Year of The Dog: Earthquakes, Explosions and Social Justice


2006.01.30
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Year of the Dog greeting in Vietnamese. Image: RFA

HONG KONG—The Lunar New Year of the Dog, associated with the element fire, brings increased volcanic eruptions, Earth disasters, and explosions, but also movements towards peace and social justice, according to traditional divination methods.

As millions across East Asia took to trains, planes, and automobiles to spend the lunar new year holidays with loved ones, the year began with a fatal explosion in the central Chinese province of Henan, when dozens of worshippers at a Buddhist temple were killed by a blast at a nearby fireworks factory.

At least 36 people were killed at the temple in Linqi township, while eight were in critical condition and another 40 people were injured, official media reported.

Firecrackers for luck

Chinese worldwide traditionally usher in the lunar new year with fireworks and firecrackers, which are believed to scare off evil spirits and attract the god of wealth to people's doorsteps.

In 2006, wrongs will be righted, the underdog will become an overdog and the idle rich may just become the idle poor,

In Beijing, a total of 45,000 people visited the Tibetan Buddhist Yonghe Lamasery on Sunday to pray for happiness in the new year, a rise of 16 percent on last year, municipal authorities said.

The temple, formerly an imperial palace of the Qing dynasty (1616-1911), was turned into a Tibetan Buddhist temple 1744 as ordered by Emperor Qianlong.

International divination experts said the year of the Fire Dog, which last occurred in the post-war reconstruction year of 1946, was also characterized by moves towards peace and social justice.

“In 2006, wrongs will be righted, the underdog will become an overdog and the idle rich may just become the idle poor,” warned divination Web site Tarot.com.

Troubles dog Beijing

Hong Kong-based feng shui master Raymond Lo agreed.

“The yang fire Dog year, with fire on top supporting earth below, is a symbol of more harmony and optimism with more international cooperation and more care about the future of humanity and global well-being,” Lo said in an article on his Web site.

People light joss sticks at a temple in Beijing at the start of the Year of the Dog. Photo: AFP/Peter Parks

“The Dog is also symbol of spiritual achievement and the world may pay more attention to spiritual health and enrichment as long term solution to the hatred and religious differences which have been causing disharmony to the world in the past decade.”

In his lunar new year address, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao appeared mindful of continuing social unrest across China in the face of rampant official corruption, pledging to keep giving priority to “addressing issues concerning the immediate interests of the people.”

“We will properly handle interests of various sides, protect the rights and interests of honest laborers and legal businesses, pay attention to maintaining social equality, and strive to improve the work and living conditions of people in difficulty,” Wen told assembled dignitaries.

Lo predicted greater international co-operation in solving environmental issues such as control of nuclear power and global warming.

Strong 'yang' fire

But he warned: “The strong yang fire appearing on top can also bring about serious explosion or nuclear disasters. There will also be more chances of natural disasters involving drought, earthquake, landslides, and volcanic eruption.”

Lo predicted that fiery optimism would drive stock markets to new highs in spring and summer, while a more down-to-earth attitude would cause a cooling in the region’s inflated property markets.

Based on ancient traditions of science, geomancy, and astrology from earliest imperial times in China, divination methods are still a vibrant part of life in many East Asian cultures.

Until 2003, a Hong Kong government official would traditionally select one from 100 numbered bamboo sticks at a 300-year-old temple, each carrying a different prediction for the coming 12 months.

But an inauspicious reading in that year was followed by 12 months of crisis in which the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus killed 299 people and ruined the economy, and unprecedented political protests left the government in turmoil.

This year, legislator Lau Wong-fat drew a stick bearing the number 75, considered auspicious in Chinese mythology.

Choreographed joy

In Pyongyang, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il watched a performance of revolutionary songs titled “Blue Sky Over My Country,” the official news agency KCNA reported.

“The hearts of the viewers were strongly seething with the great emotion and joy of watching the congratulatory performance marking the lunar new year at the same place as the respected and beloved General Kim Jong Il,” the agency reported.

Written and produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

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