Okay, so last week in my post These Boots were made for Walkin’! I introduced the topic of superstitions and their relevance in Chinese culture. Seriously, Chinese people make us Irish look like a rational bunch! Whether its passing under a ladder, or opening an umbrella indoors, I have always found superstitions to be quite interesting. Having spent around five years here in Taiwan, and being engaged to a Taiwanese woman, I have had the opportunity to learn of quite a few Chinese superstitions that most people may not be aware of. And be forewarned, many of them have to do with GHOSTS!
1. Whistle while you work!
(Mickey doing what he does best found at fromscreentotheme.com)
One of the superstitions that I have had a hard time coping with, has been the taboo on whistling at night. The sound is thought to attract ghosts, and nobody wants that! Now, while I am a mature adult(at least most of the time!), and I am more than happy to conform to my host country’s cultural beliefs and traditions, I honestly have a hard time with this as I often just whistle when I’m in a good mood! This bothered my fiancé when we first started dating, and I have tried my best to stop and rarely do so now, but hey, sometimes you just got to let your whistle blow!
2. Stick it to them!
(Me playing with my chopsticks after watching Wolverine….Sweet!)
…Or don’t. One of the most culturally relevant superstitions to Chinese people, is that sticking your chopsticks end-up in your bowl of rice is bad luck. This was something that I was surprised to see in the new Wolverine movie (watch it, because it’s wolverine, bub, nuf said) when I watched it the other day, though I suppose i shouldn’t have been surprised considering how much cultural exchange there has been between China and Japan for centuries (though I admittedly know little of Japanese cultural traditions). The reason this is taboo is because in Chinese funerals Incense sticks are burned, and the chopsticks look quite similar to these. So proper table etiquette is to place your chopsticks lengthwise across your bowl.
(One of my all time favorite paintings by Salvador Dali taken from www.greatdreams.com)
Okay, so as I promised here is the reason why you don’t give clocks as gifts in Chinese culture. The reason is that to give someone a clock in Mandarin or sòngzhōng(送鐘) sounds like sòngzhōng(送終) which is when you go to pay your respects to a dead relative or friend (like to attend their funeral). So if you give someone a clock for a present, it’s like you want them to die! Not something you do for a friend, but if you hate someone, then I guess it’s okay…cmon, I’m just kidding alright? Don’t do it, PERIOD!
I hope that you found this article informative, and if you knew everything already, then at least entertaining. Rest assured, I have not exhausted my repertoire of superstitions, so look for a future post to learn even more ways to annoy your Chinese friends!
Chinese phrases of the day:
sòngzhōng(送終)= literally give an end; pay your respects for a friend or relative at their funeral