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Asia Economy Last Updated: Feb 7, 2013 - 6:53 AM

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Black Water Snake
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Feb 7, 2013 - 6:48 AM

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The Chinese New Year or Spring Festival as it is more commonly known as on the mainland, is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is also termed the Lunar New Year and on Sunday, February 10, the Year of the Black Water Snake will be ushered in with green, the colour of prosperity.

We Irish are indebted to St. Patrick for driving most of the snakes out of Ireland!

Finfacts will have limited updates today as the holiday period has begun in its part of the 'South Sea' - -  Kuala Lumpur.

CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets, a brokerage and investment group based in Hong Kong , today launched its 19th annual CLSA Feng Shui Index (CLSA FSI) - -  a tongue-in-cheek look at what the celestial signs suggest is in store for the Hang Seng Index, key sectors and markets, world leaders and celebrities, and each of the 12 Chinese zodiac Animal symbols during this Year of the Black Water Snake.

“The past is a foreign country,” it is said, “they do things differently there”. We can only hope so because the past five Snake years – back to the Water Snake of 1953 – are not encouraging. In only one year did markets end the year convincingly above their opening and the size of the drops of the most recent three has been growing ever worse. As befits “skin-shedders”, Snake years are marked by major transformation and change - - and sometimes great upheaval: Pearl Harbour (1941), Twin Towers (2001), Tiananmen (1989), Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), Great Depression (1929), recessions (1953, 2001), revolutions (1917, 1989), and major conflicts (1941, 1965).

However, there are signs that this year’s beast will be better behaved: All five of the basic elements or energies are present in the fortune charts (including the market-driver Fire!); and the annual Flying Star energies all return to their “home” sectors for the first time in nine years.

CLSA asks: What manner of beast is she then? That “she” is a big clue: Chinese zodiac Snakes always are female or yin, and this influence should be a sharp contrast to the moody, broody, maddening male yang energy that drove the Dragon to distraction during 2012 and many investors to despair. Yin is in keeping with other calmer energies that are likely to prevail this year.

Download report (English version)
Download report (Chinese version)

Besides, being the world's most populous country, it's no surprise that China has a big diaspora and the ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia are termed as the people from Nanyang - -  the South Sea. The Chinese use practical  location names e.g. Beijing is North City; Nanjing - -  the capital city until 1421 is South City; Tokyo is called East City and the Japanese word for East Sea is Tokai.

Most Chinese can speak Mandarin and their regional dialect. The people of China's industrial heartland, the Pearl River delta province of Guangdong, north of Hong Kong, speak Cantonese as Hongkies (residents of HK)  do. Napoleon Bonaparte had a role to play in the predominance of Hokkien, the dialect of the southern region of Fujian province (north of Guangdong) in two separate islands in Southeast Asia: Penang, northwest of Peninsular Malaysia (south of Thailand) and Singapore, off the southern tip of Malaysia.

Napoleon made his brother King of Holland in 1806 and in London, the exiled Prince of Orange had entrusted protection to the British for the Dutch colony of the East Indies (modern Indonesia) and the fortified trading post of Malacca on the coast of south Malaysia. However, Robert Townsend Farquhar, the British governor of Penang, ordered the destruction of the Dutch fort in Malacca as he saw it as a trading rival for Penang. Chinese Hokkien settlers were urged to move to Penang.

Some years later, Stamford Raffles of the East India Company, selected the island of Temasek (Sea Town in Javanese, now known as Singapore, the Lion City) as a better location for a trading post than Penang and Raffles used a succession dispute embroiling the Sultanate of Johor to get the necessary local agreement. Meantime, the part of the Hokkien population, who had not moved north to Penang, crossed the Straits to the island, as did the Japanese in early 1942 to receive the greatest surrender of British forces in history, from General Arthur Percival, who had commanded the Essex Regiment in Bandon, my hometown, in 1919.

So after that detour:

Gōng xǐ fā cái ! - - the traditional Chinese New Year's greeting in Cantonese means may prosperity be with you.

Check out our subscription service, Finfacts Premium , at a low annual charge of €25 - - if you are a regular user of Finfacts, 50 euro cent a week is hardly a huge ask to support the service.

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