As the Chinese say goodbye to the year of the snake, we look at eight things you really should know about the year of the horse
The 15-day celebration of Chinese new year starts on Friday, with the first new moon of the calendar year. The day marks the end of the year of the water snake and welcomes the start of the year of the wooden horse. To bring you luck this new year, we've listed eight (a lucky number in China) things you possibly didn't know about the year ahead.
1) The Chinese zodiac - or Shēngxiào - is a calendar system originating in the Han dynasty (206-220BC), which names each of the years in its 12-year cycle after an animal: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig, in that order. According to the system, the universe is made up of five elements - earth, water, fire, wood and metal - which interact with the 12 animals, resulting in the specific character of the year ahead.
2) People born in the year of the horse are said to be a bit like horses: animated, active and energetic - they love being in a crowd. They are quick to learn independence - foals can walk minutes after birth - and they have a straightforward and positive attitude towards life. They are known for their communication skills and are exceedingly witty.
3) If you were born in the year of the horse, you should be looking for potential partners who were born in the years of the tiger, goat or dog. Avoid those born in the year of the rat, ox, rabbit or horse. You won't like them.
4) If none of this rings true, don't worry. The animal signs of each year merely indicate how others see you or how you choose to present yourself. There are also animal signs for each month, known as inner animals, signs for each day, called true animals, and animals for each hour, or secret animals.
5) According to superstition, in your zodiac year you will offend Tai Sui, the god of age, and will experience bad luck for the whole year. To avoid this you should wear something red, which has been given to you by someone else. In general, the lucky colours of team horse are are green, red and purple; the lucky numbers are three, four and nine, and the lucky flowers are giant taro and jasmine.
6) Raymond Lo, a feng shui and destiny consultant, says the year of the horse is a year in which people are likely to stand firm on their principles, making negotiation difficult. For example, 2002 (the last year of the horse) was the year of Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy's legendary World Cup bustup, and 1990 was the year of the poll tax riots. German reunification also happened in 1990, but we'll ignore that.
7) If you were born in the year of the horse, you're in good company. Fellow members of the horse club include Genghis Khan, Mongol ruler; Franklin D Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the US; Louis Pasteur, a 19th-century scientist; Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon; the American singer Aretha Franklin; and the model Cindy Crawford.
8) Years of the wooden horse are associated with warfare. The battle of Dien Bien Phu, which ended with the defeat of France by the Vietnamese, happened in 1954 and 1894 saw the start of the first Sino-Japanese war. "With such serious conflicts on historical record in the previous two yang wood horse years, I cannot rule out the possibility of war and fierce battle in 2014," predicts Lo.
Kung hei fat choy! Happy Chinese new year!
Photo: The year of the water snake has ended and the year of the wooden horse has begun. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images