Horoxscopes this week takes on an Oriental twist in honour of the Chinese New Year. For a change, the crystal ball is cast away and the Chinese almanac is consulted instead. The T’ung Shu, or T’ung Sing, is the Chinese almanac that is still being widely used today. The book has two names because ‘shu’, a homonym of the word defeat, is usually replaced by ‘sing’, the word for victory, for auspiciousness. Inside the almanac, you can find useful information on auspicious dates to do certain things, such as travelling, marriage and starting school, charms to ward off bad luck, even a guide to the pronunciation of certain English words (an endless source of entertainment for me when I was younger). On the first page of the almanac, one finds the so-called “Picture of the Spring Cow”. You might wonder what the cow is doing in the Year of the Snake. Actually, the Spring Cow features every year in the almanac, but small differences in the picture can tell many predictions for the year if properly deciphered.

Some features are constant throughout the years. The cow is four feet tall, representing the four seasons, and one foot two inches long, representing the twelve months. The cowherd is three feet six and a half inches tall, representing the 365 days. Some important clues to look for are in the cowherd’s appearance. This year he does not wear a hat, meaning that it will be a cool year. He is barefoot, meaning that there will be a lot of rain. There is much more information to be extracted, but that will involve knowledge of the complicated system of the lunar calendar, which is also beyond my comprehension. It is rather amazing that illiterate farmers used to be able to discern a lot about the weather just by looking at this picture.

In addition, a poem of eight heptasyllabic lines is printed on the two sides of the picture to give enigmatic suggestions as to what we can expect from the coming year. It reads in translation:

Of the harvest of all places, one hardly finds equality

Most farmers are destined to suffer from poverty

In the south, people always worry about the heat

While in the north, waters flow abundantly

The cocoon of the silkworm is white as snow

The sickle collects the wheat as the evening winds blow

The year of Gui-si should be like this

Let’s look forward to the next year in its mighty glow

Some predictions worked out from the Chinese Zodiac:

Rat (1972, 1984, 1996)

People will start finding you more loveable. Your culinary skills will improve.

Ox (1973, 1985, 1997)

Your labours will be fruitless. Shake off your yoke for greater achievements.

Tiger (1974, 1986, 1998)

Better stay put. Hyperactivity will be detrimental to your health.

Rabbit (1975, 1987, 1999)

Loneliness strikes. You will go down the tubes.

Dragon (1976, 1988, 2000)

See Snake. A snake with claws will be no better than a snake.

Snake (1977, 1989, 2001)

It’s your year, enjoy it, but scorpions hide behind the peach blossoms of love.

Horse (1978, 1990, 2002)

The absence of an extraneous horn will benefit you greatly.

Sheep (1979, 1991, 2003)

Be careful of people who hide a butcher’s intent. Stay at home as much as possible.

Monkey (1980, 1992, 2004)

Your agility will help you grasp the opportunity that comes your way.

Rooster (1981, 1993, 2005)

You will meet a chicken. Ludicrous business is in sight.

Dog (1982, 1994, 2006)

Three cheers for the Dog! The stars are favourable. Guard against hidden ailments.

Pig (1983, 1995, 2007)

Fortunes are dismal. Spend money to avoid disaster.