Chinese couples hoping for lucky birth on 08/08/08

In Beijing's main maternity hospital, there is an even more expectant air than usual. All of the 200 beds in the wards are full, and of the scores of soon-to-be mothers, most have scheduled a Caesarean section to ensure that most auspicious and treasured of babies – an Olympic baby.

It's not just babies – more than 16,000 couples will tie the knot today in the Chinese capital to ensure their marriages have the best possible start, on the eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of the new millennium. The day the Olympics started. In case you haven't guessed, eight, which sounds like the word for wealth, is a lucky number in China.

Nurses at the city's biggest maternity hospital in Yaojiayuan Street are gearing up for what is set to be one of their busiest days. "There are going to be more than 60 births tomorrow, many of the women have made an appointment for a Caesarean section," said one staff sister. "Ordinarily we'd only have about 10 births."

The one-child policy of population control means that the single birth most women have is a huge community event. In the maternity hospital you see pregnant women with their partners and usually a group of four grandparents fussing around cheerfully.

"We are very happy that we are going to have an Olympic baby," said one mother-to-be, Pang Lan. Her husband, Yang Shi, added: "Tomorrow will be a perfect day. Our baby is very lucky. We all love the Olympics. It means a lot to China. Beijing has changed a lot, its environment and traffic are all turning better and better. I am proud of China."

There are long queues for C-sections in the hospital and some are worried they might not make the grade.

"Expectant mothers staying in the hospital basically all want to give birth to their babies on 8 August," said one mother-to-be, Li Wenqing. "There are too many mothers staying here and waiting. Moreover, on that day there might also be some mothers who have immediate health emergencies. Doctors cannot guarantee that every mother can do the surgery. But I will still try. After all, this date is quite rare and special."

For months, couples have calculated the length of their babies' gestation in the hope of landing a baby on 8 August.

Hou Hongying, a obstetrician at the Sun Yat-sen University hospital in Guangzhou, told local media of a pregnant woman who requested a Caesarean section at 36 weeks to coincide with 8 August. In 2000, there were more than 36 million "millennium babies", nearly twice as many births as in 1999 and a year later in 2001. Then in 2007, the Lunar New Year was the Year of the Pig, and a particularly lucky Pig year it was too as it coincided with gold, which meant millions of couples timing some 20 million births to coincide with the auspicious year. The Chinese obsession with having children at auspicious times can cause some log-jams in the social services. Baby booms put pressure on hospitals, then schools and finally job markets.

"The birth rush will create a series of shortages starting from when babies are born to the time when they look for jobs," Yu Hai, a sociology professor at Shanghai's Fudan University, told the China Daily.

Whatever the sociologists say, luck is a more powerful force than theory in superstitious China. And you can be sure that lots of these babies will be given the most popular name of the moment – "Aoyun", which means Olympics.

Sport
football This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it
Travel
travel Dreamland Margate, Britain’s oldest amusement park, is set to reopen
News
news
News
Founders James Brown and Tim Southwell with a mock-up of the first ever ‘Loaded’ magazine in 1994
media
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Threlfall says: 'I am a guardian of the reality keys. I think I drive directors nuts'
people
Voices
voices The group has just unveiled a billion dollar plan to help nurse the British countryside back to health
News
The Westgate, a gay pub in the centre of Gloucester which played host to drag queens, has closed
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss