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Author/DatePost
Nick_Wright
Feb 8 2005
Despite Atheist Teachings, Superstition Prevails in China

Despite atheist teachings, superstition prevails in China on Lunar New Year

Mon Feb 7, 8:59 PM ET

BEIJING, (AFP) - Decades of communist preachings against superstition and even political persecution have done little to eradicate deep-rooted superstitious beliefs, which are making a big comeback in China.

Women have sought to have babies in the current Year of the Monkey in order to avoid bad luck in the upcoming Year of the Rooster. The nouveau riche are willing to pay heavily for the privilege of being the first to burn incense at temples for good luck, and fortune tellers report brisk business.

"Every hospital has seen 20 percent more pregnant women this year because the Monkey year is considered better," said Han Tianjun, director of south China's Guangzhou City Women and Children's Hospital.

The Year of the Rooster, which begins Wednesday according to the Lunar calendar, is considered unlucky.

To ensure that their precious only child is born in the Year of the Monkey, some women have demanded doctors perform caesarian sections.

"They don't admit this, but we guess that's why. If it's just three or four days away, we probably do it," said hospital nurse Zhang Weizhu.

Although official statistics are not available, state media reported couples lining up to get married before the Rooster year, while banquet halls have been booked solid, with some holding three weddings a day, leaving guests wondering which hall to enter.

Twenty years of economic reforms have filled many Chinese people's wallets, but have also brought back superstitious practices.

Some nouveau riche are willing to fork out large sums to buy good luck.

Gao Jie, a businessman, paid 66,000 yuan (7,951 dollars) at a recent auction to be the first to light incense and pray at Beijing's Tanze Temple on New Year's Day.

While putting up with such activities, the Communist Party is on guard against the spread of superstition, which it fears could undermine its rule.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television recently banned fortune telling from being advertised in commercials.

On Lunar New Year, Chinese people, however, increasingly turn to soothsayers to find answers in a fast changing society where they can no longer rely on state-assigned jobs or even a faithful spouse.

Despite the ban, dial-a-fortune services can still be seen on TV while fortune tellers' shops have multiplied and are teeming with customers willing to pay a big chunk of their salary to learn their fortune for the new year.

"People in China nowadays want to know which path they should take. It's not like back then when everything was decided for us, from where we work to where we live," said Sherry Jin, 21, who beat the Beijing crowds to ask a fortune teller whether her father should change jobs in the new year.

"There were no choices back then. Everything was clear," she said.

Her fortune teller Wang Xin said most people were asking him whether they should open a business or make an investment, reflecting the pressure in China to make money.

Many also ask how to resolve marital problems.

"One third of my customers have extramarital affairs because society has become more open. But they don't think they should get a divorce because they have children," said Wang.

He normally advises people to mend their marriages, following the teachings of China's ancient book of philosophy, the I-Ching, which professes staying together is better than separating.

Those hoping to drive away a spouse's lover will be told to put two rooster figurines at the foot of their armoire, or where underwear is kept.

"The roosters' beak is very sharp. It can peck away bad things," Wang said.

Three decades ago, Wang would have been jailed, but he believes it is now only a matter of time before the government relaxes rules on his trade.

"I'm sure even top Chinese officials have their own fortune teller," Wang said. "The Chinese Communist Party understands they cannot stop cultural beliefs."

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