Hong Kong, China, Feb. 4 (UPI) -- The Lunar New Year is fast approaching and, according to ancient Chinese custom, it is time to consult the fortunetellers to see what the Year of the Rooster will hold. Hong Kong's most famous astrologers and geomancers have been offering their insights, advice and predictions this week, ahead of the New Year on Feb. 9.
For the most part, the predictions are upbeat, with 2005 scheduled to bring a gradual movement toward greater compromise and cooperation between peoples and nations. It's a good year for the beauty and entertainment industries, and a good year to lose weight. It is not so favorable for the textile and paper industries, or for people born in the Year of the Rabbit.
"Forecasting is a science," one of Hong Kong's most famous feng shui masters, Raymond Lo, told a mystified audience Tuesday. Feng shui means wind and water, and is the name for Chinese geomancy, used to determine where and how to build a house or position a grave.
But Lo is more than a geomancer. He is an economist and social scientist by training, a philosopher by temperament, and an enthusiastic teacher of what he calls Chinese metaphysics.
The system is based on five elements -- wood, fire, earth, metal and water -- in two cycles, one constructive, one destructive. The order above is the constructive cycle, as each element supports the one that follows it.
In the destructive cycle -- wood, earth, water, fire and metal -- each element controls the one that follows.
The relationships between all things can be explained in terms of their elemental associations and their positions on these two cycles. A person of fire temperament, for example, does well when wood is favorably aspected, as wood supports fire, but has difficulties when water predominates.
The Rooster Year is a year of wood and metal, and a gentle yin year (as opposed to a stronger, more aggressive yang year). Knowing this, one can apply a series of formulae to discover what property to buy, what investments to make, and what romantic interests to pursue to take advantage of one's personal luck.
Luckily, there is a shortcut to predicting the year's major events. The Chinese system follows a 60-year cycle, meaning that every 60 years the elemental patterns repeat themselves.
According to this notion, 2001, the year of the Sept. 11 attacks, was a parallel year to 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In both 1942 and 2002 the United States emerged as a world leader in a global war. In 1943 Hitler was driven out of Russia, marking the beginning of his decline, and in 2003 Saddam Hussein was driven from Iraq.
This year, which corresponds to 1945, the year that World War II ended, should bring a lull in hostilities and moves toward greater cooperation, Lo predicts.
One implication is that those who criticize the aggressive U.S. approach to world affairs might take a more charitable view if they understood the Chinese theory of powerful elemental forces and historical undercurrents at play.
The Chinese communists threw out such theories long ago, however. While they have not gone so far as to outlaw fortunetelling, the Beijing government Tuesday issued an edict banning advertisements for "birthday decoding" and "New Year fortunetelling" on the grounds that they promote superstition and "harm young minds."
These practices are alive and well in Hong Kong, however, as in Taiwan and other overseas Chinese communities.
So what does the fortuneteller have to say about the prime target of the war on terror, Osama bin Laden? It is not likely he will be captured soon. The terrorist leader has two more years in a 10-year cycle of good fortune, Lo says. Bin Laden has a lot of earth in his personal make-up, and so "the earth is protecting him; he is hiding in the earth," Lo said. His financial prospects do not look good, however, suggesting accounts may be frozen or lines of monetary supply cut.
Lo further explained that last year, 2004, was the beginning of a 20-year cycle that should bring shifts in the economic and political fortunes of nations. The United States and China have both enjoyed periods of success over the last 20 years (which Lo attributes to having water in the east and mountains in the west), but the new cycle will favor Europe and India (with water in the west or southwest). The United States, with water both east and west, will continue to do well, but China's boom is past its peak, he predicts.
Lo had a word of caution for Taiwan: the island is in a very unfavorable position this year, one from which an enemy cannot be fought successfully.
By the time he reached the end of his complicated and detailed explanation, only a small part of which is summarized here, many of Lo's listeners -- who were mostly Westerners, including journalists, economists, bankers, financial analysts and lawyers -- appeared somewhat lost and bewildered in the face of this unfamiliar logic.
Helpfully, the feng shui master offered a word of personal advice for those most afflicted by the fortunes of the upcoming year. The Rooster is antagonistic to the Rabbit, so everyone born in a Rabbit year -- 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999 -- must take special precautions to avoid bad luck. "The minimum thing to do is to carry a small dragon pendant all the time," Lo said, explaining the Dragon is friendly to the Rooster, so it will not attack a Rabbit if the Dragon is present.
"But I tell you one thing," Lo added, kindly. "It doesn't actually work. I don't encourage people to believe in animal astrology."