Truth Frequency Radio">Max Igan
Feb 20, 2015

, Vancouver Sun

The staff at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver found no one could agree on what to call the zodiac for the Lunar New Year that begins Feb. 19.

Many were calling it the Year of the Goat. But Kathy Gibler, executive director of the garden, says that sounded too crusty, like an old goat. And Year of the Sheep seemed too similar to ‘sheepish,’ as in timid.

So the garden staff eventually settled on ‘Year of the Ram,’ even though rams are male sheep, uncastrated no less. But at least ‘Year of the Ram’ sounds strong and determined.

Like a lot of people, the staff at the garden put a lot of thought into Lunar New Year’s auspicious and inauspicious symbols. It’s the biggest spiritual and commercial festival of the year for a couple of billion Asian people.

Most importantly, many Asians believe there is a great deal of good and bad luck, superstition and paranormal experience associated with the Lunar New Year, whose animal zodiacs repeat every 12 years.

Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Set Garden will offer visitors many elements of a traditional Lunar Near Year Feb. 22, the same day as Chinatown New Year’s Parade, attended each year by roughly 40,000 people.

The Garden, Gibler says, will offer stations at which people can light incense, have their fortunes read, choose lucky joss sticks, eat rice cakes, receive red envelopes, see or make Chinese puppets, play with bolo-style bats, pray to their ancestors or allow children to “run around and scream to chase out evil spirits.”

Traditional Lunar New Year’s beliefs about good and bad fortune have been culturally powerful. And while the intensity of faith for some may have waned from 50 years ago, Lunar New Year can still carry strong beliefs for many, according to Gibler and two prominent Chinese scholars.

It's hard to agree on what to call the zodiac for the Lunar New Year that begins Feb. 19. Many call it the Year of the Goat. But  is that too crusty, like an old goat? And Year of the Sheep seemed too similar to 'sheepish,' as in timid. What about 'Year of the Ram,' even though rams are male sheep, uncastrated no less?A person born in the year of the Ram/Goat/Sheep, according to Gibler, is still often believed to have the qualities of tenderness, politeness and kindness.

If Ram/Goat/Sheep are seen to have any negative qualities, it would be “shyness” and a “sensitivity” that can shift into “over-sensitivity,” says Gibler, who has spent years in China and speaks Mandarin.

Popular websites devoted to Chinese New Year back up Gibler. The site, Your Chinese Astrology, says Ram/Goat/Sheep are “imaginative, determined and have good taste.” But the website adds they can also be “pessimistic, unrealistic and short-sighted.”

In addition to explaining the potential power of the lunar zodiac signs, a Sun Yat-Sen Garden news release says there are many “taboos” linked to the beginning of the Lunar New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.

“Many bad words related to ‘death,’ ‘broken,’ ‘killing,’ ‘ghost,’ and ‘sickness’ are forbidden during conversations,” the Garden’s release says.

“Taking medicine is also forbidden on the first day of the Lunar New Year, otherwise people will be sick for the whole year.”

The paranormal beliefs surrounding zodiacs and Lunar New Year, Gibler said, are similar to beliefs many Westerners hold about planetary astrological signs.

When told one in three Canadians, according to pollster Reginald Bibby, say they ‘believe’ in astrology and regularly read their horoscopes, Gibler said that may be the same level of adherence as ethnic Chinese and other Asians place in Lunar New Year zodiacs.

A study by psychology researchers Li-Shia Huang and Ching-I Teng, of Taiwan, however, suggests Asian people’s devotion to the supernatural power inherent in Lunar New Year beliefs might be higher than Gibler estimates.

In their study of roughly 800 ethnic Chinese people, Huang and Teng found many Chinese still judge the numbers six and eight as lucky and four as unlucky, mostly because the names for each are homonyms for positive or negative Mandarin words.

Their paper, titled Development of a Chinese Superstition Belief Scale, also confirms that many Chinese people eat rice cakes at Lunar New Year since it “represents promotion to a higher rank, because ‘cake’ is pronounced ‘gao,’ which is ‘high’ in Chinese.”

Just as some people try to give birth to children in certain auspicious years of the lunar zodiac, Huang and Teng found many ethnic Chinese hold to the common superstition, for instance, that a person born in the Year of the Tiger “should not go into a pregnant woman’s room.”

Given the seriousness with which many Asians take such spiritual and paranormal beliefs, Gibler was not completely surprised by the level of devotion many visitors revealed at previous Lunar New Year events at Sun Yat-Sen Garden.

When Sun Yat-Sen staff placed an urn near the Garden pool for people to light incense and make a wish, it soon became clear many Asian visitors were going further; they were kneeling to pray.

So staff added a stool and red cushion and made a shrine, Gibler said.

“Many wanted to take the moment to pay homage to their ancestors.”