By Joanna Chiu/DPA
Beijing: Common lore in China predicts the Year of the Monkey 2016 will bring some disharmony, especially at sea.
With Beijing on a collision course with its neighbours over its assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea, some astrologers predict a difficult year for the region.
But the New Year — beginning on 8 February — may have a silver lining, they say: it will also be easier to resolve such conflicts and struggles.
This dual personality reflects people born in the year of the monkey, the ninth member of China's 12-animal astrological cycle. Monkeys are said to be cheerful, energetic, confident and flexible; they can also be arrogant, crafty and restless.
Compared to the previous year of the sheep, an animal that many Chinese people consider overly docile and passive, the monkey is a generally auspicious year of the zodiac. Many prospective parents in China are planning to have children this year.
The animals in the Chinese zodiac are linked each year to the ancient binary opposition of yin and yang, and to one of the five elements of metal, fire, wood, earth and water. According to the Chinese lunar calendar, the new monkey year will be presided over by Yang fire and metal.
That combination means the year will see "international conflicts and clashes," according to popular Hong Kong-based astrologer and feng shui master Raymond Lo, who also sees other strong yang influences.
"Yang water is powerful ocean water with aggressive energy. As such, it also indicates clashes related to the ocean or conflicts at sea. So it will not be surprising the tension about disputed territories in the South China Sea may escalate," he said.
China has long said it has sovereignty over nearly all of the Sea, including areas controlled or claimed by other nations.
However, 2016 will be "comparatively less violent than 2014 and 2015" since metal can bend with fire's heat, he says.
"As such, it will be easier to reach agreements and treaties to resolve conflicts and struggles," Lo said.
That matches the kind of forecasts made by other well-known Chinese astrologers.
"People born in the years of monkey, snake, tiger and pig will all need to take care of themselves, avoiding the bad and looking for the good," Song Shaoguang said in a fortune-telling.
The most famous monkey in Chinese lore is the Monkey King, the rambunctious and quick-witted main character in the epic 16th-century novel Journey to the West.
Julius Caesar and Leonardo da Vinci were both born in the year of the monkey. So were former US president Harry Truman and actors Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Douglas and singer Diana Ross.