Tiger brings year of affairs Zodiac: The year of the Tiger ushers in a time for casual dating and sexual skirmishes, says a Chinese metaphysician. It couldn't have come at a more apt time.

January 28, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Mr. President, I need to tell you something.

This Monica Lewinsky business -- it's not your fault. Astrological forces clearly are not on your side.

With the arrival of the Asian Lunar New Year today, the year of the Tiger is here, bringing a fresh karma that flings moral responsibility out the window, fosters secret, sordid affairs and breaks up existing relationships.

At least that's what a Chinese metaphysician in San Francisco told me.

And you should trust me, I'm a Tiger myself.

It is fairly common knowledge -- in this country, spread largely through Chinese restaurant place mats, it seems -- that the tiger is one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. Legend has it that at the beginning of time, the Supreme Being summoned all animals to him and only 12 showed up. So he decided to honor them by assigning each one a year, hence creating the 12-year cycle of the zodiac.

Another legend says a barbaric tribe in Southwestern China put out a water bowl during a drought and observed which animals came forward to drink from it. They named a year after each of the first 12 that showed up.

Either way, Lily Chung, the San Francisco metaphysician and author of "The Path To Good Fortune," says people in China began using this animal zodiac about 2,500 years ago. As Chinese emigrated all over Asia, they took the zodiac with them, and it now is common in several other countries, including Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia.

"This isn't just a funny quaint custom," says Charles B. Jones, an assistant professor of East Asian religions at Washington's Catholic University of America. "It's embedded in their whole way of looking at the world and how we exist in it.

"Chinese mythology and philosophy emphasize paying attention to how things work, and working with that. Their whole idea of successful living is in discovering the patterns by which things are transformed and planning your actions to be in accord with those patterns. Western culture has a more scientific, realistic view."

How it works

Each year, and each person born during it, is supposed to bear the characteristics of the animal for which it is named. Monkey people, for instance, are clever and quick-witted, while dogs are honest and faithful.

Pig (or boar) people, like President Clinton, are said to be splendid companions, intellectuals and goal-setters. They are sincere, tolerant and honest. But by expecting the same from others, it's said, they are incredibly naive.

Tigers -- who include people now living born in 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974 and 1986 -- are strong, dynamic and make great lovers.

Which brings us back to the president's troubles.

Because of the Tiger's amorous appetite, it will bring sexual skirmishes galore to the world this year, says Chung, who charts fortunes for hundreds of clients.

"There will be a lot of 'dating games,' " she says. "People will be very casual about dating, about making love. There will be a lot of secret affairs."

I point out to her that news of the Lewinsky fiasco broke before the Tiger year officially began.

"The Tiger moves very fast," she replies. "The Tiger usually arrives a month before the new year."

Chung says the Washington area may be especially susceptible to the Tiger's influence, because each animal is dominant in a particular area, and the Northeast is the feline's domain.

"All the affairs of Clinton will come out," she ominously predicts.

But there are positives to this year, Chung adds. Although many marriages will break up, many more will form. And businesses linked with love and romance -- such as entertainment, restaurants and jewelry and flower stores -- will do well.

As the Tiger is always restless and on the move, the travel industry also should flourish. Many people will change jobs and move around. A lot of movement will take place in the Northeast and Southwest in particular, she advises.

"If you have a job where you're on the road a lot, it's good because you're moving with the flow," Chung says. "But if you're very sedentary and you're being pushed to move, then it's no good.

"So you need to move your furniture around, change your diet, start exercising or maybe when you're watching TV, just move your hands around. You need to keep moving."

The down side

There also are far less official interpretations of what the Tiger year means. In my home country of Singapore, for instance, couples have been rushing to get married before the new year's arrival to dodge what's perceived as the curse of the Tiger year.

Lyndie Tang, a high school friend back in Singapore, had planned to get married in June, but her family objected. "Hu Nian," the words for Tiger year in Mandarin, sound too much like XTC "Ku Nian," meaning bitter year. Rather than risk the marriage being jinxed, they pulled out all the stops to get her married by early January.

"Our folks are not terribly superstitious people," Tang says. "But they have more of a 'rather believe than not, so there's no harm done' kind of thinking."

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