The Year of the Metal Ox: What to expect in 2021

Originally published in Medicinal Roots Magazine


For over 5,000 years, some version of the Chinese calendar has been used to track & analyze the effects of time on climate, health & behaviour.

In the millennia since then, many different methods of analysis have been developed.

Each method places emphasis on different aspects or effects of heavenly Qi (timing).

All methods, however, have their foundation in the Ba Zi (eight characters): the four pairs of heavenly stems & earthly branches that make up the actual calendar date (see the winter 2020 issue of Medicinal Roots Magazine for more info).

The Uses of Ba Zi

Ba Zi analysis can take on many forms & has many uses.

Applied to the time of someone’s birth, it is used in the form of a natal chart to determine their prenatal heavenly Qi.

By comparing a person’s natal chart with the calendrical Qi of current & future dates, it can be used to determine the auspiciousness or inauspiciousness of particular activities –  such as buying a house, traveling, asking for a raise or getting married – at a particular date or time.

When used as an almanac, it can also give insight into climate & health.

The Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen, one of Chinese medicine’s classic texts, goes into great detail about how the stem & branch of a particular year affect what are called the Wu Lun Liu Qi (five movements & six Qi).

These determine both the qualities of elemental & climactic Qi for the year as a whole, as well as the qualities of Qi from month to month & season to season.

February 12th, 2021 marks the beginning of the yin metal ox year.

By examining the qualities of the yin metal stem, the qualities of the Ox related branch, & the almanac derived from the Wu Lun Liu Qi theories of the Nei Ning Su Wen, we can analyze & forecast the general effects of the yin metal ox on health, climate & behaviour. 

The Ox Branch (丑)

The Ox is associated with Chou, the second branch of the twelve branches.

Known for its perseverance & its ability to plow perfectly straight furrows in the fields, the ox is a conservative, orthodox, unimaginative, yet willful animal.

The main element associated with the Ox is yin earth, which is strongly associated with the central direction, the last 18 days of each season, & dampness.

From a five element perspective, it corresponds to the spleen, the muscles & flesh, digestive fluids, taste & touch.

Behaviourally, it is associated with nourishment, thought, stability, & forming alliances.

Yin earth branch years bring all of these correspondences to the forefront.

People born in Ox years often value tradition.

They make good labourers, bureaucrats & caretakers.

An appropriate proverb for the Ox is “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it: but if it’s broken, then just make it work as best you can”.

Oxen are generally responsible & financially successful due to the profits of consistent hard work, but stubbornly shy away from innovation, creativity, & critical thinking.

The Yin Metal Stem (辛)

Like the Yang metal stem of 2020, The Yin metal stem of 2021 is strongly associated with the West, autumn, & sunset, however instead of corresponding to dryness it corresponds to coolness.

Physiologically, yin metal corresponds to the lungs in Chinese medicine, especially the physical aspect of the lungs.

When the Qi of yin metal is present, it reduces symptoms of lung deficiency such as shortness of breath, asthma, & the frequent catching of colds.

Behaviourally, Yin metal corresponds to precision, refinement, maturity & acquisition.

Yin metal years bring all of these aspects to the forefront as well.

Combined effects

People born in metal ox years are said to be strong & reliable, but over-promising.

They are calm, conservative, & prone to mild illnesses.

When looking at the larger, socio-economic effects of the metal ox, we should not expect any major social progress this year, such as changes in policy or governance, other than a restoration & renewal of old policies.

No matter what promises get made, most governments & organizations will feel that it is not the time for innovation, preferring instead to restore the socio-economic status quo with alliances, agreements & other familiar strategies, even though they may be flawed.

The global theme of 2021 will be “righting the ship” rather than “charting a new course”.


When looking at climate, it is important to take the Wu Lun Liu Qi of the Nei Jing Su Wen into account.

Whereas each season will have its regular climate, the metal ox year as a whole will be one of heat, drought, dust & smoke.

This is because the metal ox year is also known as a “dried up flow” year & is considered to be a year of both deficient water & excess dampness.

