Author: Claire

Zodiac Attack





The decision to investigate the Chinese Zodiac came relatively easy to us. Each of us already had an interest in horoscopes and could identify (or thought we could!) the Chinese zodiac animal of the year we were born. Beyond that, we knew very little about the Chinese zodiac or its cultural and social impact.

The first shock was for Kris – he realised that he was not an ox, as he’d thought, but a tiger. This is because the Chinese New Year falls at a different time to the calendar we are accustomed to; because Kris was born in January, he’s still part of the previous year’s zodiac. We later discovered that whilst China operates day to day via the same calendar we do, its zodiac operates on a different scale of time.

As globalisation continues to morph the world into a new shape, it is becoming difficult to examine a culture holistically from an external perspective. This is because cultural, social, economic and political paradigms are wrapped around multiple locations on the globe; when analysing an ‘unfamiliar’ practice, we need to systematically analyse our own context and experience simultaneously (Ellis et. al 2017; Hayano 1979). This is what has ignited the demand for autoethnographic research. Hayano, an Associate Professor in Anthropology at California State University, argued this in 1979; now in 2017 it is even more true. Therefore at this early stage of our investigation, we each began to record and understand our own relationship with the Chinese zodiac. We each were born under a different animal; Kris is an ox, Brooke is a tiger and Claire is a rat. We discovered that the Chinese Zodiac has been adapted into an Australian context to promote multilateral understanding between the two cultures.

Once we had gotten a feel for our ‘characters’, we experimented with compatibility tests. It was a little alarming at this early point in our research to discover that the three of us are seen as mostly unfit to work together.


Source: Twitter @brookiyuki   



Source: Twitter @c_lair_e_96

Considering the three of us had never worked together on an assessment before, and each have an interest and some level of belief in the zodiac systems we’ve encountered, this was an interesting occurrence. We were mindful of the danger of a self-fulfilling prophecy, which occurs when a prediction becomes true due to the positive feedback between belief and behaviour (see this Reddit forum for more on self-fulfilling prophecies and astrology). Would this team ‘fail’ to work together because we were told it would be so? No such travesty occurred, thankfully; the three of us managed to pull together an artefact and surrounding research we were each content with.

We enhanced our autoethnographic method via publishing our experiences on Twitter to make “witnessing” possible (Ellis et. al 2017). Ellis argues that this gives readers,  often with varied experiences in the research field at hand, the ability to “observe and testify”. We had multiple engagements with our Twitter posts, which used the hashtags #digc330 and #zodiacattack. This was both to validate our research, keep track of it and allow others to intervene or share their own experience.



We journalised our experiences with the Chinese Zodiac via Twitter (source: Twitter @krischristou)

Our key epiphany was the huge role that the Chinese zodiac plays in the cultural, social and economic spheres of China. It’s normal for Chinese citizens to plan when to conceive children according to the zodiac. For example, the Year of the Dragon is widely accepted to be lucky and desirable. In 1988 and 2000, both Dragon years, the birth rate in China increased in the short-term, which makes it “unquestionable that the Dragon Year preference exerts an influence on fertility of modern Chinese populations through zodiacal birth-timing motivations” (Lee et. al 2002). Economically, the Chinese media industry is inundated with references to and portrayals of the zodiac, including anime, television programs and even card games. We found that across the board, the zodiac animals portrayed values of power and leadership.

It has been fascinating to consider the impact of the Chinese zodiac on China itself, from our university classrooms on “this vast continent on the edge of the Asian landmass” (Leong et. al 2017), primarily via the internet, relevant media and a single paperback book.

Untangling the Strings of I Ching

iching全球 is the Cantonese character for ‘global’

I engaged in a legitimate I Ching spiritual reading two weeks ago, in the confines of my bedroom – via app. It didn’t phase me at all. I’m what Mark Prensky would describe as a “digital native“; I circumnavigate the corners of the globe via technology, as effortlessly as I breathe, without conscious consideration.

It’s when I step back, take a deep breathe and consider the implications of my virtual journey, that the epiphanies ignite. The following is an excerpt from my post- an excerpt from my post I Ching for iPhone, featuring two epiphanies which ignited from my experience;

“One voice in my head whispered oh my God it actually worked, over and over again. A second is mindful that this traditional Chinese art has been translated from Mandarin, which has a completely different dialect and alphabet…

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I Ching (我清) for iPhone*

iching This might say “I Ching” in Chinese characters (source). I am already lost in translation!


