Tokens of doom: mascots seen as signs of times
HONG KONG: Superstitious bloggers have linked China's earthquake disaster and other recent misfortunes to the five Olympic mascots, a Hong Kong newspaper reported yesterday.
Gossip sites are full of speculation that four of the five cartoon mascots have fulfilled prophesies of doom with one more, connected to the Yangtze River, still to come, the South China Morning Post said.
The five Olympic mascots are Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, Nini and Beibei. Jingjing, a panda, is the animal most closely associated with Sichuan province where the earthquake struck.
Huanhuan, a cartoon character with flame-red hair, is being linked by bloggers to the Olympic torch that has been dogged by anti-China protests on its round-the-world tour.
Yingying, an antelope, is an animal confined to the borders of Tibet, which has been the scene of riots and the cause of international protests against China, the bloggers say.
Nini, represented by a kite, is being viewed as a reference to the "kite city" of Weifang, in Shandong, where there was a deadly train crash last month.
That leaves only Beibei, represented by a sturgeon fish, which online doomsayers suggest could indicate a looming disaster in the Yangtze River, the only place where sturgeon is found.
A Peking University sociologist, Xie Xueluan, told the newspaper: "Chinese see major calamities as divine intervention … The absence of religion reinforces this trend."
Other online prophets of doom say the recent disasters have come on days that are related to the normally lucky Chinese number eight. The Tibet riots (14/3) and the earthquake (12/5) happened on a date whose digits add up to eight.
This bodes ill for the opening day of the Beijing Olympics - August 8, 2008 - which was chosen for its auspicious abundance of China's lucky number.