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China Prepares for 'Golden Pig' Baby Boom

Worshippers light incense sticks as they make offerings at a temple in Shanghai.  Many Chinese like to visit the temple at Lunar New Year to make a good start to the year.
Louisa Lim, NPR
Worshippers light incense sticks as they make offerings at a temple in Shanghai. Many Chinese like to visit the temple at Lunar New Year to make a good start to the year.
China is expecting a baby boom this lunar year — the year of the pig, according to the traditional Chinese calendar. Here, a newborn bathes at a maternity hospital in Shanghai, where it's believed swimming with the aid of a rubber ring calms the babies.
Louisa Lim, NPR /
China is expecting a baby boom this lunar year — the year of the pig, according to the traditional Chinese calendar. Here, a newborn bathes at a maternity hospital in Shanghai, where it's believed swimming with the aid of a rubber ring calms the babies.

In China, city-dwellers are only allowed one child, so many are timing their pregnancies according to the traditional lunar calendar to promote the most auspicious birth. Some newspapers have called 2007 an especially lucky "golden pig year," which only comes around every 60 years. And that is spurring a baby boom.

Bao Huiyuan, 30, is expecting her first child in June. "They say children born in the year of the pig will be especially intelligent and healthy, so everybody is rushing to have babies this year," she says.

The baby boom is leading to fears of a labor shortage. At Huiyuan's company, about 10 percent of her department will give birth this year.

In Shanghai's hospitals, heavy-bellied women are lining up to see doctors. The city's maternity beds are booked solid until March.

The city government has even stepped in, warning women to try to avoid getting pregnant this year. As Huiyuan points out, these piglets will compete for hospital beds and go on competing throughout their lives — for school places, university places and eventually, wives.

Some say that the media doesn't understand Chinese fortune telling, and that the golden pig year craze is just hype.

Still, commercials for baby products are taking up double the air time, and companies are preparing for bumper sales.

Outwardly, China may be changing unbelievably fast, as skyscrapers sprout and farmland is gobbled up by ever-expanding cities. But beneath a modern veneer, traditional superstitions run deep.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Beijing Correspondent Louisa Lim is currently attending the University of Michigan as a Knight-Wallace Fellow. She will return to her regular role in 2014.