Chinese Birthday Book

Chinese Birthday Book
by Ta- kashi Yoshikawa
Weiser, 2007

Most readers and, as far as I know, all authors agree that publishers now and then really need to be spanked. Among the offenses that justify such action putting a bad title on a good book ranks high. Additional swats are earned when the title is not only bad but misleading; when the cover art also leads potential readers to think they are holding a dull book on a familiar subject, rather than an excellent book on a subject most people in the Western world don’t know from Lao Tsu’s ox, it’s definitely time to take the publisher to the woodshed.

The Chinese Birthday Book unfortunately falls into all these categories. It was originally published in 1987 under the much better title The Ki, and quickly got a reputation as the best book in any Western language on Nine Star Ki, a system of divination practiced throughout the Far East since ancient times. According to this system, the year of your birth places you on a spectrum of nine symbolic stars that represent patterns in ki, the life energy that flows through all things — think of the Force from Star Wars and you ’t be far off.

Once you know your birth star, or Basic Number, and two other numbers determined by the lunar month when you were born, you can use these as a guide to your own personality and how you will relate to other people. You can also use the same methods to determine fortunate and unfortunate directions for movement, which change from month to month depending on the cycle of nine stars, and for other forms of divination not covered in this book. It’s an elegant system with deep connections to Asian mysticism.

The problems with the title? They start from the fact that Nine Star Ki doesn’t have anything to do with your birthday — just the year and lunar month of your birth — and the version presented in this book isn’t Chinese at all; it’s the Japanese variation of the system, which differs from the Chinese one in many ways. Nor will you get much guidance from the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac on the cover; these occupy a total of three pages in the book, appearing only because they have a connection to the underlying philosophy of the Nine Star Ki.

Despite these packaging problems, though, Weiser deserves to be commended for bringing this excellent book back into print. Once they recover from their spanking, buy them a treat — or better still, buy this book.

JOHN MICHAEL GREER.

RATING: 4½ Broomsticks

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