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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

The Curse of a Perfect Eight

July 2, 2008

By Zhou Yi
Asia Times
July 1, 2008

This year does not appear to be an auspicious one for China. So far,
the country has been dogged by a spate of misfortunes: the unusual
snowstorms in late January, bloody riots in Tibet in March, a deadly
train collision in April, the Sichuan earthquake in May, and now
devastating floods in the south.

While science remains ineffective in predicting or explaining the
occurrence of natural disasters, some Chinese feng shui
fortunetellers are trying to offer their own explanations for the
unfortunate events. Superstitious or not, such "explanations" have
been spreading fast among people anxious to understand the unknown.

According to Chinese numerology, eight is a lucky number meaning
"fortune". In China and Hong Kong automobile license plates or mobile
telephone numbers with eights - or 38 (flourishing and prosperous),
88 (double fortune), 138 (prosperous in life), 168 (prosperous
forever) - command big prices.

But the year 2008 doesn't seem especially lucky for the country, and
many are scrambling to figure out why.

According to the philosophy in Yi Jing (The book of Change) and that
of ancient philosopher Laozi (Laocius), things will take a reverse
course when developing to an extreme. A situation with all yin or all
yang is very unstable and risky.

By this doctrine, the Beijing Summer Olympic Games may have exploited
the luck of the number 8 to the extreme: the event is set to open at
8 pm, on August 8, in the year 2008 - or 08.08.08. It may be too
perfect, and something too perfect needs to be complemented by some
imperfections.

The climax of the snowstorms that devastated east and south China was
on January 25, or 1.25. The sum of the three digits is eight. The
bloody riots in Lhasa, Tibet's capital, happened on March 14, or
3.14. Again, the three figures add to eight. Then the 8-magnitude
earthquake hit Sichuan on May 12, or 5.12, with the sum of the three
digits also being 8. Moreover, the tremor struck 88 days before the
opening of the Beijing Olympics.

The only exception in this numerological series was the train
collision on the Jinan-Qingdao railway on April 28 (4.28) that killed
at least 70 people. But, it could be argued that it was an accident
caused by human error rather than Mother Nature.

Feng shui telling is normally based on the lunar calendar. Thus,
August 8 this year is the eighth day of the seventh month in the Year
of the Rat. No feng shui master so far has offered an explanation for
why the ancient Chinese doctrine can also apply to the solar calendar
which was imported from the West in modern times.

Looking back, Chinese masters and fortunetellers now say that the
official mascots of the Beijing Olympics could have been identified
as omens for the misfortunes.

The mascots, Fuwa (kids of fortune), were designed to symbolize the
Olympics' sacred flame, and four of China's most popular animals -
the fish, the panda, the Tibetan antelope, the swallow - were chosen
to embody the vast landscape of the nation.

But, despite the good intentions behind the Fuwa, the mascots have
been interpreted as harbingers of calamities. Some say the Olympic
flame is related to the train collision. In Chinese, flame is called
huo and train is hou che, or fire-powered vehicle.

The antelope has been equated with the bloody riots. The epicenter of
the Sichuan earthquake was near home of the panda. Fish cannot live
without water, hence the devastating floods in south China.

But views differ in what the swallow represents. Some say it signals
bird flu, which has been reported in Hong Kong and Guangdong. On June
11, Hong Kong had to launch a city-wide poultry cull after the deadly
H5N1 avian influenza virus was found in four wet markets. But others
argue that since the swallow is a bird more common in north China, it
may signal that something will happen in the north.

According to feng shui masters, the structure of Beijing has been
likened to a hidden dragon for centuries. It has allegedly remained
the country's because it could accommodate so many living dragons (in
history, an emperor was revered as a living dragon). Now, the
construction of the Olympic venues and some massive demolitions have
been altering Beijing's feng shui. The hidden dragon, believers say,
has been exposed and badly hurt and it had to take young boys and
girls to heal its wounds. The superstitious say this was manifested
by the many innocent primary and secondary school pupils who died
during the Sichuan earthquake.

With the spread of such superstitions, some families, particularly in
parts of northern China, light firecrackers near their homes to scare
off the roaming, wounded dragon.

So, does all this mean the Summer Games are a bad omen and won't have
a happy ending? Not necessarily, feng shui masters and fortunetellers
say. As Laozi himself said: "Good fortune lieth within bad, bad
fortune lurketh within good."

The Olympic organizers might have been too ambitious in trying to
capitalize on every symbol of good luck. But now, the situation of
pure yang or pure yin has changed with the year's many misfortunes.
Through their interaction, yin and yang will eventually reach a
balance and result in harmony. Therefore, according to the feng shui
experts, the Beijing Olympics are likely to be successful, and this
may reverse China's bad luck in the last half of the year.

Zhou Yi is a Chinese freelance writer.

Copyright 2008 Asia Times Online
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