When the claim that there are more than twelve astrological signs in the Zodiac reached China’s distant shores earlier this year the reaction was not what you might expect.
According to David Railey, an Atlanta-based astrologer and author who has traveled and lectured there, sun sign astrology is popular in China today.
“The controversy created when Minnesota astronomer Parke Kunkle announced that a wobble in the earth’s axis had created a new astrological sign immediately lit up the internet blogs and microblogs that comprise China’s social media network. Many were confused by the report, which suggested they may not have been born under the astrological influences they thought they were,” he said.
But in China the response by at least one influential scientist in a position of authority was unlike anything seen in the western hemisphere. Astronomer Zhu Jin, curator of the prestigious Beijing Planetarium, planned a public discussion of the issue and invited Railey to present astrology’s side of the story.
“About half of those in attendance were members of the press who treated the topic like a legitimate news story. We were able to clarify the difference between constellations and astrological signs, but the main discussion focused not on sun-sign astrology but on the kind of serious astrology astronomers in the West rarely bother to learn anything about,” he said.
Railey says the event received widespread coverage in the media, including a lengthy story by reporter Youngming Huang that appeared in Southern Weekly, considered by some to be the New York Times of China. At CCTV, the country’s national public education station, science and program director Chen Li Hua is working on an educational program that explores the differences between Western and Chinese astrology and astronomy.
Near the end of the Beijing event, Zhu Jin publicly shared his opinion that Western astrology “is a beautiful system worthy of investigation. Astronomers typically take a harder line in other parts of the world,” Railey said.
Subject Resonates With Youthful Audience
He points out that the advent of the Internet has coincided with the emergence of a younger, more affluent and well educated Chinese population. There are more than 1.3 billion people in the country and slightly more than 500 million internet users, many that read English.
“A large number have encountered western astrology on the Internet and love it. It speaks to them,” he said.
Railey is a past president of the Metro Atlanta Astrological Society and is a member of the steering committee of the Association for Astrological Networking (AFAN) – a group that, among other things, seeks to improve the image of astrology.
His book, The Soul Purpose, published in the Chinese language last year. A promotional tour arranged by Chinese business partner Felicia Jiang drew large, enthusiastic crowds to lectures, workshops and book signings.
Book sales averaged about 200 copies per day the first month with the book’s first printing selling out after nine months.
“Those attending the lectures were mostly young, 20- to 40-year olds who are wild about astrology. If there were chairs for 60 people there were 90 people standing,” he said.
Railey created a blog on Sina, an online Chinese newspaper published in English. By the end of last year the blog already had been visited by more than 208,000 visitors, and the total has since grown to more than 600,000. His name had been Googled in China three and a half million times.
A nodoor.com website created earlier this year posts stories about astrology in the Chinese language, and recently began including news features generated by the Astrology News Service (ANS), an educational news service supported by the major astrological organizations in the United States.
“What’s impressive is how serious Chinese students of Western astrology are about developing professional standards and taking the necessary steps needed to achieve certification. Obtaining travel visas to study in the United States is not easy for Chinese students, but educational programs have been exported on the Internet and leading U.S. astrologers are finding a receptive audience when they travel to China,” he said.