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Chinese Astrology, Constellation, and Astronomy — Three Enclosures, Four Symbols, Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions

In ancient China, people observed that seven celestial beings were bright and highly influential: Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, and Saturn. 

Besides the Seven Celestial Beings, many other stars in the sky were divided into groups based on their locations: Three Enclosures, Four Symbols, and Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions.

Every group covers an area considered a coordinate or mansion that the Seven Celestials "stay" in during their movements.


In ancient China, this astronomy system was used to observe the movements and mark positions of the Seven Celestials and record dates, months, and years.


Combined with Yin Yang and Five Elements Theory, every mansion has assigned a beautiful name, a deity, and an auspicious animal to guard. 

Part of Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions' Deities in Chinese Astrology, Painted by Liang Lingzan

Part of Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions' Deities in Chinese Astrology, Painted by Liang Lingzan (about 690 — 757) — Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts

In the central section of the North Celestial Pole, stars are divided into Three Enclosures: Purple Forbidden, Supreme Palace, and Heavenly Market. 


Surrounding Ecliptic and the Equator are Four Symbols in four ordinal directions: Azure Dragon in the East, Black Tortoise in the North, White Tiger in the West, and Vermilion Bird in the South.


Every Symbol contains seven mansions, and each mansion consists of a few stars. 


These mansions around the Ecliptic and Equator formed the Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions.

The Earliest Artifact with the Entire Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions' names, Unearthed from Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng

The Earliest Artifact (Lacquer Suitcase) with the Entire Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions' names, Unearthed from Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng (about 477 BC — 433 BC) — Hubei Museum

This picture showed that this ancient Chinese astronomy system had already formed in the Warring States Period (403 BC — 221 BC).


In Chinese astrology, when the Seven Celestial Beings moved to certain mansions, it corresponds to or shows signs of different events in the secular world based on their various meanings and auras.


This has been widely used and believed in Chinese history, from emperors to civilians, to predict and divine important events. 


Meanwhile, since the moon moves to a different mansion every day, every person's birthday corresponds to one of the Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions that tells one's personality, destiny, love life, suited careers, and relationship with others.

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Chinese Astrology, Constellation, and Astronomy

Three Enclosures

Purple Forbidden Enclosure — Royal Palace of Heaven


Purple Forbidden Enclosure, or Zi Wei Yuan, is located in the central section around the Circumpolar Stars area. The Big Dipper is included in this enclosure. 


It is the palace for the Great Emperor of Heaven lived.  


Hundreds of stars in this enclosure are divided into 39 groups.


Each group is named mostly after the emperor, queen, crown prince, high-rank imperial officials, and some powerful deities in charge of the weather and longevity, war, agriculture, etc.

Purple Forbidden Enclosure in Chinese Astrology

Purple Forbidden Enclosure or Zi Wei Yuan, Picture from Xu Gang

To correspond to the Purple Forbidden Enclosure, Chinese emperors built their royal palaces and named them after this enclosure, such as the Forbidden City in Beijing.  


Meanwhile, in ancient Chinese Astrology, the star phenomena of the Purple Forbidden Enclosure are the significant harbingers of the emperor's reign. 


If all stars are bright, it represents a stable, wealthy society in that the emperor and officials are doing great jobs. 


If certain groups of stars are gloomy, the correlated people or the emperor are incapable and need to improve or be replaced.


Meteor indicates the upcoming departure of the corresponding person.


If all stars in this enclosure were dark, war or disaster would be happening. 


Other unusual changes in stars' brightness and colors, showing of meteors or other phenomena, and particular positions of the Seven Celestial Beings in this enclosure all predict different events in the secular world.

Supreme Palace Enclosure — Government and Political Affairs 


Supreme Palace Enclosure or Tai Wei Yuan is where the Great Emperor of Heaven administers political affairs that correspond to the earth's governments.


Therefore, hundreds of stars in the Supreme Palace Enclosure are divided into 20 groups named after important political officials and powerful nobles.

Supreme Palace Enclosure in Chinese Astrology

Supreme Palace Enclosure or Tai Wei Yuan, Picture from Xu Gang

Bright and stable stars mean an efficient, excellent government that cooperates and reigns the nation well.

Gloomy stars indicate the incapability of the correlated officials in government.


Deviation of certain stars tells inappropriate assignments or inappropriate punishment about matching officials.


The shaking of stars in this enclosure predicts upcoming rebellions of correlated officials or nobles. 


Movement directions, positions, and the brightness of the Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and the appearance of meteors in the Supreme Palace Enclosure also indicate significant political events.

Supreme Palace Enclosure Astrology

Heavenly Market Enclosure — Worldly Civilians


Heavenly Market Enclosure, or Tian Shi Yuan, is the marketplace of heaven, which corresponds to prosperous cities and civilians on earth. 


So, hundreds of stars in Heavenly Market Enclosure are divided into 19 groups that are mostly named after ancient states, municipal officers, equipment, and products on the market.

Heavenly Market Enclosure in Chinese Astrology

Heavenly Market Enclosure or Tian Shi Yuan, Picture From Xu Gang

Astronomical phenomena of this enclosure represent correlated places' economic and agricultural situations in Chinese Astrology. 


The brightness and color of stars, movement directions, and positions of the Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars, Saturn, and meteors all indicate different conditions of correspondent industries and places.

Ancient Chinese Constellation and Horoscope — Four Symbols and Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions


Surrounding the Ecliptic and the Equator, The Twenty-eight Lunar Mansions are divided into four groups led by Four Mythical Symbols: Azure Dragon of the East, Black Tortoise of the North, White Tiger of the West, and Vermilion Bird of the South.  


Combined with Chinese Mythology, Yin Yang, and the Five Elements Theory, every mansion is represented by an animal and guarded by a deity.

Azure Dragon in Chinese Astrology
Black Tortoise in Chinese Astrology
White Tiger in Chinese Astrology
Vermilion Bird in Chinese Astrology
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