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Asia Economy Last Updated: Feb 20, 2015 - 9:30 AM


Chinese Lunar New Year: Year of the Wood Goat begins this week
By Michael Hennigan, Finfacts founder and editor
Feb 17, 2015 - 12:08 AM

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The Tapestry-Embroidery of Nine Goats Opening the New Year (New window) from the Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911). The National Palace Museum of Taiwan where the tapestry is located says it is a typically decorative style of the Ch'ien-lung reign (1736-1795) with its pursuit of complexity and perfection.

The Chinese Lunar New Year or Spring Festival as it is more commonly known as on the mainland, is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. On Thursday the Year of the Wood Goat begins after a 12-year break.

The Goat comes 8th in the Chinese zodiac. The 12 zodiac animals are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. According to Chinese astrology, each year (starting from Chinese New Year) is associated with an animal sign, occurring in a 12-year cycle.

This is an outline of the Feng Shui for the new year.

The CLSA brokerage in Hong Kong says that the calendar is broken into a 60-year cycle (六十花甲) also known as Stems-and-Branches (干支), a cycle of 60 terms used for recording time in days, years and even minutes, and in addition, directions of the compass. It first appeared in Chinese written texts from the Shang dynasty (1766 BC to 1122 BC) on oracle bones. The cycle of 60 stems and branches became the means to record years from around the middle of the 3rd Century BC. Since that time, time and direction have been assigned to certain elements, zodiac signs and resultant influences. This computation gives us the year, Wood Goat, and the direction from which negative energy potentially arises.

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 imperial 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, French emperor, 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 in 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 strait 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 Mandarin means may prosperity be with you.

I'm heading to Ipoh, Wednesday, which had a tin mining boom in the 1930s.

Last year The Washington Post had a feature on the city:

An accidental trip to Ipoh, Malaysia

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