Chinese New Year: Tigers promised a dangerously exciting ride

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The Independent Online
The Chinese Year of the Tiger begins today. Many feng shui masters or geomancers think it will be an exciting, possibly dangerous year. Stephen Vines, our correspondent in Hong Kong, ponders the benefits and hazards of the sign of his birth.

First the bad news. According to the feng shui expert employed by the stockbrokers Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia, 1998 "is not going to be a good year for tigers". Apparently "bad luck will stake noble felines and instincts will not prove reliable" between April and August.

Feng shui, the complex business of reconciling man with his environment, is not a precise science. So the good news may be that this horoscope is wrong. Tigers can draw comfort from the fact that last year, the Year of the Bull, the same forecasters said this of the month of the Pig, 31 October - 29 November: "All elements will combine to produce another bullish month. The aspect is good for all stocks." Things did not quite work out as predicted, or, to put it another way, the horoscope was 100 per cent wrong. The pig month marked the start of the Asia-wide financial markets crash.

Well, no one is perfect, and to be fair to the feng shui experts employed by Credit Lyonnais, they have had an amazingly good run. For the past five years they have achieved a better record predicting the movement of share prices than practically any analyst in Hong Kong.

Now is not the time to mock feng shui. Indeed no one in their right mind in Hong Kong, or any other Chinese society, would attempt such a folly. Few people here would dream of buying a house or opening a business on any particular day without consulting a feng shui master.

During the new year season these experts are deluged with customers because the end of the year is a time for change and people need to know what to do to position themselves for the coming year.

Some people shop around for predictions if they dislike what they hear. So tigers may like to know that Lee Ying-choi, a well-known feng shui expert, has better news for them. According to Mr Lee, tigers can profit from crisis and should take advantage of "this once-in-a-lifetime luck" which will mean expanding their social circle.

Generally, the tiger year is considered not a bad year for giving birth. Tigers are seen as brave, able to fend off evil and, in some circumstances, able to attract wealth. However the tiger year can mean danger. The First World War started in a tiger year and in 1938, another tiger year, Hitler began executing the expansionist policies which led to the Second World War.

It is hard for individuals to avert such cataclysmic events but there is a great deal they can do to avert the negative influences of any particular year. The best way of getting things off to a good start is by carefully making symbolic gestures which will ensure good fortune.

The Chinese are sensible enough to ensure that food is closely associated with that which is auspicious. Thus at the biggest eating event of the year, the New Year's Eve banquet, certain dishes must be prepared. Most of those dishes have names which can be taken as synonyms for other, more auspicious, meanings. Thus no new year's banquet is complete without fish, because the Cantonese word for fish is yu, which can also be taken to mean abundant. Just to make sure of abundance many cooks buy yu lei or carp, the name of which sounds like abundant prosperity. Chicken, symbolising the mythical phoenix which rose from the ashes, is also a vital dish but Hong Kong has been hit by bird flu and all the chickens have been killed. Moreover there is a ban on chicken imports from China.

No one says anything as mundane as "happy new year"; instead they say "kung hei fat choi", which literally means "congratulations on your prosperity or good fortune".

So, danger permitting, the Year of the Tiger might turn out better than the Year of the Bull, when all Chinese financial markets turned distinctly bearish.

good for rats and rabbits - but monkeys should go to bed

The Rat

(1900, 12, 24, 38, 48, 60, 72, 84, 98)

This is a year of highs and lows for rats. Much activity and travel are indicated. But rewards will come only to those urging themselves forward.

The Ox

(1901, 13, 25, 37, 49, 61, 73, 85, 97)

"One ox can fight two tigers." - the ox is the only sign able to overcome the adverse influences of the tiger's year. You will withstand the temptation to speculate unwisely but this will be a year of petty annoyances.

The Tiger

(1903, 14, 26, 38, 50, 62, 74, 86, 98)

This is your time of progress and achievement. But a smart tiger will use this year to make provision for leaner times.

The Rabbit

(1904, 15, 27, 39, 51, 63, 75, 87, 99)

Rabbits have much to look forward to as their own prosperous year follows. Danger to friends will cause anxiety but matters will sort themselves out by the year's end.

The Dragon

(1905, 16, 28, 40, 52, 64, 76, 88, 2000)

The dragon and tiger are harmonious. Now come opportunities in business and romance. As for stern looks, since when has a dragon been afraid of what anyone thinks?

The Snake

(1906, 17, 29, 41, 53, 65, 77, 89, 2001)

The snake and tiger do not form an auspicious alignment, though all around will be activity. But remember, there is nothing to be lost by a period of re-assessment.

The Horse

(1907, 18, 30, 42, 54, 66, 78, 90, 2002)

This is a good year for the horse, involving a great deal of socialising, leading in turn to enhanced business prospects. The year is better for men of this sign than for women.

The Goat

(1908, 19, 31, 43, 55, 67, 79, 91, 2003)

The year will be an adventure, and when you look back the rewards will appear worthwhile. If you have contemplated getting married, changing jobs or even moving to a different country, do it this year.

The Monkey

(1909, 20, 32, 44, 56, 68, 80, 92, 2004)

A period of instability for all primates. Buy a big, comfortable bed and spend as much time as possible in it.

The Rooster

(1910, 21,33, 45, 57, 69, 81, 93, 2005)

Ideal time for new ventures in business or in romance, but only if long- term affairs are sought. Don't agonise over lost lovers - opportunities will abound later in the year.

The Dog

(1911, 22, 34, 46, 58, 70, 82, 94, 2006)

Howl at the full moon, for good fortune attends the dog all year. Horses will be picking up the tab for your social life so make friends with them.

The Pig

(1899, 1911, 23, 35, 47, 59, 71, 83, 95)

Things will go well and you will earn fame and respect. But choose your words carefully and avoid argument. Invest wisely and take only what you deserve.