HONG KONG - If the Year of the Ox has been one of plodding progress on most
fronts, devotees of the Chinese calendar hope that this coming year will roar
like its zodiacal symbol, the Tiger. And, as its kickoff on February 14
coincides with Valentine's Day in the West, they also hope that love is in the
air, chokingly polluted though it is likely to be across most of Asia.
Geomancers say those born in the Year of the Rabbit should be especially
fortunate in their romantic quests this year, while monkeys and snakes are
advised to lie low lest they risk wrenching heartbreak.
In Hong Kong, a lot of feng shui masters - and not just the monkeys and
snakes - are also lying uncharacteristically low in
this season of what is usually unbridled prognostication. That is because their
ancient but dubious art is under assault after one of their own was this month
judged a colossal fraud in Hong Kong's Court of First Instance.
Indeed, the sensational case of fortune-teller Tony Chan Chun-chuen -
self-professed lover of Asia's richest woman, Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum - even
bodes ill for patrons of Saint Valentine. Although he has vowed to appeal, Chan
lost the first round of his epic battle against the Wang family for the
tycoon's fortune, believed to be at least US$4.2 billion, and has been arrested
by Hong Kong police on suspicion of forging the will that he claims leaves that
fortune to him before she died in 2007
During the trial, Chan, who is married with children, described the 15-year
love affair that he said developed between him and the "chairlady" of the
Chinachem Group, one of Hong Kong's biggest property developers, while he
served as her feng shui advisor. Chan was counting on his status as both
geomancer and lover to Asia's wealthiest woman to sway the court in his favor.
But in a 326-page ruling, judge Johnson Lam Man-hong dismissed Chan and the
2006 will that made him Wang's sole inheritor as frauds, exhilarating the Wang
family but shaking up Hong Kong's geomantic world.
Not only has the trial delivered a blow to the collective reputation of local
soothsayers, it has also resulted in a hit to their income. After Chan boasted
in court of receiving HK$2 billion (US$257.4 million) in fees from his
eccentric paramour for his consultation services, the city's Inland Revenue
Department, which had previously turned a blind eye to feng shui practitioners,
announced that, henceforth, all fees and monetary gifts received by them would
be considered taxable income.
But let's not allow one disgraced fortune-teller, even though he served in the
court of a Hong Kong property empress nonpareil in Asia, spoil the fun of the
Lunar New Year.
Nina Wang and Tony Chan be damned; let the predictions begin!
The tiger, one of 12 animal signs in the Chinese zodiac, stands for power,
beauty and danger - which means that the year ahead could be a wild and woolly
ride. The ox plods, the tiger pounces.
Of the five basic elements - metal, wood, water, fire and earth - that rotate
through the zodiac, creating a 60-year cycle, metal and wood are the key actors
this year. Metal, whose symbol is a sword, is stronger than wood in what is
considered a conflicted relationship. So, while the tiger roars and pounces and
metal and wood clash, expect a year of heightening international tension.
Think Afghanistan and a rising Taliban insurgency. Think Iran and its supposed
quest for nuclear weapons (which, by the way, the tiger's fiery strength also
supports). And, if your focus is China, consider Tibet and Xinjiang, two
restive regions that could easily erupt again, as well as Beijing's prickly
disagreements with Washington over Internet censorship and arms sales to
Taiwan; you don't even have to be a soothsayer to see rough waters ahead in
And let's not leave off the international worry list the small matter of North
Korea - a country with an unstable, perhaps even dying Dear Leader, aka Kim
Jong-il, that claims it has nuclear weapons and sometimes threatens to use
Beyond the nuclear threat, the tiger's association with fire also bodes ill for
global warming - but who needed to be reminded of that after last year's
failure of the United Nations' climate summit in Copenhagen. Glaciers will
continue to melt and sea levels to rise as politicians diddle.
On the positive side, however, the tiger and its "seed of fire" are considered
signs of economic strength. That promises to drive stock markets higher and
support economic recovery.
Other tiger-friendly sectors that are expected to prosper include energy,
airlines and entertainment. Remember, this is also a metal year, so
metal-related industries - banking, machinery and automobiles, among others -
stand to gain. Since earth produces metal, mining, property development, hotels
and insurance should also be on the upswing.
But the year will be tough on those employed in occupations associated with
wood. Foresters, furniture-makers and fashionistas should prepare for hard
times. For those working for newspapers and magazines, it may be time to give
up the ghost - but they already knew that. The Internet tiger will roar its way
through this next year, drowning out their whimper.
The Year of the Tiger favors people who like to take risks and take charge.
Those born in tiger years tend to be leaders in their fields. In politics, that
includes Karl Marx, Ho Chi Minh, Dwight Eisenhower and Kofi Annan. In the
entertainment business, count Tom Cruise, Hugh Hefner and Jay Leno.
If you are a royalist, offer a bow to Queen Elizabeth II and, if you like
Romantic poetry, it is an opportune time to return to the words of William
Wordsworth, the tiger of English verse.
Those born in pig, horse and dog years are in harmony with the tiger and can
look forward to the year ahead. Monkeys and snakes, on the other hand, face
dimmer prospects. That means tough times for Iranian President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad (a monkey), so maybe the controversy over Iran's nuclear program
will work out for the best after all.
Meanwhile, as stock markets rise and politicians bicker, lusty love will bloom.
With an extra boost from Valentine's Day, randy rabbits will be out in force -
but their first choice of a partner should, of course, be a tiger, strange and
awkward as that might sound.
Kent Ewing is a Hong Kong-based teacher and writer. He can be reached at