BEIJING, Feb. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- Li Hui said he was happy to receive New Year greetings from his friends via mobile phone until he received 128 text messages during the Spring Festival or Chinese Lunar New Year.
Li, a resident in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou, said he received the greeting message "Happy New Year: I wish your family a blessed year..." 29 times on New Year's Eve.
But Li was not the only one bombarded by New Year messages. Telecom sources estimate about 12 billion greeting messages were sent among China's mobile phone users during the seven-day holiday.
A recent survey conducted by the China Institute Of Social Investigation showed more than 41 percent of the Chinese preferred to greet friends and relatives with text messages, 36 percent preferred to call, and only 18 percent chose to pay the traditional New Year visit.
"Couplets, tusu (an ancient beverage drunk on Chinese New Year) and fircrackers were the traditional symbols of China's Spring Festival," said Jiang Zengpei, director of China Mini-story Society. "But with technology developing these things are phasing out, replaced by text messages, online greetings and high-tech gimmicks created for excitement."
Besides text greetings, a growing number of the country's Internet-wise young people said they were even more comfortable with sending e-mail cards, greetings via MSN or other online communication means.
"I spent the New Year with my boyfriend online," said Hu Yi, who works for a foreign business in Beijing. She said that she was too busy to rush home for a family reunion. "After dinner, my boyfriend and I both went home. We chatted online while watching TV programs and lit electronic fireworks online together as the clock struck twelve."
However, the techno-trend was not widely welcomed, especially by the elder generation, who missed the centuries-old festival traditions that have left them with happy childhood memories. Somefear the New Year traditions are being lost in China's headlong economic development rush.
"We had lots of festive rules making it clear when to visit relatives, when to meet friends, and when to return to the mother-in-law's," said 60-year-old Tan Yonghua, from the eastern city of Nanjing. She said the traditions, however, rarely passed on to her children's generation.
"Maybe I am lagging behind the fashion but how can the festivalbe treated so casually?" she said.
For centuries, Chinese people, especially those living in the countryside, abided by many ancient rules out of fear they might bring bad luck to their families or friends. But some rules were loosened as technology advanced and society developed.
The capital city of Beijing lifted a 12-year firecracker ban this Spring Festival, previously imposed for safety reasons. The lifting of the ban was aimed to revive the festive atmosphere, previously marred by electronic firework replacements.
"New Year traditions are under unprecedented threat; the loss of Chinese culture is a grave loss for modern Chinese," said Chinese writer Feng Jicai, adding that the situation was worth worrying about if Chinese people couldn't grasp the cultural valueof celebrating a new year.
It is urgent to avoid our traditions phasing out too fast, or it would result in a cultural gap, possibly being filled with prevailing Western values, he said.