A Date With History for Chinese Children and Couples

by Tanya Thomas on Aug 9 2008 11:57 AM

Apparently, a lot of lucky Chinese infants born on 08.08.08 are going to have a real “historical” birth! Not only is the date very auspicious but it also coincided with the spectacular Opening Ceremony at the Beijing Olympics. And so, China’s maternity wards and registry offices were crammed on Friday with both expecting parents and couples desperate to share this lucky date with history.

While the world's attention was turned towards the spectacular opening ceremony, hospitals across China put on extra beds in the expectation of a flurry of expectant mothers, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Friday's opening ceremony was chosen to be held on the eighth day of the eighth month, a date considered particularly auspicious as the Chinese word for eight sounds like the word for wealth.

In a country obsessed by lucky and unlucky signs, parents were delighted to take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime chance to combine the lucky eights with the opening of the Olympic Games.

Proud father Wu Hongbin said his sister had suggested calling his son ''Aoyun'', the Chinese word for ''Olympics'', but because he was born in the city they were going to choose the name ''Jingao'', meaning ''Beijing Olympics.''

''I'm feeling excited and happy as our child's birthday is the same as for the opening ceremony for the Games,'' Wu told AFP clutching his new child at Peking University First Hospital.

''I wish for a prosperous and stronger China and also wish for good performance by our athletes,'' he said.

Chen Qian, a doctor and deputy director of the maternity department said they would not be inducing babies or performing caesarean sections purely at the parents' request, adding the date was only of secondary importance.

''If the baby is born on the day the whole world is celebrating it will surely be lucky, but as long as the baby has good health it is a lucky enough day for the family,'' she told AFP.

Each newborn at the hospital was presented with one of the Fuwa Olympic mascots, while the hospital was lined with ''I love China'' posters and Games' flags.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of couples were rushing to get married across the country.

In Beijing, 16,400 couples had applied for marriage registration, Xinhua reported, compared to 170,000 marriages in the capital in the whole of 2006.

In Shanghai, the number stood at 5,000, and other cities in China such as Guangzhou in the south and Wuhan in central China had seen a surge in applications, Xinhua said, quoting local civil affairs authorities.

''The number of applications is many times that of normal days,'' Xinhua quoted Zhou Jixiang, head of the marriage registration department in Shanghai, as saying.

Despite the enthusiasm, a succession of disasters in China -- extreme bad weather during Chinese New Year, violence in Tibet and the earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan province -- has made some doubt the benefits of 2008.

Some Chinese netizens have even gone as far as saying the Fuwa mascots of the Olympic Games are cursed.

Jingjing the panda, for them, represents the devastating 8.0-magnitude earthquake three months ago in Sichuan, where the majority of the endangered animals live.

The earthquake was on May 12 -- 88 days before the Games.

Yingying the Tibetan antelope evokes this year's deadly unrest in Tibet, while Huanhuan is a flame marking the protests that embarrassed China during the Olympic torch relay's international journey, the netizens have said.