I’ve been searching for meaning for as long as I can remember. Past ventures include experimenting with tarot cards, astrology, palm reading, numerology and visiting a psychic. Given this, it makes perfect sense to me to explore a topic I am familiar with, but in a different culture. For this assessment I will be focusing on I Ching, a Chinese divination practice that dates back thousands of years.

About I Ching

Divination was once seen as an attempt to communicate with spirits and the unseen facets of the universe. Modern psychology argues that divination works through accessing the unconscious mind’s wisdom (ibid). I Ching (我清) is a form of divination which dates back thousands of years. It was created in text form around 1000BC, but was developed and practiced…

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Autoethnography and the Power of Stories

“Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath lived a short life decorated with vibrant but dark emotions, before she succeeded in her second attempt at suicide. Her later pieces, written from a freezing cold flat in London, often between 1am and 4am whilst her young children slept, bring the grim reaper to life cruelly; he swoops about the reader like a cold, eerie chill.

When you finally look away from the page you’re reading off,  Sylvia’s depression takes a few moments to rest off your shoulders. The impact of her words is so heavy. She wrote so that others could understand her. When  I read her work I am whipped into her realm of loneliness and her sphere of pain. Sylvia used words to draw readers into her personal story.

“I am terrified by this dark thing that sleeps in…

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Understanding the ‘Enemy’ through Gojira

When I was eighteen years old I visited the Vietnamese war museum with my mother. We saw actual traps the Viet Cong had used to kill members of the ‘enemy’, including Australians. We heard stories, absolutely barbaric tales of what ‘American’ (which, in this context, was defined to be everyone fighting against the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War) soldiers had done to Vietnamese forces. Inside the museum, graphic images of mutilated and dead children were displayed like art. We left the building after only fifteen minutes; it was too confronting to stay.


Brutal images such as this one were displayed at the Vietnamese War Museum. In my school education of the Vietnam War, I wasn’t given the opportunity to consider that the other side suffered too, and maybe soldiers fighting for us were brutal also (image: AWS).


The way in which we partake in any attempt at research on a group we are a part of holds a necessary bias known as reflexivity. This week in DIGC330: Digital Asia, we became familiar with this idea through making sense of the film Gojira (1954). This film is the original Godzilla. It’s Japanese, black and white, and extremely different in content and structure to the Hollywood blockbusters we see today.@Although I did not realise this at the commencement of the film, Gojira was heavily influenced by the events surrounding World War II. Prior to this realisation, I was pretty confused at the story of the film. This is probably more due to my trying to live-tweet the film as I viewed it; the attention economy is apparently one where I struggle to function. I wasn’t alone, much of the class seemed fairly light-hearted and the resulting Twitter conversation was rather humorous. It contained a variety of memes, puns and literary reference, some of which were clever and others downright cringy.

Once it became apparent that the film carried a darker message, conversations about the second World War and the artistic relevance of the film were established. What resonated with me was the power of human emotion, the brutality of war and how my school experience provided me with a very one-sided education on World War II. It’s also interesting to note that the Japanese school curriculum contains very little 20th century history, with a particular absence of Japan’s role in not only World War II, but other notable conflicts in Asia and beyond.


Source: Twitter @c_lair_e_96


I always learned that Japan fought amongst the enemy and with brutal force. The Australian soldiers, I was told, fought bravely protect our country. Maybe this is true, but there’s so much more to the story. Viewing this film showed the passion, patriotism and agony of the War as part of the Japanese story. We forget that our side fought with brutality too; US forces dropped nuclear weapons on two cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 129 000 people were killed. It is argued by some that without this action, the war may have ended with worse destruction, but we will never know. Nuclear weapons have not been used in warfare again (thus far).

Scenes including the one where a woman clung to her small children, promising they would be reunited with their (presumably dead) father, were absolutely heartbreaking to watch. This was never an image I would have conjured in my mind when thinking about the Japanese WWII experience.


Human suffering is universal. Why is this not represented in history books? (Image: Shenanitims)

I have ancestors who fought in wars such as these; this affects my attitude towards the conflict portrayed and my experience of watching the ‘enemy’ suffer. Viewing this film reinforced to me that, aside from political differences, the human experiences of love, pain, suffering and loyalty are very much coherent across different cultures. Even viewing this piece through poorly-translated subtitles, black and white film and almost comically inept special effects gave me this valuable insight, despite being some fifty years and 7902 kilometres away from the intended Japanese audience.