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A salesman holds a gold coin with a snake image on it to mark the upcoming year of the snake in a gold shop in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province, Thursday.
BEIJING -– Chinese New Year is just days away and, as hundreds of millions of people across China head back home in record numbers to ring in the Year of the Snake, many are eager to see what lies ahead.
Enter the Feng Shui master.
Though some in China see Feng Shui and astrological horoscopes as a fun novelty exercise in mysticism, for others Feng Shui masters are an essential consultant on any and all matters -– whether they be financial, political or romantic.
Some trusted experts are reputed to pull in tens of thousands of dollars in commissions for each consultation from superstitious individuals and even companies wanting to peer into their murky futures.
Feng Shui master Chen Shuaifu’s credentials are top-notch.
The 60-year old has been a stalwart of the industry for years and serves as chairman of the Chinese Feng Shui Association, which has more than 50,000 members.
In 2012, Chen gave us his predictions for the Year of the Dragon, which included an auspicious year for those born in the Year of the Snake -- such as 1929, 1953, 1977 and 2001 -- like Xi Jinping, born 1953, who has since risen to head of the Communist Party and will formally become president of China at next month’s National People’s Congress.
He also urged those born in the Year of the Dog -- including 1958, 1982 and 2006 -- to postpone life decisions, small consolation to Rick Santorum, born 1958, whose presidential campaign folded last year.
Chen has been fielding calls all month from believers to get his thoughts and predictions for 2013.
Passengers wait for their buses in Shanghai Friday as millions of Chinese make their way for family reunions ahead of the Chinese New Year.
Bad news for pigs
Getting the bad news out of the way right off the bat, Chen predicted a terrible year for those born in the Year of the Pig, which fell on 1959, 1983 and 1995, among other years.
“Snakes and pigs clash and don’t get along,” Chen explained. “If the pig doesn’t have bad luck, then his or her family will suffer the ill fortune.”
A year after he predicted the Year of the Dragon would be a prosperous year for snakes -- “snakes grow up to become dragons,” Chen sagely told NBC News last year -- this time he forecast a down year for serpents.
Traditionally, one does not have good luck in the year of his Chinese astrological sign.
Ever the politician, though, Chen predicted that the snake’s poison would not fell Xi.
“The emperor is not affected by this bad luck,” noted Chen.
For pigs and every other snake except Xi, Chen strongly urges that they consult a Feng Shui master and consider dedicating a part of their home to Tai sui, celestial generals appointed by the Jade Emperor -- the ruler of heaven and all other realms -- to oversee the matters of mankind.
Perhaps most ominously for some, Chen declared 2013, the “year of the widow” warning that many “marriages will die” and that the divorce rate will be higher than normal.
To counterbalance the dark negativity surrounding troubled marriages, Chen recommended that homes be decorated in red as much as possible.
“In China, a city develops faster if it has more red colors,” Chen said, “It is the same all over the world. So try to use red colors as much as possible.”
Good times for roosters, monkeys
Despite his ominous predictions for current marriages, Chen had good news for those planning to get married: Do it.
“Tradition and experience tells us that it’s good to get married on the year when China changes leaders,” Chen said. “It is also a good time to have babies if you are planning.”
Others poised for a good year are those born in the Year of the Ox -- such as 1961, 1973, 1985 and 1997; Rooster -- including 1933, 1957, 1981 and 2005; and Monkey -- such as 1956, 1968, 1980 and 1992. The monkey is said to be the only animal clever enough to handle the snake.
And for entrepreneurs looking for the next big thing to invest in, Chen strongly urged them to look at Internet companies.
“The most successful businesses this year will be e-business,” he said. “Think Alibaba or Amazon.”
Chen made a range of other predictions for 2013, including:
- 2013 should bring rapid economic development for China with GDP growth of 9%. Like last year, though, Chen has little faith in the mainland’s real estate market, despite signs that it’s heating up again.
- Sino-U.S. relations will be healthier than many people expect. “It’s hard to hurt America and it’s even harder to hurt China,” says Chen, who doesn’t expect either country will want to test that belief.
- Ever the nationalist, Chen predicted peace between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute, but not for the reasons you may think: “If Japan dares to fire the first bullet, China has the power to fight against it until China recaptures the Diaoyu islands,” Chen declared. “So everything will be quite smooth between Japan and China.”
Eric Baculinao and Le Li contributed to this report.
On behalf of all us at Behind the Wall, thanks for reading and best wishes for a happy Chinese New Year and prosperous Year of the Snake.