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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific