The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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May 9, 2014

Chinese couples rush to get pregnant before dreaded Year of the Sheep

(Continued)

BEIJING —

But the medical professionals don't have an easy sell. The official said that even her CDC colleagues are obsessed with the supposed luck a horse year brings.

 

It's unclear how the Year of the Sheep came to acquire its bad reputation.

Each of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac has it virtues and faults. The undisputed favorite is the dragon, often followed by tiger and horse, which is associated with success.

Even rats (considered clever and agile) and snakes (which look like mini dragons) are considered lucky. But sheep have fewer advantageous qualities, according to some interpretations.

Those born in sheep years are thought of as passive, loyal, generous and kind. Some of those virtues may be wonderful in an ideal world, but not so useful in the dog-eat-dog real world.

"It's an unfair and outdated superstition," said Dong Mengzhi, 74, honorary president of Beijing's Folk Literature and Art Society. "But it's a convenient way for many to explain an unpredictable world."

Unfair or not, one of the first things Zhang Xiaolei's parents did when she got engaged in 2012 was sit down with a Chinese zodiac calendar.

"We all agreed to hurry up and avoid the sheep," said Zhang, 26, a government worker in Shangdong province.

Her husband quit drinking and started exercising in an effort to increase his fertility. Zhang went on a diet and got more sleep. But after a year and half of trying, nothing.

"I don't know what happened," she sighed. "Maybe it was all that pressure."

She and her husband — both born in a dragon year, the luckiest of all — have consoled themselves with the hope that, if they do conceive later this year, their baby will be that one lone sheep in 10 to find happiness.

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