PAPER PRESENTATION: A man from Yancheng City of east China's Jiangsu Province displays his papercut for the coming Year of the Horse (JIANG XIAOPENG)
As Spring Festival nears, all kinds of horse-themed products are filling the shelves of stores across the country. The reason is simple: the Year of the Horse is coming! The first day of the Year of the Horse falls on January 31 this year, and ends on February 18, 2015, according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
"Business is great! I have just finished selling Christmas trinkets, and now horse-themed ones are filling up the gap left behind," said Wang Bo, owner of a stand at a small commodity wholesale market in downtown Beijing, in great joy while displaying a pile of horse-shaped stuffed toys.
"I want to choose some horse items for my family and friends. I hope they can bring us good luck in the New Year," said Xie Tong, a girl choosing gifts at the stand.
"As Spring Festival approaches, more and more customers are coming to buy horse mascots. I can sell more than 100 of them a day. Many stall owners even give up on selling to individuals and only do wholesaling," said Wang. In addition to stuffed animals, other popular horse-themed commodities include pendants, door posts, and others.
Compared to physical shops, business is booming even more online. While searching on Taobao.com, China's biggest e-commerce website, where one can seemingly find any product or service, more than 290,000 horse-themed products are available. There are innovative commodities such as horse-shaped USB flash disks and speakers.
The Chinese zodiac has 12 animals: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Starting with the rat and ending with the pig, the 12 animals form a cycle on the lunar calendar.
Horse baby boom
According to traditional Chinese beliefs, there is a special relationship between human beings and their zodiac animals, which is similar to Western beliefs about astrology and personal character.
Many people believe to some degree that the zodiac animal affects the disposition of those born in the corresponding year. In turn, the zodiac symbols have their own unique connotations, and are often endowed with personality attributes.
According to the Chinese zodiac, Horse people tend to be smart, outgoing and energetic. They usually think fast with good interpersonal communication skills. A prominent characteristic of people born in the Year of the Horse is that they are lovers of freedom and very independent.
Thus, the Year of the Horse usually sees a baby boom, and this year is no exception. "Both my parents and my parents-in-law are putting pressure on me right now. They hope I can have a baby this year," said Liu Liping, a 29-year-old woman who got married two years ago. "I want a Horse baby, too, because Horse babies have a good personality and enjoy better potential career success."
"In order to have a Horse baby, some of my friends started trying last year. A couple of them have already succeeded. They are expecting their babies in a few months," said Liu, smiling. "I hope I can succeed too."
"If we miss the Year of the Horse, the next year will be the Year of the Sheep. Many say people born in the Year of the Sheep have less luck in their lives and careers. So we need to hurry up," said Liu. "I know there are no scientific grounds for these beliefs, but we want to wish all the best to our baby."
Indeed, the Year of the Horse will usher in a second baby boom that comes following the Year of the Dragon only two years ago. As a totemic animal which stands for power and wealth, the dragon has been loved by the Chinese people since ancient times. The Year of the Dragon was favored by many couples planning to have a baby at the time. Now the Year of the Horse is bringing about the same situation.
Some couples even turn to doctors in order to have a Horse baby. For instance, recently, more couples are looking for help in the Reproductive Medicine Center of Shanxi Maternity and Child Health Care Hospital and Shanxi Children's Hospital.