by Tao Jun, Dong Hua

HO CHI MINH CITY, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- Believing in Chinese astronomy which says those who are born in the year of monkey will be smart, flexible and healthy, many young Vietnamese women are seeking various ways to make sure that they will give birth this year, especially to baby boys.

According to the lunar calendar, 2016 is the year of the monkey, lasting from Feb. 8, 2016 to Jan. 27, 2017.

"In 2014, I consulted a fortune-teller and he said 2016 is the year of golden monkeys. According to Wu Xing, the five-element theory of Chinese philosophy, those who come into the world this year will possess the life-line of fire, fire at the foot of a mountain. They will be as fast as lightning, as strong as a horse, and, more importantly, very clever," Nguyen Hong Thai, the owner of the "Thai" chain of beauty salons in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, told Xinhua.

Thai, in her final throws of pregnancy, said after consulting the fortune-teller, she and her husband were determined to have a baby in the year of monkey, but getting pregnant wasn't straight forward for her.

However, the couple, who already have a teenager daughter, want their second child to be a boy, so they have followed a plethora of advice and recommendations from their friends and colleagues, as well as strangers online.

"First, my husband had a fertility test. Then, I took some traditional Chinese medicine which is extracted from medicinal herbs, and my husband drank oyster extract for one month before we tried to conceive. At that time, my husband was forced to eat a lot of beef, bean sprouts and saltwater fish, and not to eat soya curd, eggs and many other foods," Thai said, adding that she will give birth after the upcoming Lunar New Year.

Like Thai, many other Vietnamese women have made careful preparations since 2014, hoping to have kids in 2016.

As early as 2014, well-known local websites designated for women such as webtretho and lamchame, and many users opened online forums named "Hunting for Golden Monkeys 2016," attracting numerous viewers.

They have frequently shared experiences in increasing the probability of getting pregnant, as well as providing addresses and phone numbers of well-known obstetricians, herbalists, medical ultrasound experts and even fortune-tellers.

Many local women think that fortune-tellers know the best time-frame for them to conceive and then to give birth. After becoming expectant mothers, they consult fortune-tellers again, asking for suggestions for their babies' names.

"Some years ago, we wanted to have our first baby, but the soothsayer told me to wait until 2016. He explained that my husband was born in the year of the rat, I was born in the year of the dragon, so my kid should be born in the year of monkey. Monkey-rat-dragon forms a harmonious trio, he said, noting that those who were born in the years of the monkey, rat and dragon will get along well with one another and enjoy an easy life together," said Dao Thu Dung, a bright-eyed accountant born in Ho Chi Minh City in 1988.

Dung, who is seven months pregnant, said she hoped her first child would be a "golden monkey" who is characterized as lively, flexible, swift, smart, sociable and humorous as the soothsayer predicted some years ago.

"The soothsayer also told me that people born in the year of monkey often like sports, especially jumping and running, but lack patience and altruism," said the 28-year-old accountant.

According to the soothsayer, those who are born in the year of monkey are industrious, confident and sociable, Dung said.

"Therefore, he advised me to let my baby follow a career in such fields as accounting, banking, trading and advertising," she added.

In addition to offering fortune-tellers about 12 U.S. dollars to get advice about the best time-frame for childbirth, many local women are also willing to give them the same amount to receive recommendations about their babies' names.

"I made an online order, and then the fortune-teller sent me a long list of names along with many explanations relating to Chinese astronomy and philosophy. I didn't understand them well. What I remember most is that those who are born in the year of monkey should have names relating to forests or trees," said Hanoian office clerk Nguyen Thi Hien.

Because Hien told the fortune-teller that she will, according to her medical ultrasound scan results, give birth to a baby girl, expected in March 2016, he listed some 20 wood-related names, including Mai (apricot), Lieu (willow), Le (pear), Dao (peach), Quynh (epiphyllum oxypetalum) and Truc (ivory bamboo).

However, experts warn that if too many children are born in the same year it will put pressure on the education sector, which will negatively affect their studies, and that fortune-tellers' statement are often groundless.

Because 2007 was the year of the pig, many Vietnamese couples hunted for "golden pigs." As a result, too many children were born in 2007 across the nation, so in the following years, many kindergartens and primary schools became overcrowded.

From the age of six, "golden pigs" (children born in 2007) started to go to school, but due to classroom shortages, many of them had to study in the afternoon instead of the morning, or in makeshift classrooms.

In the school-year 2013-2014, the number of new first-grade pupils in Ho Chi Minh City increased by 40,804 compared to the previous school-year, according to the municipal Education Department.

Regarding fortune-telling, local scientists maintain that it has almost no scientific basis. According to UNICEF's estimates, an average of 353,000 babies are born each day around the world, or nearly 129 million each year, all with individual and unique appearances, characters, strong points and lifestyles.

Instead of wasting money and time on fortune-tellers, couples should focus on improving their children's physical and mental health, laying a solid foundation for their rosy future, said Dr. Tran Tuan, director of the Research and Training Center for Community Development.

Moreover, it is noteworthy that Vietnam bans publications which purport to guide couples on giving birth to a child of a preferential gender, and forbids doctors to reveal the sex of fetuses, he explained.

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