Creating new traditions in modern Chinese societies: aiming for birth in the Year of the Dragon.

Goodkind DM
Ann Arbor, Michigan, University Microfilms International, 1992. xii, 258 p. (Order No. 9235143)

This thesis posited that new traditions are being created among Chinese couples for timing of births according to the lunar zodiac calendar. The phenomena began in 1976, which was the year of the Dragon. Institutional case studies were presented for Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and China to show how institutional and motivational factors explained timing of births, but did not prove it inevitable. Examination was made of birth patterns prior to 1976 with high uncontrolled fertility and after 1976 when contraception, marriage, abortion, and coital frequency affected fertility. The conclusion was that zodiacal timing of births can be best understood in the context of historical, political, and institutional circumstances. Conclusions were drawn from results of survey data, other written records and news accounts, field work, and cultural and secondary source materials. Sun, Lin, and Freedman have noted that modern contraception has triggered a return to ancient cultural preference that was not possible in natural fertility settings, in a recursive fashion. Carlsson and McNicoll stress that adaptation or institutional change can reflect the continuation of traditional symbolism. Modernization theories do not adequately answer how abandoning the traditional regime of natural fertility would erase nonrational motivations to institute zodiac birth timing. The KAP survey of 4163 married women in Taiwan was used to analyze relationships between the rabbit-dragon-snake triplet and traditional characteristics (traditional life, parent arranged marriage, low education, traditional religion, belief in geomancy). There was no significant relationship; the only related factor was whether the mother was a Buddhist. Inclusion in the logistic model of maternal age, contraceptive use, and knowledge of reproduction proved to be highly significant; modernization was related to Dragon births. Predictive value of either modern or traditional characteristics was difficult. Field research was conducted in 1990-91 to find out what the folklore was and the extent of adherence. The 1987 abortion survey revealed that the Dragon year was indeed a favorable year for a birth for 10%. Ancient wisdom grows out of a belief that the proper timing of events is important. Schooling, popular media, family influences, and individual feelings about their sign affected how individuals found out about the symbols and assigned values. The geographic spread of the first baby boom in 1976 was argued as due to favorable demographic, economic, and social forces. That it did not appear in mainland China in 1976, but in 1988, was attributed to the cultural revolution (1966-76).

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