In your element
This year is the Year of the Metal Rabbit, which follows on from the Year of the Metal Tiger, 2010.
They are also known as the years of the golden tiger and golden rabbit.
So what determines the element of a year, i.e. whether a year is metal (golden) or, say, water?
The five elements form a cycle: metal melts to form water, which nourishes wood. Wood then kindles fire, which burns to produce earth, which in turn produces metal. Each element is represented twice in the sequence, in yang and yin form. Thus, there are 10 types of year in a decade: the yang form of the element followed by the yin of the same element and then the yang version of the element that is produced, followed by the yin version of this element, and so on.
For instance, 2010 was a yang metal year, so, 2011 is a yin metal year, which means that 2012 will be a yang water year, 2013 a yin water year, etc.
For easy reference, the first two years correspond to the metal element, the third and fourth the water element, the fifth and sixth the wood element, the seventh and eighth the fire element and the ninth and tenth the earth element, before the cycle starts over.
Yang element years end with an even number and yin years an odd number. We will consider the practical ramifications of this classification next week.