By Michael Dell’Orfano, Lic.Ac.
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.”