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From The Asian Reporter, V18, #6 (February 5, 2008), page 14.
A very adaptable person with a great capacity for happiness
Divining the Asian Zodiac: Ancient Guide to Life and Love
By Fumio Shiozawa
Heian/Stone Bridge Press, 2007
Paperback, 127 pages, $18.95
By Josephine Bridges
Did you know that Albert Einstein said, "Make friends with a few animals. Then you will become a cheerful man once more and nothing will be able to trouble you?" That’s just the beginning of what you’ll learn if you take a look at Fumio Shiozawa’s gorgeous book, Divining the Asian Zodiac. And speaking of beginnings, the Year of the Rat is right where it all gets started.
Seven white rats explore a tree tinted by the rays of the sun in the background of the first of Shiozawa’s lovely and surreal illustrations. There’s a tusked beast lurking behind the tree, but it doesn’t seem inclined to do any harm. All in all, it’s an idyllic scene if you like rats. And this year, you’d better.
Each year’s chapter begins with a little mythology, and this year’s is called "The Baku and the Rats." Baku — mythical creatures who lived "on a faraway island" — did a very important service: "they ate the bad dreams of other animals. But they were always hungry for real food, too." The gods gave these dreameaters a special tree that could produce whatever fruit the baku imagined. It was a good life, at least until the humans arrived. When they had no success tracking down the baku tree, the humans "cleverly enlisted the help of rats, who were experts at finding food." Sure enough, the rats found the tree, but a baku discouraged the rats from sharing their find with the humans. Suspicious of how long the rats were taking, the humans followed them. You know the rest: "Ever since, rats have had to scavenge for food in gardens, and the forest has gradually dwindled. Both the baku and their magical tree have disappeared from the face of the Earth. And since that time, humans have had bad dreams."
Each year’s chapter also has sections on "Personality and Luck," "Love and Marriage," "In the Workplace," and "Future Forecast," in addition to a compatibility chart. If you were born in the Year of the Rat, you are "a very adaptable person with a great capacity for happiness." But "don’t be lazy and seek the easiest path, since even the clearest water will stagnate if it stops moving."
"Lacking confidence and tending to be a little passive in affairs of the heart, you are not cut out for intense relationships." But the Ox and the Dragon "will respect your tender qualities," and "with the Monkey, you should be able to live very happily as you grow old together and enjoy a peaceful home life in which both partners support each other equally."
At work, the Rat is "friendly and a bit of a jack-of-all-trades," but may find it hard to get ahead. "Since people are naturally drawn to you, why not start your own business? Occupations that you should consider are researcher, tax accountant, engineer, religious advisor, and teacher."
As for the future, "happiness is not something that magically comes to you; it’s something you create … If you are always open-hearted and generous, you will discover that things go smoothly, that you are surrounded by friends, and that you are successful in many areas. Your life needs to flow like water. Be careful not to obstruct the flow in any way."
Each year’s compatibility chart shows how the 12 Asian zodiac animals get along as co-workers, romantic interests, and friends. Rats will find it challenging to form relationships with other Rats, Rabbits, and Roosters, but the compatibility chart includes good advice should you wish to try. Two Rat friends may "feel very close, but it’s important to remember that you have very different goals in life." If you have a Rabbit for a co-worker, "make efforts to discover large mistakes before you think about the small details." And if a Rat and a Rooster become involved in a romance, "if you don’t make consistent efforts, it can end in catastrophe."
If you’re just discovering the Asian zodiac and aren’t sure which animal you are, turn to the very back of the book, where all the years from 1900 to 2020 are represented. And to all the animals of the Asian zodiac, here’s wishing you a happy and prosperous Year of the Rat.