What to expect from the Goat

Previewing the Lunar New Year

Visitor takes a picture of a floral display of goats made from chrysanthemum blooms ahead of the Lunar New Year at the Gardens by the Bay greenhouse in Singapore

A challenging year ahead?

We are entering the most confusing year of the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese ‘Year of the Yang’ means both the Year of the Goat and the Year of the Sheep. Obviously these are distinctly different looking animals, making it the one year of the twelve animal cycle where the images used in the celebrations (sometimes of a thrusting goat, others of a cuddly sheep) are likely to puzzle anyone who is not Chinese.

A television programme in Hong Kong has even tried to figure out whether the zodiac sign was originally intended to mean goat or sheep. The experts were unable to come to a definitive conclusion though it was pointed out that a Tang Dynasty statue of the ‘yang’ zodiac symbol looked more like a sheep. However, there is also a subjective element to the imagery chosen, reckoned the experts. The goat, they say, has more of a negative connotation and will be used by those with a pessimistic outlook on the twelve month ahead. A sheep is viewed as more lovable.

In case you were wondering, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a goat as “a hardy domesticated ruminant mammal that has backward-curving horns and, in the male, a beard. It is kept for its milk and meat, and noted for its lively behaviour”. A sheep is “a domesticated ruminant mammal with a thick woolly coat and, typically only in the male, curving horns. It is kept in flocks for its wool or meat.

The Lunar Near Year starts on February 19, and here at WiC we are going to term it the Goat, as – in keeping with the negative connotation – there is much to suggest that the world faces an uphill struggle in the year ahead.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and billionaire Bill Gates are both born in the Year of the Goat (these include 1955, 1967, 1979 or any twelve years before or after). Goats are believed to be calm, dependable and intelligent. They also enjoy being part of a group, but prefer the sidelines rather than the centre. They tend to be quiet and reserved because they spend much time absorbed in their thoughts.

Historically, many those who are born in the Year of the Goat are believed to be doomed. In fact, one common folk saying has it that out of 10 children who are born in the Year of the Goat, nine have bad luck.

Though the Chinese government has tried in recent years to debunk the myth – declaring it to be untrue – it seems to have done little to change the perception: “I don’t really care what zodiac sign my baby is, but it better not be a goat,” one prospective mother told CNN.

So what does the year hold for those goats? It seems they will face more pressure than ever this year. Feng shui master Li Juming says they should take more holidays to relieve their stress. Career-wise, they will encounter plenty of obstacles but as long as they persevere they will be rewarded in the end, says Shin Min Daily News. The newspaper also advises those born in the Year of the Goat to donate generously to charities to reverse their fortune (Gates should have nothing to worry about there).

But when it comes to the zodiac sign with the worst fortune in the year ahead, some feng shui masters believe it is those who are born in the Year of the Ox (1961, 1973, 1985). This is a group that includes US President Obama and if you believe the predictions he will likely experience a bleak year. An Ox should compensate by visiting temples and going to bed early to avoid getting sick.

On a more positive note, another Hong Kong feng shui master Li Chengze says those who are born in the Year of the Tiger (1962, 1974, 1986) are going to enjoy a rocking year. If they are still single they should consider tying the knot in the coming months. But for those who are married should be careful, however. Because they are so popular this year, they need to pay extra attention to avoid extra-marital entanglements.

Similarly, those who are born in the Year of the Rabbit (1963, 1975, 1987) should look forward to a rewarding year ahead. Chinese fortune tellers say rabbits can afford to make dramatic changes to their lives in what promises to be a fortunate period. They will make huge financial gains in the second half of the year apparently.

Meanwhile, in good news for investors, Beijing Business Today believes that this year will be a positive one for the stock market. In previous Years of the Goat, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index has posted gains. The newspaper also reckons China’s A-share market should continue to outperform in the coming Lunar year.

But not every sector will shine. This year is a “wood goat”, which means that metal and fire will flourish so investors should pay attention to metal- and fire-related stocks, like jewellery, electronics, and oil and gas. On the other hand, shares in the financial, technology, retail, telecommunications and internet sectors will be volatile.

Real estate, which is also related to wood, is said to be positioned to do well this year. That’s heaven-sent news for many struggling Chinese developers. Some brokers also think the property market could stabilise and begin to rise again. One positive: the central bank’s decision to cut the reserve ratio requirement last week may bode well for the housing market.

“Even though the central bank’s move to cut the reserve ratio is not directly aimed at propping up the property market, it will add more cash to the system, which is good news for the property sector,” says Sohu, a portal.

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