Monday, October 5, 2015         


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Symbolism holds sway for Chinese New Year

By Pat Gee


Start by cleaning your house to prepare for the lunar Chinese New Year on Thursday.

It's the way to sweep away yesterday's rubbish and clear a path for prosperity to enter unhindered, says Clarence Lau, a veteran feng shui consultant and Chinese lunar astrologer in Honolulu.

It's important not to clean on the first day of the year because you might sweep out the good luck as it enters your house, he said. Also, be careful not to break any dishes that day because it could portend the destruction of a relationship, business or something valuable, he added.

Customs like these are based more on tradition than religion, and the Chinese are big on symbolism, though some might call it superstition, Lau said.

"We're not asking people to believe in God or an idol," Lau said, admitting, "It sounds very abstract."

China's ancient spiritual beliefs are called "Tao," which means "the way" -- a philosophy of life that advocates harmony with nature and balance in all things, he said.

"If you follow the way of nature, then you'll be more peaceful and (have) harmony," Lau said. "You want to improve your self-esteem and have longevity."

The color red runs rampant in Chinese traditions because it symbolizes good luck. People hang decorative red lanterns and paper signs around the front entrance, imprinted with Chinese symbols to invite good health and prosperity into the home, Lau said. Little red "li see" envelopes, containing a bit of cash, are given by adults to children and young people.

Lion dancing and burning firecrackers are customary to ward off evil spirits and give people more courage and confidence, he said.

"In Chinese tradition it is very important to have a family gathering and have a dinner, and wear new clothing and shoes that represent new energy for the new year," Lau said.

Family members often travel far to feast on dishes signifying good fortune, like jai, a vegetarian stew called "monk's food," and fish, which symbolizes abundance. For dessert there is gau, a sticky, mochilike pudding that's meant to "make everybody happy and sweet," he said.

TRAINED by Hong Kong masters for 10 years before starting his practice 21 years ago in San Francisco, Lau is most in demand around the new year. He is booked well into March by clients who want him to determine the best feng shui, or flow of energy, via a Chinese bagua, or compass, and astrological charts. His clients include homeowners, restaurants and businesses like banks and law firms.

For the most optimal energy flow, a person's birth year is vital to arranging the placement of objects or natural elements (such as trees) and in deciding on the function of rooms, Lau said. He also takes into account when a company's CEO was born when doing feng shui for businesses.

The year of birth corresponds to one of 12 Chinese zodiac signs, and 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit. Lau predicted overall that the economy will continue to improve, and there is prosperity in store for many born in rabbit, sheep, pig and dog years.

Lau predicted rabbit people will see a significant change in their lives, whether it be switching jobs or moving to a different house or office. Rabbit and rooster people should also beware of foot or leg injuries and respiratory illnesses. To get more individualized horoscopes, he recommended visiting

Lau said the basic tenet of Taoism is the concept of tai chi, "the circle of nature," represented by the yin-yang circle. The black half is yin (symbolizing the moon and feminine aspects), and the white side is yang (sun/masculine). Yin and yang are two polarities, always evolving to balance each other, he said.

"Tai chi means the creation from nothingness to wholeness, as the earth and entire solar system were created out of nothing," Lau said.

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