Monday, August 6, 2007

Year of the Not-So-Golden Pig

I am always a bit behind in writing and posting ideas. This post would optimally have hit the blogsphere, sometime, say, in the months before an estimated 22 million Chinese women conceived in order to give birth to babies before the end of the year.

But alas, it's too late to stop them. However, my inability to think of other stories journalistic integrity requires that I bring forth the information I know regardless of the consequences (not like I expect any Chinese mothers to be reading this blog, for foreigners, in English).

Dear readers, the most vocal elements of the Chinese press would have you believe that this is the year of the Golden Pig, a magnificent year full of wealth and auspiciousness (hence all the babies). Now, everyone knows it's the year of the pig because it rolls around every 12 years and is thus hard to get out of order between the dog and the rat. But whence the golden in the year of the Golden Pig?

Sneaky, brainwashing capitalists, that's who. According to Wikipedia and a number of skeptics and dissenters like this site (in Chinese), we are in the year 24 of the 60-year cycle, or the year of the Fire Pig. Yes, the Fire Pig, folks. (A couple of other sites dispute that it's actually the Earth Pig year, but my calculations still yield Fire Pig.)

I don't know who first came up with this idea that this year was golden, but it's been promulgated most evidently by jewelers, who—unsurprisingly—have seen great sales in golden pig items this year. Every few weeks my local daily, the Yangtze Evening Post, features an "article" about what kind of jewelery to buy. Soft advertisements Articles like this one drop names like Orient Department Store and Millenium Star Jewelers. Another one from the same paper, which was not reproduced online, discussed which kinds of jade from TESIRO were most appropriate for Golden Piglets to wear. English language media like the Shanghai Daily and even the Economist take the bait (the Economist actually just reports on the baby boom caused by it, and doesn't question the nomenclature).

Now, it makes sense that marriages and births would be up the past two years, since the baby boomers from the early 80s are now getting married and having kids of their own. I'm not against an increase in the rate of births and sales of diapers and baby insurance, per se. What bothers me is retailers' intentional distortion of 5,000-year-old oracle bone fact and slapping of "golden" on innocent zodiac animals.

The media deserve an even bigger reprimand for corroborating the falsehood, which has actually caused people to 1) have babies because it's a "lucky" year, overflowing schools and heightening the already-intense competition on these poor kids; and 2) spend their hard-earned kuai on useless golden-piggy merchandise. There are of course articles out there refuting the Golden Pig myth (how else would I have known?), but they seem to have fallen on deaf ears for the recently married/superstitious/illiterate/gullible crowd.

For the record, the next golden pig year will actually occur in 2031, which in itself is misleading. The original meaning of the character , is metal, not gold. So, in 2031 women will be birthing metal pigs. I suppose that is less painful than fire pigs. But fire pigs have such magnificent personalities! From one random site in Chinese (my abbreviated translation):

2007, ding hai year: (mountain-crossing pigs) are clever and intelligent, self-supporting, peaceful do-gooders, and wealthy. Women will be fortunate and stable.

First posted on Lost Laowai on July 7 2007.

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