Angela Chau Gray’s Chinese zodiac sign is a Wooden Ox.
“Oxen tend to be very stubborn,” said Gray, who cofounded Traditional Chinese Medicine skin care brand, Yina, alongside Dr. Ervina Wu. “If they’re plowing the field, they’re going to go straight,” she continued, drawing a parallel between her sign’s chief characteristic and her own bullishness in pursuing her goals.
Gray began practicing Chinese astrology and observing the lunar calendar in 2012, and by the time she and Wu founded Yina in 2016, the practice was practically embedded into the brand’s DNA.
“Sharing this wisdom with people and dissecting the language so that it’s a little bit more understandable and less mysterious is a big goal of Yina’s,” Gray said. “We want to empower people to take their health into their own hands.”
There are 12 zodiac animals in Chinese astrology, with each year in the repeating, 12-year zodiac cycle being represented by one animal. For example, 2022 is the year of the Tiger, as was 2010, while 2023 will mark the first year of the Rabbit since — you guessed it — 2011.
Each zodiac animal has its own nuanced characteristics, based on the five elements: wood, water, earth, fire and metal. In total, there are 60 possible combinations between the 12 zodiac animals and the five elements, and the last number of one’s birth year determines their birth element.
“It’s not fortune telling; it’s about using a subset of knowledge, extrapolating information from it and seeing how that can correlate with a person’s real life,” Gray said. “It’s not a system about right or wrong, but rather it’s about the patterns we have as human beings.”
The founder, who is trained in traditional Chinese practices such as tai chi and acupuncture, often looks to the lunar calendar to inform both her personal decisions (what she should eat, how she should spend her day) as well as professional ones, such as when to launch a product, and how hard she should work during a given period.
Qi (pronounced “chi” in English), is a concept rooted in traditional Chinese medicine that refers to the vital energetic life force that exists in all living beings. For Gray and many others, taking qi into account when making certain decisions is one way to increase balance and harmony in their lives.
“When I started understanding the calendar more, it became clearer what are more auspicious days to rest, or if there’s more qi for doing something productive,” Gray said. “If you are pushing, or doing a lot of work on a day that does not have much qi, things are bound to be more challenging.”
So when Yina launched its most recent product, the Hydracloud Cream, which is powered by a Ginseng complex and niacinamide, in June, the timing was just right. “We use the Chinese calendar with Yina to help steer the course,” Gray said. “We’re very conscientious about what we launch; we really want to create products that will help people and their lives.”
She also does readings for certain friends and family members, often on an annual basis, in which she discusses with them how they should navigate events in their…