BEIJING (NYTIMES) - China, the birthplace of the Chinese zodiac and some of the world's oldest and most sophisticated fortunetelling techniques, has a new obsession: Western astrology.
What remains a largely niche interest in the West has in recent years become a mainstream cultural trend in China, especially among the younger generation.
Online, social media accounts with millions of fans dispense weekly horoscope forecasts. On dating websites, users list their zodiac signs alongside other basic information like age, salary, and car and homeownership status.
Starting in the 1990s, Western astrology began to seep into China, mostly through variety shows from Taiwan, which caught the astrology bug early on. After the spread of the internet, a seed of interest soon blossomed into a torrid love affair.
More and more Chinese are consulting the ancient practice for celestial guidance on all kinds of major life decisions: relationship advice, making friends, having babies - even hiring employees.
Que Gangjian, a manager at a car sales company in the southern Chinese city of Changzhou, said that true to his nature as a Pisces, he was better at handling the softer side of the business. So when it came time to recruit a sales representative, Que considered what skills would be best suited to the demanding job and would complement his own.
After listing the mandatory requirements - a hardworking attitude, a driver's licence and a quick tongue - Que inserted another line into the online job posting: "Scorpios, Capricorns and Geminis preferred."
"People who fall under these three signs tend to be more persistent - they don't give up as easily," Que said in a telephone interview. "So really this is just to save time and make the hiring process more efficient."
It is not the only instance of what has become known in China as "zodiac discrimination".
A recent survey showed that 4.3 per cent of college graduates looking for jobs in China had experienced discrimination based on their Western or Chinese zodiac sign.
On Baidu Baike, the Chinese version of Wikipedia, there is even an entry for the term "xingzuo zhaopin", or job recruitment based on Western zodiac signs.