Beijing: China is in the midst of a baby boom this year, the year of the horse, and pregnant women are rushing for caesarean operations to avoid the prospects of giving birth to a child in the upcoming year of sheep, regarded as the most inauspicious for child birth.
Every 12 years, some Chinese couples are thrown into frenzy with fears that their child may be born in the Year of the Sheep, regarded as inauspicious in the eyes of superstitious old-timers.
In Chinese lunar calendar, years are grouped into a 12-year cycle, with each year assigned an animal symbol: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig.
The next Chinese new year is expected to come around February 2015.
With only three months to go, some expectant mothers already plan to opt for C-section to give birth before February 19, 2015, the start of the Year of the Sheep, state-run Xinhua news agency reported today.
According to China Central Television, there has been a baby boom in 2014, with many regions and some provinces running short of birth certificates, an important legal paper in China.
Shanghai University sociologist Gu Jun believes the idea that people born in the Year of the Sheep are likely to suffer misfortunes is absurd and widely misunderstood.
It originates in a folktale that people in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) opposed to the Empress Dowager Cixi insisted that her zodiac sign -- sheep -- would endanger the country.
A contrary tradition says that people born in the Year of the Sheep are simply a reflection of the animal's mild and gentle nature.
However, nearly 52 percent of 2,000 people surveyed in May said they knew couples who would avoid giving birth in the Year of the Sheep.
Bai Hua, director of obstetrics of the People's Hospital of Liaoning Province in northeast China, said about 30 percent more babies had been born this year than the same period last year.
The situation is the same in other parts of the country.
Moreover, the number of couples applying to give birth to a second child since the one-child policy was relaxed, reached nearly eight lakhs by the end of September, officials said.
Gu believes many social problems could occur due to the baby boom, such as scarcity of medical resources at the time of birth and shortages of school and job vacancies when they come to schooling and employment age.