We should expect unseasonably warm, muggy weather from March to August, with even Northern regions being susceptible to drought, fires & violent dust storms, including tornadoes.


Health is likewise best interpreted by combining the stem & branch qualities with Wu Lun Liu Qi theory.

The deficient water of the year puts constitutions that have deficient water constitutions at greater risk of experiencing significant Kidney deficiency patterns, including back pain, fatigue, & asthma.

Furthermore, the excess dampness, coupled with the lack of cold water Qi, is likely to cause significant amounts of damp heat or even phlegm, increasing the risk of metabolic & cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, & mental illness, especially in excess earth constitutions.


This year, the earth aspect of the ox branch will reduce the tendency of deficient earth constitutions to feel unstable & accident prone, however excess earth constitutions may suffer from overthinking & a lack of motivation.

The yin metal aspect will improve the maturity & attention to detail in deficient metal constitutions, but it may trigger materialistic greed & stinginess in excess metal constitutions.

In deficient water constitutions, the deficient water quality is likely to cause symptoms of fearfulness, lack of willpower, lack of stamina, & lack of awareness.

The excess earth & dampness, which controls water in the five element cycle, will exacerbate these symptoms. In excess earth constitutions, the excess earth & unrestrained fire creates a high likelihood of damp heat & phlegm affecting the mind, leading to deluded thoughts, muddied ideas, & a lack of critical thinking.

The additional energy of the ox may cause the backfire effect – the stubborn refusal to acknowledge flawed thinking even when faced with evidence of the flaw.

Eventful months

Each year, there are three months that, by virtue of their branches conflicting with the branch of the year, prove more difficult than the rest.

June (horse month)

June 2021 is known as a harm month.

This month will be marked by delays & missed deadlines.

“Too little, too late” is the theme of this month.

People born in horse years may experience this effect all year round.

July (goat month)

July 2021 is a critical month, because not only is there a double conflict between the branches representing ox year & the goat month, but there is also a conflict between the yin metal stem of the year & the yin wood stem of the month.

This month will be marked by the conflict of ideas, with the conventional, stubborn thoughts of the ox’s earth Qi being challenged by the unconventional yet just as stubborn thinking of the goat’s earth Qi.

Yin Metal attacking yin Wood suggests that this conflict may manifest externally, with those on the side of the ox suppressing those on the side of the goat.

There is also a high likelihood of all of the health patterns mentioned above becoming severe.

People born in goat years may experience these effects throughout the whole year.

October (dog month)

October 2021 is known as a bullying month.

The earth Qi of the Ox will firmly assert itself against what it sees as the loud earth opinions of the dog.

An exacerbation of damp symptoms & mental illness is likely in people with excessive earth constitutions.

People born in dog years may feel this bullying effect until 2022.

Harmonizing with the metal ox

Although there are general recommendations to harmonize & balance the Qi of the metal ox, each individual is unique.

For more specific, personalized strategies, it is recommended that you consult a Ba Zi practitioner or study Ba Zi with an experienced teacher.

General Recommendations

The principal balancing strategy is to amplify water & its correspondences through Yang Sheng Fa, Feng Shui & Chinese medicine.

  • Eat naturally salty foods that have a neutral or cold temperature on a daily basis such as miso, millet & seaweed. Drink plenty of water.
  • Amplify water Qi in your environment by adding water features, such as fountains & aquariums, to your home & office.
  • Spend more time in the Northern parts of your home & more time in the shade. Do not overheat.
  • Do not stay up too late. Get plenty of restful sleep.
  • Practice mindfulness, awareness & stillness meditation.
  • Strengthen the kidneys & bladder, clear heat, eliminate dampness & transform phlegm through Chinese medicine & QiGong.

By doing so, the innate risks posed by the Qi of the metal ox can be greatly minimized, allowing you to enjoy a much smoother, healthier & successful year. 

No matter what, remember that when times are tough, they won’t always be tough; & when times are good, they won’t always be good.

So be grateful for the good times, & be grateful that the tough times don’t last.

Best of luck to you all in the metal ox year!

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