29 January 2011
Twelve animals make up the traditional Chinese zodiac, with each year having its own peculiar and unique beliefs, some specific to certain provinces, such as being an auspicious time to give birth or open a new business.
The rabbit is believed to be one of the happiest signs, with people born in that year renowned for their kindness, reliability and loyalty, though with an air of mystery and propensity to cry.
"The Rabbit represents mid-spring when trees and plants are prospering," said Raymond Lo, a Hong Kong-based feng shui master.
"It represents youth, motion and activity and so it will be an energetic year with new movements of young people and more young people demanding changes and reform in politics," he added.
The rabbit, whose year begins on February 3 and is marked by a week-long holiday in China, is also known for romance.
"As such, it will be a year of more sex scandals and sexual affairs," Lo said.
A-list Hollywood couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, both of whom are rabbits, born in 1963 and 1975 respectively, may be taking a risk if they choose the coming year to finally tie the knot, said well-known Taiwan fortune teller Chan Wei-chung.
"Angelina Jolie has two guardian gods, which means one will make sure that her career will flow like a fish in water, and she will make a great fortune. The other god will take care of her relationship," he told Reuters.
"She is very stable in her relationship and won't be too influenced by it; she will be very relaxed about it. But the one who will feel pressure and discomfort, who is likely to feel hurt and want to escape, will be her partner, Brad Pitt."
Economically, China will finally manage to get inflation under control in the second half of the year, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets said in its light-hearted annual outlook based on the ancient Chinese art of feng shui.
TRADITION AND SUPERSTITION
While such traditional beliefs are widespread in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the overseas Chinese world, they have been discouraged by the officially atheist Communist Party in mainland China.
Yet superstition is common in China, and certain popular beliefs have surged in popularity following landmark economic reforms started in the late 1970s.
Chinese cities will resound with firecrackers and fireworks during the festival, which are believed to scare off evil spirits and attract the god of wealth to people's doorsteps.
There are many taboos too. Washing your hair signifies washing away good luck, while the word for "four" is avoided, as it sounds like the word for "death".
"My father says we can't pick up the red fireworks casings from the ground in the courtyard. If we leave them it will be a good omen for next year and everyone will get wealthy," said Wang Fang, 24, a Beijing accountant.
Feng Rongxin, a 52-year-old Beijing office worker, said people born in the Year of the Rabbit must wear red clothing and jewellery to ensure good fortune, and that setting the right atmosphere at home was important.
"In my family, we'll make sure the house has a decorative rabbit feel. We'll put at least one rabbit (decoration) in the house for each member of the family, and with 14 people, that's a lot of rabbits," she said.
Chinese pet shops are reporting a brisk trade in the animals.
"Rabbits are easy to take care of. People who frequently travel for business are especially fond of owning rabbits," said rabbit seller Chen Yuan.
But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals objects.
"There's no better time to help rabbits than during the Year of the Rabbit, and you can do so by refusing to support the pet trade that causes so many animals to suffer," the group's Maggie Chen said.