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China: Year of the Snake may bite

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — As Indiana Jones might say: Why did it have to be the Year of the Snake?

When the Chinese-speaking world ushers in its new year on Sunday, its 12-year zodiac will turn from the dragon to one of the world’s most despised animals. As undeserved as the snake’s reputation might be, its last two years did not go so well: 2001 was the year of the Sept. 11 attacks and 1989 was when Chinese forces crushed pro-democracy protests around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Some wonder if this one also could hold bad tidings. “In Chinese mythology, snakes were often associated with monsters, or with incarnations of monsters, so some political turbulence can be expected,” said Taiwanese astrologer Tsai Shang-chi.

Chinese New Year remains the most important festival in the region, a weeklong round of family reunions, temple visits and gastronomic excess.

It is Mardi Gras, Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one, marked by the clacking of mahjong tiles and explosions of firecrackers. With businesses and markets hermetically closed, it brings a rare calm to the otherwise frenetic pace of what is arguably the world’s most dynamic economic region.

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