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Oh, to Be Born in The Year of the Pig

Wang Lili and her husband look at an ultrasound image of their soon-to-be-born child at Beijing Obstetrics Hospital.
Wang Lili and her husband look at an ultrasound image of their soon-to-be-born child at Beijing Obstetrics Hospital. (By Li Jie -- The Washington Post)

Many people got the impression they were about to live through a Golden Year of the Pig from reports in newspapers and on television, said Xiao Fang, who studies folk culture at Beijing Normal University and is an officer of the Folklore Society. Xiao said part of the hype also came from businesses hoping to cash in on the baby boom.

Chinese companies and subsidiaries that manufacture diapers, baby care oils and infant foods increased their advertising budgets by more than 50 percent for 2007, with much of the extra money to be spent on television spots, according to a survey conducted by the Nielsen Media Research firm.

"But of course, the hype is also based on people's traditional concept of a special year," Xiao added. "The pig in general is considered by Chinese as a representative of fortune and luck, with a mild temper and an honest character, so many Chinese parents believe babies born in this year are lucky . . . and Chinese always like to follow the crowd."

The rush to have children born in the Year of the Pig has put sudden pressure on medical facilities, already strained in China's overburdened health care system. Zhang Weiyuan, deputy director of Beijing Obstetrics Hospital, said that about 600 pregnant women a day have been visiting for prenatal examinations and that the number of births is climbing steadily.

"It's really a burden for the hospital, and now we are discussing how to deal with it," Zhang said.

Already the hospital has opened four extra exam rooms, bringing the total to 12, each capable of handling 100 women, and doubled the size of the waiting room, Zhang said.

Ye Zi, a 30-year-old businesswoman, said she became pregnant eight months ago without any particular desire to see her son-to-be born in the Year of the Pig, but now is suffering long waits and crowding at Beijing Obstetrics Hospital because of the trend.

"The problems of having a piglet baby are already apparent in the hospital, so I can expect that it will be quite competitive for my child to go to school, to look for jobs or even to find a girlfriend," she said.

"But I still think it's great to be born in this year," she added. "I hope this will bring him good luck. The elderly keep on saying that boys born in the Year of the Pig are lucky. I have been hearing this since childhood. It's just a Chinese belief. But I feel very lucky to have a piglet child this year, and if it's the golden pig, so much the better."

Researcher Li Jie contributed to this report.

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