Happy Year of the Pig!
HONG KONG - Sunday marks the start of the Chinese New Year and it's a lucky one for those starting out in life. But the rest of us are in for a rough ride. Expect epidemics, disasters and violence in much of the world.
"The Year of the Pig will not be very peaceful," said Hong Kong feng shui master Raymond Lo.
Feng shui is the ancient Chinese practice of trying to achieve health, harmony and prosperity by using specific dates, numbers, building design and the placement of objects.
The pig is one of 12 animals (or mythical animals in the case of the dragon) on the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, which follows the lunar calendar. According to Chinese astrology, people born in pig years are polite, honest, hardworking and loyal. They are also lucky, which is why many Chinese like to have babies in a pig year.
"Any children born in The Year of Pig will receive help from others throughout their lives," Lo said.
Ronald Reagan was a pig. So are
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Woody Allen and Elton John. Not to mention
Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But a word of caution to the presidential candidate.
The pig finished last in the race that determined the zodiac's order, behind the dog.
Other animals in the zodiac are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey and rooster. The zodiac runs on a 12-year cycle, and each year is associated with the five elements that Chinese mystics make up the universe: metal, water, wood, fire and earth.
Therein lies the trouble.
Pig years can be turbulent because they are dominated by fire and water, conflicting elements that tend to cause havoc, Lo said.
"Fire sitting on water is a symbol of conflict and skirmish," he said. "We'll also see more fire disasters and bombings."
He noted that the Russian AK-47 rifle, a weapon of choice among insurgents around the world, was invented during a pig year.
"So it will not be surprising to see more gunbattles, murder with guns and bombing attacks in 2007," he said.
Malaysian feng shui master Lillian Too agreed.
"I wish I could say that there won't be natural disasters, but I am afraid it could be as bad as last year," she said.
"There could be epidemics," she said. "I am very worried about bird flu. Eat healthy foods and take care of your health."
Few Chinese seemed to be worried about the warnings, though, as they prepared for their biggest bash of the year — Saturday's Lunar New Year's Eve — celebrated by one-fifth of the world's population.
It's an occasion to have family feasts, buy new clothes and exchange red envelopes stuffed with gift money.
Not everything about the future looks bleak.
Most soothsayers said the world economy will continue to boom, though they advise people to be cautious about their investments.
"Because of the water element in the Year of the Pig, the economy will continue to grow, which also paves the way for another round of interest rate hikes," said Peter So, a celebrity fortuneteller in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong soothsayer Alion Yeo is predicting
North Korea will undergo a power struggle that will bring leadership changes around May. Last year, the Year of the Dog, Yeo warned that the North Korean nuclear crisis would worsen.
The North conducted a nuclear test in October.
Singapore fortuneteller John Lok predicted the situation in
Iraq will not settle and
President Bush will have a bad year.
He also said the next president of France may be a woman — no surprise there since one of the main candidates is a woman, Segolene Royal of the Socialist party.
While the pig is beloved by the Chinese, the animal is offensive to Muslims, who consider it unclean. For that reason, Chinese New Year celebrations have to be handled with care in Malaysia and Indonesia, mainly Muslim countries with large ethnic Chinese minorities.
For the first time in its history, Indonesia introduced a special set of postal stamps to mark the Lunar New Year. But concerns over Muslim sensitivities led the postal service to drop plans to put a large pig on the stamps. It chose a Chinese temple instead.
"We took the middle path," said Hana Suryana, director of the Indonesian postal service.
Still, that was progress for a country where ethnic Chinese, who make up 5 percent of the population and have long faced discrimination, once were not allowed to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
"That has changed now, but we still feel uncomfortable celebrating the day in a large way because there are some people who cannot accept that Chinese culture is a part of Indonesian culture," said Jhony Tan, a trader in Jakarta's bustling Chinatown.
Yusri Mohammad, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, said he had no problem with the Chinese celebrating the pig year in his country. He said decorative pictures of pigs in shopping malls are fine — as long as Chinese don't start using live pigs or eat pork in public.