Welcome to 2020 – Chinese year of the Rat

Look out for those Monkeyshines

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

The Lunar New Year – commonly called Chinese New Year – begins January 25.

There are celebrations large and small, global and local.

In Tacoma, thanks to our strong Asian influence and our (fairly recent) emphasis on the arts (and with a healthy dose of Tacoma-based eccentricity) we have a tradition since about 2003, celebrating Chinese New Year with a local culturally beloved tradition known as Monkeyshines: a community-wide scavenger hunt for hidden hand-blown gleaming glass balls, medallions and glass stones scattered around Tacoma to be found by anyone in the community.

Originally, the simple project was created by the anonymous, if not mythical, Ms. Monkey and her crew of glass artists to bring joy and adventure to Tacoma.

The community loved it and wanted more, and a new Tacoma tradition was born. Even the mysterious Marbleman has been popping up in the past couple of years with his handmade glass marbles to add to the thrilling treasure hunt.

About 1,000 to 2,000 glass artifacts are hidden all throughout Tacoma. Usually about 50 glass artists will make about 2,000 monkeyshines to hide throughout Tacoma, some in plain sight, while others are extremely well hidden.

Where to find them?

Some hot spots to start scouring are popular parks such as the Chinese Reconciliation Park and Wright Park, but these places are usually the most popular hunting grounds for other searchers.

Be sure to check out UW Tacoma campus and the water foundations around the Chihuly Glass bridge.

Monkeyshines can also be found around the Lincoln district including Lincoln Park. Many people have even reported finding Monkeyshines all the way in Lakewood at the Pierce County Library. Other areas to check out are Titlow, the Point Defiance Zoo Area and Owen Beach.

Remember to check the trees, bushes, potted plants, sculptures and signposts. Avoid private property, as Monkeyshines are only hidden in public spaces. Though some have reported finding Monkeyshines as far as Steilacoom and University Place, most Monkeyshines are located in Tacoma.

My experience is that the best approach is not to look for them directly – just keep your eyes out for that unexpected discovery.

The whole purpose, after all, is enjoy the process.

Once the lunar new year rolls around, you never know where you will spot a luminous glass orb like this one. You might even find one left over from a previous year.  Photo: Morf Morford

Once the lunar new year rolls around, you never know where you will spot a luminous glass orb like this one. You might even find one left over from a previous year. Photo: Morf Morford

What are the rules?

As you might guess, there are not very many rules in this very Tacoma tradition.

If you find one of these glassy treasures, feel free to keep it. If you find more than one, please re-hide it somewhere for someone else.

The general (and certainly not enforced) rule is one Monkeyshine per year per person.

The Year of the Rat

Each Chinese New Year has animal that represents or embodies the year’s character.

Here’s the profile of the Year of the Rat. I’ll leave it to you to decide how appropriate it is.

Ranking the first in the series of 12 Chinese zodiac animals, the rat represents wisdom.

Personality traits associated with people born in the year of the Rat are intelligent, charming, quick-witted, practical, ambitious, and good at economizing as well as social activities.

The weaknesses are that the Rats are likely to be timid, stubborn, wordy, greedy, devious, too eager for power and love to gossip.

For better or worse, rats and human beings have a long history with each other. They often eat our food and have the ability to survive almost anywhere.

Because of this, the people born in the year of the Rat are outgoing, optimistic and highly adaptable in any environment.

The Rat people are endowed with the power of acute observation, anticipation, and visionary power. You can get a validation from an old saying among the boatmen – ‘Rats leave (or desert or forsake) a sinking ship’ which means the rat can be aware that the ship will be wrecked and run away in advance. Rat people are usually good at anything that requires creativity.

Rat people tend to be insightful, have quick reflexes, and are extremely adaptable.

Previous Rat years are 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996 and 2008.

Famous people born in the Year of the Rat – Ben Affleck, Charlotte Bronte, Clark Gable, George Bush Sr., George Washington, John F. Kennedy Jr., John McCain, Marlon Brando, Prince Charles, Richard Nixon, Scarlett Johansson, Sean Penn, Shaquille O’Neal, William Shakespeare, Wayne Gretzky, Wilt Chamberlain and Yves St Laurent.

In the Chinese calendar, each animal in the 12 year cycle also an element of earth associated with it.

The Rat of 2020 has the element of metal. Again, you tell me how appropriate this might be;

In Chinese Taoist thought, metal attributes are considered to be firmness, rigidity, persistence, strength, and determination. The metal person is controlling, ambitious, forceful, and set in their ways as metal is very strong and rigid.

They are self-reliant and prefer to handle their problems alone. The metal person is also wise, business-oriented, and good at organization and stability. However, the metal person can also appreciate luxury and enjoy the good things in life. Just as metal can conduct electricity, the metal person has strong impulses and generative powers and can bring about changes and transformations for those who come into contact with them.

Rat people can expect many ups and downs and  many difficulties throughout the year.

Auspicious colors are orange and purple.

As you might expect from a year associated with an animal like the rat, this will certainly be a year full of surprises.


APCC Annual Asian New Year Celebration

As they do every year, the Asia Pacific Cultural Center will sponsor a community wide New Year’s Festival at the Tacoma Dome’s Convention Center.

Everyone is welcome to a full day of entertainment, food, crafts, martial arts demos and hand’s on activities for the children and adults – all with an Asian flair.

Find a taste of the cultures of Tahiti, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Fiji, Guam, Japan  and many more.

February 8, 11am to 6pm.