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September 10, 2009

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Lucky 9s add up to a busy day at the altars

WHEN your number's up, you'd better get up early.

And that's exactly what thousands of couples in Shanghai, and tens of thousands across China, did yesterday.

For them 09-09-09 adds up to many years of marital bliss. And for many, it was worth lining up in the middle of the night to make sure they secured their marriage registration on such an auspicious day.

Nine, or jiu, in Chinese, sounds like the word for "forever." So put three nines together and you have the formula for a major connubial convergence.

In Shanghai, 8,852 couples had tied the knot by 9:30pm, the most on a single day since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the Civil Affairs Bureau said yesterday.

That figure was at least 1,000 more than the number of people who got married on the previous record-setting day, August 8, 2008, the opening day of the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese word for eight, ba, sounds like "fortune."

At least in this case, long-lasting love won out over money in the eyes of young Chinese.

Though the local marriage registrar offices opened at 6am and were scheduled to remain open until midnight, some couples in Yangpu District began lining up as early as 3am, hoping to be the first to pledge their troth.

Zhang Ling, a 30-year-old white-collar worker in Shanghai, said he and his fiancee made an appointment to register at the end of July, but they had to do so in person as online registrations for 09-09-09 were all booked up.

"Luckily we managed to get an appointment number and won't have to wait for long today," Zhang said.

Nearly all the marriage offices in the downtown worked overtime from Tuesday to get ready for the peak.

In Yangpu District, employees remained in the office overnight to prepare certificates for couples who had made appointments.

Similar scenes played out across China. In some cities, many couples and their families began lining up outside marriage registration offices on Tuesday afternoon.

Next up: 10-10-10

Now that the lucky days of 08-08-08 and 09-09-09 have passed, many young people are beginning to mark their calendars for 10-10-10, which means "perfection in everything," and 11-11-11, which means "wholeheartedness."

But sociologists have warned young people against blindly following the lucky-number trend, as rushed marriages have often led to rushed divorces.

A survey by the Marriage Registration Center of Pudong New Area shows that about 20 couples among the 917 who received their marriage certificates at the facility on 08-08-08 have already broken up, Xinhua news agency reported.

In one case, a couple got to know each other on August 1 and rushed to wed on August 8 to qualify for an "Olympic marriage certificate." They separated in October.

"We hope young people will make sure they are well prepared emotionally for marriage," said Zhou Jixiang, director of the marriage management division of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.


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