As the fierce Year of the Tiger roared off the Chinese calendar this week, Phnom Penh residents still smarting from its claws said they hoped the Year of the Rabbit would be gentler to them.
From a disputed election to mass demonstrations in the capital to zero growth in the economy, the past year has been tumultuous for Cambodians.
And that, say those who study the Chinese zodiac, is just typical of a Tiger.
The Rabbit, on the other hand, is viewed as an agent of happiness and peace—two things Cambodians should welcome after last year.
“The Year of the Tiger is supposed to be negative for the business,” said Peng Hong Ly, 50, a staff member at the Chinese Association of Cambodia.
“But the Year of the Rabbit is gentle because this is the animal’s nature. It never creates problems for people,” he said.
Tao Leng Sreng, one of the directors of the Chinese Association, also blamed last year’s economic woes on the big cat. The coming of the rabbit—also a symbol of wisdom in Khmer folklore—should turn things around, he said.
“We want to start with a clean slate and clear heads this year,” he said. “I believe the year of the Rabbit can bring peace and good business to the Cambodian people.”
The Rabbit was already bringing luck for some people at Phnom Penh’s Kandal market Monday, where business has been brisk over the three-day holiday, which ends Wednesday.
“I can make 10,000 riel per day over the new year period compared to normal earnings of 4,000 or 5,000 riel per day,” said Seng Song, a cyclo driver waiting for customers outside the market.
Around the capital, people burned paper “spirit money” outside their homes to bring good luck in business. And for further indications today, others will be looking up—to the trees, that is.
One market vendor explained that the Chinese people believe the Phaka Angkea Sil tree can predict how good business will be. “If the tree flowers during the first three days of new year, it means business will be good,” he said. “But if the flower did not grow, people will lose money.”