Gong xii fatt choy
The 15-day celebration of Chinese New Year starts yesterday, with the first new moon of the calendar year. The day marks the end of the year of the water snake and welcomes the start of the year of the wooden horse.
The Chinese zodiac – or Shēngxiào – is a calendar system originating in the Han dynasty (206-220BC), which names each of the years in its 12-year cycle after an animal: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, in that order. According to the system, the universe is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, wood and metal – which interact with the 12 animals, resulting in the specific character of the year ahead.
The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to “catch up” with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year.
People born in the year of the horse are said to be a bit like horses: animated, active and energetic – they love being in a crowd. They are quick to learn independence – foals can walk minutes after birth – and they have a straightforward and positive attitude towards life. They are known for their communication skills and are exceedingly witty.
According to the Chinese superstition, in your zodiac year you will offend Tai Sui, the god of age, and will experience bad luck for the whole year. To avoid this you should wear something red, which has been given to you by someone else. In general, the lucky colours of team horse are are green, red and purple; the lucky numbers are three, four and nine, and the lucky flowers are giant taro and jasmine.
If you were born in the year of the horse, you’re in good company. Fellow members of the horse club include Genghis Khan, Mongol ruler; Franklin D Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the US; Louis Pasteur, a 19th-century scientist; Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon; the American singer Aretha Franklin; and the model Cindy Crawford.
Years of the wooden horse are associated with warfare. The battle of Dien Bien Phu, which ended with the defeat of France by the Vietnamese, happened in 1954 and 1894 saw the start of the first Sino-Japanese war. “With such serious conflicts on historical record in the previous two yang wood horse years, I cannot rule out the possibility of war and fierce battle in 2014,” predicts Lo.
2014 is the first year of the wooden horse in 60 years.
Gong xii fat choy! Happy Chinese new year!