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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
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

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea