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From door-to-door greetings to text messages, microblogs -- Chinese Spring Festival customs get more technology-savvy

xinhuanet | Updated: 2011-02-09 10:56

Shi Jinxia, a real estate agent in Beijing, sent her greetings through text messages and microblogging on the eve of the Spring Festival, instead of walking to her friends' homes to exchange greetings as she did in her hometown.

When she was young, however, she had to wake up in the early hours of the morning to dress up and walk to their neighbors' to offer greetings. Her home, as well, would be crowded with people, who stood for a while to offer wishes and chat. In some areas, greetings also included bowing with hands folded in front and kowtowing.

"Sending text messages, you need not worry about busy lines or bother walking around. The microblog now is my new favorite. It saves you energy, money and others from being bothered," Shi said.

Figures showed that greetings for Spring Festival, or the Chinese lunar New Year which fell on Thursday, through text messages boomed this year.

China Mobile, one of the leading mobile phone operators in China, monitored that its Beijing users sent 770 million text messages on the Spring Festival eve, up about 13 percent year on year, while Shanghai users sent 920 million text messages on the same day, up 20 percent.

"It has been a routine for me to send text messages to friends and relatives after the festival dinner on Wednesday. They mostly are in my hometown in northeastern China," said a resident in Shanghai, who gave his family name as Fang.

The Chinese were expected to have sent 5 billion text messages Wednesday -- the eve of the Spring Festival -- and Thursday, said Fang Li, an analyst with the market research firm, Analysys International.

Besides text messages, microblogs compiled through mobile phones also helped push up the "thumb economy", Fang said., a leading Internet portal in China, announced 12,374 postings were sent at the first one second of the lunar New Year. Many websites created lotteries for those who use mobile phones to write microblogs.

With the spread of 3G and smart mobile phones, the "thumb economy" will be further promoted and greetings through mobile phones will become more diversified and modernized, said Chen Jinqiao, a researcher with China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT).

The "thumb economy" boom is based on increasing mobile phone users and wireless value-added services.

China reported 859 million mobile phone subscribers last year, representing about 74.5 percent of total phone use. An additional 9.23 million new mobile phone users were reported every month last year.

Mobile phones are further integrating with microblogs on different websites and China's wireless data demand is expected to explode after the second quarter this year, according to a report from China International Capital Corporation Limited (CICC).

Further, China had 63.11 million microblog users registered last year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC).

The modern way of greetings, however, also brings about complaints.

"I can not stand the frequent text message noises and just made my mobile phone silent," said Wang Shuhua, a primary school teacher in Linfen, Shanxi Province.

"There are so many! I can receive up to 300 text messages for Spring Festival in recent years. I felt touched at first, then just burdened even to have to read it," Wang said.

"Most messages are the same. People just copy and send in wholesale to their mobile phone contacts," Wang complained.

Many wishes have been made already and are available online, said Liang Zhisheng, head of a police station on Heping North Road in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi Province.

"No matter how witty they are, they can not touch our hearts as those simple or plain words from your friends' own writing," Liang said.

"I prefer microblog greetings. It's more sincere and simple. You just type a posting. It causes no burden to others," Liang said. His microblog now has about 4,000 fans.

Lian Xiong from Shantou, Guangdong Province, said he used to send Spring Festival greetings through text messages, but now he finds his microblog more attractive.

"No matter what the forms are, the core is you use your heart," Lian said.

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