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The Year of the Ox bodes well for the world

The Lunar New Year heralds the reign of a hard-working animal

A child is seen pretending to milk a statue of a cow outside the Presidential Palace in this file photo. The statue is part of a display leading up to...
In this file photo, the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are displayed on a quilt.

A child is seen pretending to milk a statue of a cow outside the Presidential Palace in this file photo. The statue is part of a display leading up to...

In this file photo, the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac are displayed on a quilt.

Bid farewell to the global economic downturn brought on in the Year of the Rat, and get ready to embrace the upcoming Year of the Ox. The second animal in the twelve Chinese zodiac signs began its year-long reign on Monday, the first day of the Lunar New Year.
The Chinese zodiac consists of a twelve-year cycle, with each year represented by a different animal. According to the Lunar calendar, the twelve animals in order are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig.
In terms of the Lunar Calender, 2008 was represented by the Rat, while this year, 2009, will be the year of the Ox.
Though not entirely identical with the Greek zodiac, the Chinese zodiac shares with it the duodecimal system and the idea of using animals as numerical symbols.
Scholars have different views regarding the origin of using animals representing a year in the Chinese calendar. Some hold that the system originated in the prehistoric worship of animal totems in ancient China, while others believe that the twelve-animal cycle was imported along the Silk Road from Buddhists in Khotan, Sogdiana, and India.
But if you ask a Chinese person, he or she will tell you that the most widely-known reason for the origin of the animal cycle and its order is a bedtime story about a legendary "Great Race of the Chinese Zodiacs."
According to the legend, a long, long time ago the Jade Emperor - the supreme god and ruler of the heaven in Chinese mythology - invited all the animals in creation to take part in a race. The prize for the first twelve animals to finish the race was an opportunity to appear on the Chinese Zodiac calendar in the order in which they completed the race.
Surprisingly, at the end of the great race, the first animal to across the finish line was the rat, a seemingly unlikely scenario given it was such a small animal and the race was so strenuous.
The legend explains that the rat used his brain to win the race and a permanent position in the Chinese calendar. A poor swimmer, the rat talked the honest and simple-minded ox into taking it across the river on the ox's back. As they approached the finish line, the rat jumped off the ox's back and zipped across the line, putting it in first place in the race. The ox, which should have won the race, came in second and as promised in the legends and mythology, was the second animal listed on the Chinese Zodiac.
The legend of the Zodiac Race is of course the least credible by far of all explanations of the origin of the Chinese zodiac; but it is probably the most interesting one.
No matter what the true reason behind the Chinese zodiac may be, the calendar system was already in existence from as early as the Chinese Zhou era (1045 BC to 256 BC). As time went by the Chinese zodiac was further developed as a way to keep track of when people were born, with years and animals associated in a fixed order for clarity and simplicity in recording dates.
The Ox years in the 20th and 21st centuries so far are 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997 and of course 2009. Following the twelve-year cycle, the next one will be in 2021.
With lunar years being represented by twelve different animals, it is believed that an individual's traits, characteristics and personality are greatly influenced by the animal of the particular year they are born in. As you might guess, people born in the Year of the Ox are very much like the stereotype of the animal itself - dependable, calm and modest - as shown in the legend described above.
For thousands of years, the ox - or more precisely, the water buffalo - has been valued for its meat and milk as well as the labor it performs. Since the animal is responsible for tilling the land on terraced fields to grow crops, the ox is a very important asset, especially in an agrarian society. For this reason "ox people," like the animal itself, are associated with characteristics such as being unswervingly patient, tireless in their work, and capable of enduring any amount of hardship without complaint. They are not social or party animals, and they tend to be quiet when in groups.
Some people might accuse them of being strong-minded and stubborn, but in fact people born under the influence of the Ox are said to be kind, caring souls who are logical and positive-thinking and filled with common sense; they have their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Security is the main preoccupation in life for ox people, and they are prepared to toil long and hard in order to provide a warm, comfortable and stable nest for themselves and their families.
Ox people are also exceptional at handcrafts or the arts, a fact attested to by the many famous artists or celebrities born in the year of the ox around the world. A partial list would include Vincent Van Gogh, Walt Disney, Charles Chaplin and Anthony Hopkins as well as George Clooney. Some Chinese celebrities such as Hong Kong pop stars Andy Lau and Jacky Cheung as well as Takeshi Kaneshiro, a half Taiwanese actor, were all born in Ox years.
With the Year of the Ox upon us, what can we expect in the new Lunar Year, and will the animal largely associated with dependability and calmness bring a halt to the economic recession both in Taiwan and the whole world?
Local fortune tellers predict that the financial and political rumblings of the nation will continue to dominate in the year ahead. But don't lose faith: they also say that in the second half of the year of the ox, the economy will slowly but gradually start to improve.
"Pluto is entering Capricorn and financial markets around the world, already in a steady decline for several months, will continue to go down," forecasts famous Taiwanese horoscope reader Jesse Tang.
But after the stock market hits bottom, it will start to rise, and it will soar again by the end of next year. That is when investors should return to the market, says Tang.
Chan Wei-chung, an expert in Chinese Zi Wei Dou Shu and master of Feng Shui or geomancy, also notes that "Wu Qu" or the "Star of War" will be strong in the year of the Ox. This means that the financial market should have good prospects, especially in July and August of 2009.
Both fortunetellers, however, note that the political rumblings in Taiwan's politics will continue and Taiwanese will slowly but surely lose faith and patience in the current administration. In the meantime, all kinds of crimes or corruption cases will continue to dominate the headlines in the island nation during the Ox year.
The Feng Shui master also reminds people born in the Year of Ox, Goat, Dragon and Dog to be more careful in this Lunar year, as they will be either offended by, clash with, or have conflicts with the "Tai Sui," or "Yearly God." According to Chinese calendar, each year there is a "Yearly God" or "Tai Sui" on duty, looking after all earthly matters. There are a total of 60 Tai Sui, each year taking turns in doing the job.
Each year, however, there are also some Chinese zodiac signs that are opposing forces to the god-in-charge Tai Sui. These zodiac signs are prone to suffer various forms of bad fortune during the year, including injury, financial loss, business failure or sudden illness. The negative impact may differ from person to person depending on the circumstances of individual births.
The negative impacts can be classified as offense, clash or conflict in relation to the Tai Sui. During the Ox Year, Tai Sui will offend ox people, clash with the goats, and be in conflict with the dragons and dogs.
Yet there is a solution to all this clashing and conflicting. In local Taoist practice, praying to the Tai Sui at the beginning of the year can deflect much of the negative influence. In Taiwan, people usually go to temples at the beginning of the Lunar Year, seeking protection and peace and driving away the negative impacts. The ritual or ceremony is called "An Tai Sui" or appeasing the Yearly God. In return, worshippers receive a protective talisman from the temple which will give the person a year's worth of protection.

Updated : 2021-06-17 16:24 GMT+08:00