Beijing says you CAN get married in the Year of the Snake: The SinoFile

Chinese New Year ushers in yet another crackdown on rumors.

The bride at a traditional Chinese wedding, all dressed in red (kanegen).

If you want to get married in the Year of the Snake, fear no more, you have Beijing's full blessing. 

Chinese state-owned media People's Daily has issued an editorial amid festivities for Chinese New Year, which started yesterday, dispelling a slew of superstitions associated with this year. 

According to the piece, unspecified analysts of the Chinese celestial lunar cycle say that this year is the "Snake year where red is forbidden" (蛇年忌红,shenian jihong), a time when it is advised not to wear red, especially for people who were born in the year of the snake.

Traditionally, people are supposed to wear red in their zodiac year – it's believed to protect people from the bad luck they are supposed to experience when they reach their animal year. Personally, I wore red underwear for most of this last Year of the Rabbit, and still had a terrible year.

China's undergarment industry likely makes a mint from sales of red underpants and traditional bras – which are really just a rudimentary piece of red cloth that ties in the back – to people avoiding negative energy on their zodiac year. Not this year, for the unnamed believers in the Shenian jihong. 

Believers apparently maintain that this isn't a good year for marriages -- which would make sense, since people generally wear red and offer red envelopes full of money at Chinese traditional weddings. 

The People's Daily editorial isn't telling us who the believers are, but some of them may be here in North America. A small calendar I received with purchase of acne medication at Chinatown superstore seems to agree with the superstitious in the People's Republic: “Minimize your risk this year,” it warns. Sounds at the very least, like the year of the prenup.

The People's Daily article is entitled "You mustn't trust 'Shenian jihong,'" and attempts to dispel the superstitions by citing various scientists and cultural experts.

“Experts advise that we must be rational and scientific, and regard these claims with objectivity and sobriety,” the article reads, with level-headed scientist explaining, “this has nothing to do with our modern daily lives.”

In the event that some readers are too far beyond the help of modern science, the article features experts in Chinese traditional yin-yang, zodiac, lunar calendar analysts, who explain that although this year includes yin fire energies, this is more accurately the year of the yin water snake. 

Please note that as of February 11th, the second day of the Chinese New Year, only 94 of Sina Weibo's over 400 million registered users have discussed the Shenian jihong phenomenon – it's not exactly an epidemic that deserves space in a Chinese state mouthpiece.

Why is it there then?

Sometimes superstitions are a legitimate concern in China, according to Chinese national media at least.

In the run up to what, according to some interpretations of Mayan legend, was supposed to be the end of the world on December 21st 2012, Chinese authorities arrested hundreds of people after two counties in Southern Sichuan province were sold out of candles and matchbooks and 23 schoolchildren in Northeastern Henan Province were injured by a slasher, allegedly deranged by the Mayan legends.

A gesture to crack down on rumors of all kinds is arguably one of Beijing's latest tactics in its attempt to restrict social discourse on socially sensitive topics.

As popular Chinese social media blog China Smack noted, some did seem genuinely concerned that the end was nigh. But various analysts suggested of the Maya rumors that Beijing was more concerned with legitimizing its response to politically sensitive information circulated earlier that year.

The recent war on 'rumors,' particularly those spread on the Chinese Twitter, Sina Weibo, started in April, when Weibo users received a message noting that posting or re-posting rumors would be punished by authorities.

The message came weeks after rampant speculation on Chinese social media regarding the instability of the Chinese Communist Party, following the dismissal of former Chongqing Communist Party Chief Bo Xilai – once a hopeful for a spot as one of the nation's most powerful leaders in Beijing. 

At the time, searching for Bo Xilai in Chinese or English characters navigated to a message saying the requested information was deemed illegal by the authorities. 

Later in the year, during the scandal surrounding Chen Guangcheng, the blind human rights lawyer who famously sought shelter and eventually exile at the US embassy in Beijing, the phrase “blind lawyer” was also blocked.

While it is possible that Beijing cares about you getting married in 2013, this is just as likely an attempt to make the public agree that dispelling rumors is in the public interest.

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