If celebrity fortune-teller and geomancer Wisdom Tsai (蔡上機) is to be believed, this year will be disastrous for Taiwan. National strength is at its weakest, as the country is battered by wind and rains and alone in the world, while the ruling party faces a crisis. The cause is a clash of zodiac signs (犯太歲) that traditionally augurs misfortune: both the upcoming new year and the Republic of China’s founding on Jan. 1, 1912 belong to the Year of the Pig.
Truth be told, it’s hard to tell if Tsai is an oracle of the zodiac, or simply an astute reader of the newspapers. Some predictions in his 2019 Heavenly Book of Luck and Fortune (招財開運天書) read like trend reports.
The people “feel disappointed by and are departing from party politics,” Tsai writes. “Those without the baggage of party affiliation, atypical and refreshing political actors and those with a loud social media presence will enjoy popularity and become the political mainstream.” This is Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) in a nutshell, and Tsai accordingly gives him good odds in presidential elections scheduled for next year.
While lesser mortals watch the inscrutable faces of our leaders for a glimpse of their intentions, Tsai divines national destinies from their dates of birth.
The Year of the Pig will be arduous for President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who was born in the Year of the Monkey and sees her luck ranked second-last this year. According to Wisdom Tsai, she is trapped in a cul-de-sac and at real risk of becoming the first president in Taiwan’s democratic era not to be re-elected. The president will face challenges such as a strengthening cross-strait and unification policy by China and possibly an era of “new poverty” in Taiwan, as the economy idles and a brain drain of professionals seeking higher salaries reaches new highs.
Photo courtesy of Wisdom Tsai
Tsai foresees that President Xi Jinping (習近平), born in the Year of the Snake, will be able to steady the ship and overcome economic losses from China’s trade war with the US, as well as a potential bubble in China’s high-end real estate market. As for US President Donald Trump, born in the Year of the Dog, Tsai predicts that this may be the year when messy past deeds finally catch up to him, pointing to a high chance of impeachment.
ATTRACTING GOOD FORTUNE
While ordinary folk may not hold national fates in their sway, the quest to secure individual fortunes is just as, if not more urgent.
People born in the Year of the Rooster, Ox and Snake top Tsai’s fortune rankings this year, and will need to work hard and fast to take advantage by making investments, starting or expanding businesses and seeking promotions.
Conversely, those born in the Year of the Horse, Monkey and Dog are the unluckiest, and should be very careful about where they put their money. If things go wrong, they could spend the year mired in lawsuits or in prison. It’s a good reason to sit out of the rat race and take things easy.
In case you need another excuse to fill up on barbecued pork jerky and red bean treats, here’s one: Tsai recommends keeping two or seven red-colored fruits, foods or bottles of “fortune water” (發財水) from your local bank in a northwesterly direction for two or seven days before consuming them for luck. And if your bank doesn’t give out “fortune water,” Tsai suggests bottling your own from a water dispenser in the building.
Red potted orchids and red pouches filled with red banknotes — perhaps the highest return on NT$100 to be found these days — can be kept in the same way, with the banknotes deposited into an investment account after two or seven days.
QUEER NEW YEAR
Regardless of the zodiac, the Year of the Pig is set to be momentous for Taiwan as it becomes the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage, in accordance with a ruling by the Grand Council of Justices issued in 2017.
Those hoping to take advantage of this can find celestial succor at the shrine of the Rabbit God (兔兒神), a Taoist deity who looks after same-sex relationships, in Taipei’s Weiming Temple (威明堂).
Priest Lu Wei-ming (盧威明) says that it is the world’s only shrine to the Rabbit God, and there are cultural reasons why the Lunar New Year is the most crucial time of the year to make a visit and ask for blessings.
“Chinese people believe that if the start of the new year goes well, the rest of the year will go well,” Lu says. Because each year has its own distinct course of fortune, the next opportunity to appeal for good luck and correct the course will come only a year later.
To ingratiate yourself to the Rabbit God, who has a sweet tooth, Lu recommends offering mung bean cake — the old-fashioned kind, he insists — and sake. Worshippers also leave face masks, perfume and other grooming products at the altar, which they then wear to attract romantic opportunities.
Those who wish to show their devotion in more perpetual fashion can ask to become god-children (義子) of the Rabbit God, so as to enjoy his special protection and better share in his prosperity. Lu assures that the ceremony for this is a matter of faith and does not require passing any tests.
Weiming Temple, which attracts LGBTQ visitors from around Asia, particularly Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, has received three or four requests to sanctify same-sex unions since it was established in 2007. But Lu, in his early 30s, says that the temple has yet to bring any of these requests to fruition, as all the couples eventually disagreed on the need for a Taoist ceremony.
“Young people these days don’t pay much attention to traditional marriage rituals and customs. What’s important to them is capturing the sweet and romantic sentiment of their love,” Lu says, adding that the temple has always hoped to help couples perform marriage rites.
With same-sex marriage in sight, that could finally happen in the Year of the Pig. And in what could be a tumultuous year for the nation, it would not be wrong to cling to and celebrate the intimate relationships we hold dear.
Taiwan’s rapid economic development between the 1950s and the 1980s is often attributed to rational planning by highly-educated and impartial technocrats. Those who look at history through blue-tinted spectacles argue that, for much of the post-war period, the government was staffed by Chinese who fled China after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lost the civil war “who had no property interests in Taiwan and no connections with a landlord class,” leaving “the KMT party-state more autonomous from societal influences than governments [elsewhere in East Asia],” writes Gaye Christoffersen in Market Economics and Political Change: Comparing China and Mexico. At the same
It’s impossible to write a book entirely in the Taokas language. There are only about 500 recorded words in the Aboriginal tongue, whose speakers shifted to Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) generations ago while preserving certain Taokas phrases in their speech. “When I first started recording the language around 1997, I really had to jog the memories of the elders to find anything,” says Liu Chiu-yun (劉秋雲) a member of the Taokas community and a language researcher. The Taokas last month unveiled a picture book, Osubalaki, Balalong Ramut the community’s first-ever commercial publication using the language. The lavishly illustrated book
In his 1958 book, A Nation of Immigrants, then US senator from Massachusetts John F Kennedy wrote the following words: “Little is more extraordinary than the decision to migrate, little more extraordinary than the accumulation of emotions and thoughts which finally lead a family to say farewell to a community where it has lived for centuries, to abandon old ties and familiar landmarks, and to sail across dark seas to a strange land.” As an epithet, the book’s title is commonly associated with America and, in the face of the xenophobic rhetoric that has marked US President Donald Trump’s tenure,
It seems that even the filmmakers don’t know what happened in 49 Days (驚夢49天). After spending too much of the film building up the mystery and constantly introducing confusing elements, they wrap up the film in the last couple of minutes in the laziest way, with the protagonist actually uttering “nobody knows.” That is bloody annoying, having sat through over 90 minutes of disjointed and head-scratching storytelling. Billed as a horror flick featuring the chilling Taoist ritual of guanluoyin (觀落陰), or visiting hell, 49 Days was meant to scare the pants off viewers over Dragon Boat Festival weekend. Horror movies