by Elio Basagni
Strings of heavenly stems and earthly branches, marking time and space with their shifting combinations, create recurring cycles of different lengths, such as 60, 12 and 10 years, months, days and hours. Life can only exist within the rhythm and movements of such cycles, interconnected at different levels, and allowing perpetual return and dynamic stability of all existence, by ensuring the flow, capture and storage of Qi.
1st February 2022 (year of the tiger) marks the beginning of Ren Yin 壬寅 year: the 38th step of a 60-year cycle. 壬 Ren is the heavenly Stem associated with water and its colour is black. For this reason, it is also known as the year of the black tiger, or water tiger. 寅 Yin is the earthly branch associated with the Yang of Wood and it represents the beginning of spring seen as a crouching tiger ready to sprint. 寅 Yin is associated with the tidal hexagram Tai 泰 (Peace). This hexagram shows the harmonious communication between Heaven and Earth: Yang (Heaven), represented by 3 unbroken lines, is below and can follow its natural upward movement, whilst Yin (Earth) represented by 3 broken lines, is above and can follow its natural downward movement. Tai is in opposition to Pi 否 (Stagnation) which shows a time of non-communication between Heaven and Earth as the 3 yang lines above block the movement of 3 yin lines below).
Each Spring marks the end of winter and also the beginning of a new 12-month cycle. In a wider perspective, 2022 is also the Spring of a new 12-year cycle, which comes after a long winter that started in 2016 with the earthly branch Shen 申 associated with the hexagram Pi 否 (Stagnation). In 2022 the Wood phase returns preponderantly, bringing a time of renewal and opportunities, allowing the expression of original and innovative ideas.
An ancient Chinese saying reads:
Pi Ji Tai Lai
否 極 泰 來
stagnation’s peak peace arrives
Popular translations for this saying are:
Out of the depth of misfortune comes bliss Extreme sorrow turns to joy.
When worse comes to the worst, things will turn for the better.
To better appreciate the power and strength of the year of the black tiger we should look at years in history, which carry the same combination of heavenly stems and branches as 2022. Sixty years ago, 1962 marked a time of great emancipation and renewed spirituality as well as the breaking up of pre-existing political and social arrangements, with all the tensions that came with it: some examples are the civil rights and students’ movements, the rediscovery of India and China in the West, as well as the Cuba crisis and Cold War. In fact, Wood/Spring is not just a movement/phase with an up and outward direction, but it is also the first apparent manifestation of the Yang. It is like a sprout piercing through the protective surface of the soil that contains it. The sprout will see the light, but it will have to face the challenges of wind, rain, cold and/or heat.
Therefore, this is not bound to be the easiest of times, because the scars of the long winter we are leaving behind will need some time to heal; however, the Wood phase signifies a smooth transition from Yin to Yang and, despite all the challenges, new horizons will open up thanks to a powerful wind. Furthermore, using the language of the Nei Jing, 2022 will be governed by the Great Movement of Wood and the Heavenly Guest Qi of Shao Yang of the Ministerial Fire that will give a further acceleration to the expansive movement of Spring.
Spring is here – twice over – so we can hope for brighter things ahead.