chinese and western superstitions

by Charlene Gao, Tim Clancy

WHEN you arrived in China, you may have already heard someone saying to you, “It’s better not to put a mirror in front of your bed..It will drain your Chi!,” or “Don’t stab your chopsticks into a bowl of rice!”, and never understood why people told you such things?. Superstitions are usually old and are usually passed down, so there is a lot cultural weighting attached with them. In this article let’s explore some Chinese and Western superstition origins.

Chinese Superstitions: 

1. Cannot Stab Chopsticks Into a Bowl of Rice

chopsticks up in rice-bowl

For serving convenience do not stab chopsticks into a bowl of rice and pass it to someone. Explanation: 1. in the north of China a bowl of rice is used to hold incense when making an offering to a dead relative or friend. 2. During the Qing period a criminal to be executed, served with chopsticks stabbed into the meal was a clear indication of their last meal.

2. Do Not Open an Umbrella Indoors


An ancient Chinese ghostbuster after catching a ghost had no suitable means to contain(封 fēng) it, except for his umbrella! This simple method of ghost containment caught on with the local populace, people were catching ghosts left, right and center. So, it is not wise to open an umbrella indoors as you don’t want ghosts running up and down the walls.

open umbrella indoors

Susan, this is why you have no friends.

3. A Red Colored Wallet Will Rid you of Your Wealth

red wallet

Red: The color of happiness, marriage, passion and also impulse! A red wallet will cause impulse spending. Having a red wallet will cause your finances to be in the red another saying is 血本无归xuè běn wú guī blood capital no return (character for word) The means all your money is spent and won’t be coming back.

woman with no money in red wallet

You just had to buy a red wallet, didn’t you?

4. When Eating Fish, Don’t Say ‘Turn the Fish Over’

fish with spices

A cooked fish on a plate may resemble a boat. In some coastal dialects 翻鱼 fān yú may sound like 翻船 fān chuán. If you were a fisherman in ancient China I’m sure you would not like to hear that at you dinner table; I am sure even the word 翻 fān would be taboo… Another taboo is resting chopsticks on the bowl so that is looks like a fallen mast.

5. If You Sneeze, Someone is Thinking About You.

woman sneezingThis superstition is very old and is even recorded in China’s oldest song and poem book 诗经shī jīng Book of odes. An ode called 终风 zhōng fēng talks about two lovers: “thinking of you, it is hard to sleep, If you are thinking of me in the same way, may I sneeze”. But If you are sneezing non-stop that means someone is thinking of you indecently and wishing you poorly.

woman surprised and sneezing

Someone is practicing their best “mad scientist” laugh while spiting you

And if you thought Chinese superstitions were strange enough, do you know all of these Western superstitions?


1. 13号正逢星期五不吉利

friday the 13th


2. 拒绝在槲寄生枝下亲吻会糟厄运



kissing under mistletoe

屌丝男: “我们必须亲,不然会死掉.” 女: “我很纠结哪个更可怕…”

3. 在梯子下走路会糟厄运



man on a ladder


4. 666: 恶魔的数字,不幸的象征


这个数字代表着恶魔的印记。这个在启示录中被提到过,是用来辨别反基督者的。根据字母密码术(巴比伦命理学,将数字转化为字母),希伯来词 “rebuke” (意为训斥)and “blessing” (意为祝福)加起来等于666。 而且1+2+3+…+36=666

5. 敲击或者触摸木头

wood texture

敲击或者触摸木头源自于自然崇拜时期。触摸木头意味着对树神的亲近,追寻幸运或者保护。敲击木头意味着敲出憩息在树中制造厄运的恶灵。在西方一旦有人说一件不幸运的事,旁边的人会去敲击木头并说”knock on wood”来保护自己,确保这事不会因为大家说了而发生。

knock on wood


Superstitions are passed down to us from the people before us, some of them are even older than the religions we may or may not practice. However, they are here and whatever they become is irrelevant. What they are is something we all share as humans.

Categories: Life, Stories

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