How to survive your very own ‘ben ming nian’

It’s one of the most well known features of the Chinese calendar: the zodiac of twelve animal signs. Featuring such classics as the pig and the rat, but also dragons and tigers, the twelve companions take turns in representing a year. Last year was the year of the monkey, a inquisitive, sharp-witted, agile sign. The year 2017, however, saw the arrival of the rooster, flamboyant and confident . If you were born in 1993 or 1981, chances are this is your year. Don’t be fooled though – it may not be a good thing…

Starting from the day you are born, every twelve years mark the arrival of your zodiac year. The Chinese call this ‘ben ming nian’ (本命年) and unfortunately for all you roosters out there, it is associated with extremely bad luck. This belief is rooted deep in ancient Chinese astrology and is based on the position of the stars, causing conflict with certain zodiac signs.

Unsurprisingly in these fast moving times, an entire year of bad luck may seem a little overwhelming. Perhaps this is the reason that there are more options than ever available to make it safely through to the next round. If you wish to survive your ‘ben ming nian’, here is what you do:

1. Pray to the ‘tai sui’ (太岁) at the beginning of the lunar year. The tai sui is one of sixty heavenly generals who take turns in caring for our earthly well-being. Praying to the tai sui is said to negate any bad luck caused by your ‘ben ming nian’, but only if you thank him afterwards!

2. Wear a red belt around your waist. The color red is traditionally a color of good luck in China and associated with many positive emotions. Every year around spring festival, hundreds of entrepreneurs will be more than happy to provide you with the luckiest and most effective of red belts, providing not only you with a carefree ‘ben ming nian’ but ensuring their own luck for the year as well. It also helps to wear red socks, shirts, shoes, underwear – red anything, really!

3. Jade jewelry can be worn anywhere on the left side of the body to increase your luck during this unfortunate year. It has to be a gift from someone else though, you can’t buy your own lucky jewelry. For extra luck-enhancing benefit, small icons of the yearly ‘tai sui’ or your zodiac sign are recommended.

4. Finally, if nothing else works, there is always the modern-day option number four: get married! Although tradition suggests that marriage during a ‘ben ming nian’ is a bad idea, more recent theories argue that it shouldn’t be a problem if the previous three steps are taken. Additionally, a more traditional Chinese marriage is bound to come with lots and lots of (red) fireworks, (red) lanterns, (red) decorations, and a bride in a beautiful (red) dress. See where we’re going?

Now that you know how to cope with your ‘ben ming nian’. Just remember the keyword: red!


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