart’s lunar mansion correspondences. Then populate the worksheet with those correspondences. Scroll back up to the 28 lunar mansions reference chart. Locate each lunar mansion correspondence and copy onto the worksheet the key indications. Take some time to review the profile holistically.
Above is an example of how you might use the provided reference charts to fill out the worksheet and compile your lunar mansions astrological profile.
Once you’ve identified the lunar mansion your natal Sacred Seven and perhaps some of the key personal sensitive points (like your ascendant, descendant, imum coeli, and medium coeli, or lunar nodes) are located, extract those cards from the deck and lay them out in a spread. Look up the meanings in the guidebook and take notes. In doing so, you’ll have written out a profile of your personality under lunar mansions astrology.
I’m not sure how well the metallic gold embossed starry details will show in these photographs, but I really love that thoughtful touch. It just takes the production value to the next level.
One thing I need to say about the lack of semicircle cut-outs along the long edges of the box — it makes it really, really hard to open the box and access the cards. I’m jiggling and shaking for a good minute before the two box lids will come apart.
There is a phantasmic and haunting other-worldly quality to Zi Kang’s art in the Lunar Mansions Oracle. And with the embossed detailing of shimmering gold constellations, I love how these illustrations express the evening sky. If you’ve been meaning to learn more about this ancient astrological system, then I recommend starting with the Chinese Lunar Mansions Oracle cards and the tips provided in this write-up.
Order the Chinese Lunar Mansions Oracle ($19.99)
FTC Disclosure: In accordance with Title 16 of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations Part 255, “Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” I received this deck for prospective review. Everything I’ve said here is sincere and accurately reflects my opinion.
One thought on “Lunar Mansions Astrology and the Chinese Lunar Mansions Oracle”
Alas! Someone beat me to it! 😀 I’ve had this idea before of sort of creating a “minor arcana” ish oracle featuring the Lunar Mansions and the Four Celestial Beasts – it came about from watching the anime Fushigi Yuugi way back in the day. 😀 But sadly, there were no resouces available then regarding the meanings behind each constellation/mansion. I wonder what books the author used as bases for the meanings behind each mansion. Also, I wonder if the meanings line up with their counterparts in Indian and Arabic Astrology (I’ll have to do further research, but for “Bond”, it seems to have a similar meaning set with its Indian counterpart).
Thanks for reviewing this. It got me back to being interested in Chinese astrology (and Taoist cosmology).
As for the deck, I love the illustration style. It certainly has that East Asian aesthetic, but also has very modern feels. The robed figures remind me of the characters in the epic fantasy C-Dramas that I watch. The thoughtful meditative feel of the imagery in the cards seem also perfect for more… ruminating types of readings.