HONG KONG – A stock market slide, escalated conflict between Japan and China and more “Gangnam Style” success for South Korean singer Psy will shape the Year of the Snake, according to soothsayers.
Those who make predictions based on the study of feng shui are influential in many parts of Asia, where people adjust their lives or renovate houses and offices based on such advice. As they bid farewell to the Year of the Dragon, the fortunetellers warn that the “black water snake” that will emerge to replace it Sunday — the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year — could be a venomous one that brings disaster.
Previous years of the snake were marked by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen prodemocracy protests and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The 1929 stock market plunge that heralded the Great Depression also occurred in a snake year.
Hong Kong’s celebrity feng shui master, Mak Ling-ling, predicts that stock markets will enjoy a smooth first half of the year before becoming turbulent in the second half, which she attributes to the characteristics of the reptile.
“It’s just like the movement of snakes — fast, aggressive and sharp, but cunning and tricky at the same time,” she explained.
Mak warned that despite early market optimism there would be no full recovery in the crisis-hit eurozone, while the economy of the United States would not gather strong momentum until 2014. She added that U.S. President Barack Obama needs to “be less conservative” in his attempts to revive the economy.
Astrologers say this year’s snake is identified with the element of water, symbolizing fear, that sits on top of the fire element, representing joy and optimism. They say conflict between the two will bring turbulence in May.
“This is a disaster year . . . a lot of things will not go smoothly,” said Singaporean Feng Shui Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong, 59, of geomancy consultancy Way OnNet Group. “The European Union may split, the euro may be in trouble” and the currency bloc could even be threatened by division in May.
Hong Kong astrologer Chow Hon-ming said a disharmonious May would see the ongoing dispute between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands possibly escalate into a “brief” war, as two “snakes” are going to clash according to his reading of the Chinese almanac.
“May is known as the ‘snake month’ and it’s the Year of the Snake, so between May 5 and June 6, these two snakes will meet,” Chow said. “This is why things will be very intense between Japan and China. Tensions will rise to a peak and they will possibly go to war.”
Chinese fortunetelling is based on philosophy and belief dating back thousands of years that events are dictated by the balances in the five elements that make up the universe: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. A person’s fortune can be calculated by using the time and date of his birth, given the relationship of each of these elements.
China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, and “Gangnam Style” singer Psy, two of the most famous people born in the Year of the Snake, will see success despite entering a year matching their Chinese zodiac — usually considered to be a bad omen. But Xi, 60, and 36-year-old South Korean pop sensation Psy will be spared due to their favorable birth dates and elements.
While the Chinese leader is set to smoothly assume the presidency in March from Hu Jintao, there may, however, be the odd bump in the road. “He needs to watch out for his health. He might suffer a fall in November if he travels,” Chow said, recommending that Xi avoid visiting “Europe or Russia” that month.
CLSA, one of Asia’s leading brokerages, creates its own tongue-in-cheek annual “feng shui index.” This year, it states that while stock markets will be volatile in the second half, the presence of the market-driving “fire” element gives reason for optimism.
“We’ve got the fire element so we’re pretty hopeful,” CLSA analyst Mariana Kou said, predicting markets will close the year at a “decent finish.” Yet past years of the snake give little encouragement, with the three most recent ones seeing Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index end down 33.5 percent in 2001.
“As befits ‘skin-shedders,’ snake years are marked by major transformation and change — and sometimes great upheaval,” CLSA said.