Panic buying of candles has swept parts of Sichuan Province following a online rumor predicting the sun won't shine and electricity will stop functioning for three days beginning December 21.
Many worried residents of Shuangliu and Longchang counties in Neijing, Sichuan Province bought candles at wholesale markets on Tuesday, prompting the wholesalers to quickly replenish their inventories, reported the West China City Daily
"The candles sold by the hundreds on Tuesday, with buyers constantly coming to the market. Many stores have run out," Huang Zhaoli, a resident who was shopping at the market was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The rumor posted on Sina Weibo said that the Mayan-calendar doomsday scenario, which suggests the world will end on December 21, is wrong. The Weibo rumor said a new era will begin on Christmas day following three days of total darkness.
A 23-year-old Neijing resident surnamed Zhou told the Global Times on Thursday that her aunt had bought many candles and matches several days ago believing the world will soon be plunged into darkness, adding that the rumor began to circulate two months ago.
The original post is unclear what story the rumormongers used to convince people it might possibly be true.
Zhou said she had managed to convince his father that the rumor is groundless by showing him scientific knowledge he found on the internet.
Many Web users connected the panic buying of candles with the salt-buying frenzy last year, which was triggered by rumors that iodized salt could help ward off radiation poisoning from a crippled Japanese nuclear power plant.
Worried Chinese shoppers stripped stores and supermarkets of salt, especially in the coastal provinces such as Zhejiang and Jiangsu.
The panic buying of candles and salt reflects people's anxiety and fears of reality, said Lu Jiehua, a professor with the Department of Sociology at Peking University.
"This panic buying not only shows people's fear of an upcoming apocalypse, but also reflects their sense of uncertainty toward life and society," said Lu, adding that such uncertainty combined with nonsensical rumors can trigger irrational behavior.
Lu suggested that better education in science will help ease people's anxiety and fears.