The ancient Chinese astronomers called the five major planets by the names of
the Five Elements. Venus is Metal (gold); Jupiter is Wood; Mercury is Water;
Mars is Fire; Saturn is Earth. The position of the five planets, the sun, the
moon and comets in the sky and the Chinese zodiac sign at the time a person was
born determine the destiny of a person's life according to the Chinese
astrology. A laborious system of computing one's fate and destiny based on one
birthday and birth hours (known as
Zi Wei Dou Shu) is still used regularly in
modern day Chinese astrology. The twenty-eight Chinese constellations are quite
different from the eighty-eight Western constellations. For example, the big
dipper is known as dou; the belt of Orion is known as shen, or the "Happiness,
Fortune, Longevity" trio of demigods. The seven northern constellations are
referred to as xúanwǔ, Xuan Wu is also known as the spirit of the northern sky
or the spirit of Water in Taoism belief.
In addition to astrological readings of the heavenly bodies, the stars in the
sky form the basis of many fairy tales. For example, the Summer Triangle is the
trio of the cowherd (Altair), the spinster maid fairy (Vega) and the "tai bai"
fairy (Deneb). The two forbidden lovers were separated by the silvery river (the
Milky Way). Each year on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese
calendar, the birds form a bridge across the Milky Way. The cowherd carries
their two sons (the two stars on each side of Altair) across the bridge to
reunite with their fairy mother. The tai bai fairy acts as the chaperone of
these two immortal lovers. See Qi Xi for more versions of this story.
The rat was given the task to invite the animals to report to the Jade Emperor
to be selected for the zodiac signs. The cat was a good friend of the rat, but
the rat forgot to invite him. So the cat vowed to be the rat's natural enemy for
ages to come.