Human beings are superstitious especially among Chinese. If anyone who claims that he or she is not superstitious is either a liar or a fool. A lot of us believe in certain things that do not have logical explanations. This is especially true in this multi-racial country of ours. Each community has its own beliefs. It would be impossible to discuss all of the beliefs of Chinese; therefore I will just touch on some of them.
I still remember a few years ago, some of my friends and I went to a holiday in Bukit Bendera. One of friend decided to take some snapshots. So we all were dressed up and ready to be shot'. We had our individual photographs taken first, and then we decided to have group photographs. But one of my friends gave us a warning that did not made up any group of three. He said that misfortune will befall one of the three if they have their photographs taken together! After listened that everyone avoided being in a group of three. Although I STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 never heard of such a thing before but after hearing it, I did not want to take the risk. Actually it spoiled the fun a bit. I felt it was difficult to believe, even photographs can be superstitious. Honestly speaking, I do not know how much truth there is in this illogical belief but I do not dare to test it. After reading this, will you still dare to have your photograph to be taken with two other people? The number three is also taboo among cigarette smokers. On occasions I have seen a group of people lighting up their cigarettes only to a maximum of two persons per lighted match. Actually the light is slowly extinguished after two persons and then person number three will use a new match. This I have to define as the belief that maybe some tragedy will strike the third person who receives a lighted match. Well, here is another belief not to be challenged. When you are having a baby, there are some beliefs especially for the Chinese pregnant ladies such as: Don't use glue when you are pregnant because it will cause a difficult birth. Another thing is if you strike an animal during pregnancy, the newborn child will look like that animal and behave like one. Remember that you should never praise a newborn baby because it will invite evil spirits and ghosts. A concave navel means a prosperous life. Usually old people will say that a baby with more than one hair crown will be mischievous and disobedient, whereas a baby with wide and thick ears will live prosperously.
STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 Before you get married, wedding clothes should be red and yellow or white. In contrast, wearing black and blue or gray will bring bad luck to the marriage. Another strong belief is couples with the same surname cannot marry; even if they are not related, they still belong to the same ancestry and never ever marry someone who is older or younger by 3 or 6 years because these will bring you back luck after you married.
The concept of Fengshui (which literally means 'wind water') refers to the mystical belief in the geographical positioning of material objects in the physical life in such a way as to be harmonious with the spiritual life as well. In other words, if your bedroom doorway faces a bathroom at the end of the hall, this may be bad 'fengshui' or bad luck because of geographical superstitions. Good Fengshui will definitely bring you a prosperous life; there are six main rules of Fengshui that you should be obeyed. First of all, the number of steps in a staircase should be even-numbered. Secondly, it is bad luck to have two room doors face each other. Thirdly, it is bad luck if your door or gate directly faces a road. Next, don't build your house facing the north. Following by the master's bedroom should not be situated right above the garage. For the last one, the dining area should not be under a second-floor toilet.
STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 Although there are too many taboos or superstitions to list here, another example of bad luck or superstition relates to renting an apartment where someone has recently passed away. A Chinese family, in general, will never occupy or rent an apartment or room where someone has recently died. You may wonder, well people die all the time in their apartments or homes, but people are still living in apartments all over the city. Basically, either the room is vacated for a period of months or years or it is cleaned, renovated and re-rented/sold to a new family who is unaware that a death took place recently in that location. Furthermore, if one's business or health is failing, they may consult a 'geomancer' or kind of Chinese fortune teller', will rearrange one's working and living space to make it more harmonious and to reveal any taboo behavior in one's current arrangements which may most probably be unknown to the person who hiring the geomancer. Death is a particularly unlucky or taboo subject, and is seldom talked about in a joking manner. Ghosts, evil and misfortune are all topics of deadly seriousness and respect. If you are going to a funeral, be aware that an improper funeral will bring you ill fortune and disaster. Therefore remember that the statues of deities must be covered with red cloth of paper and mirrors must be hidden; a person who sees the reflection of the coffin will have a death in his/her family. A white cloth must be hung across the doorway of the house. Do not ever forget the deceased's children and grandchildren should not cut their hair for 49 days. After leaving a wake, do not go straight home lest the ghost of the dead follows you. There are some beliefs of Chinese About Organ Donations. In general, the Chinese believe that the body should remain whole and dissect parts of the body would compromise the integrity of it. The concept of wholeness, STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 you should leave the world whole. Otherwise, you are missing parts. Usualy Chinese serve fish with the head so if you leave the world, you need to be whole too. Actually, Asians are very cautious with the body and it is very important that the body is whole. The luckiest number for Chinese is eight because its Chinese word also means "prosper." While the unluckiest number is four as it sounds like the Chinese word for death. But the number "9" is good, because nine in Cantonese sounds like the word "sufficient." I once bought a set of glasses as a gift from the shopping centre and I picked out four of them. I was reminded later by my uncle that I should have gotten five because four means death. I am much more careful now and think in terms of five or six when I think of buying gifts that come in sets. Have you ever refused the number "4" in a phone number, address, license plate, etc.? Through my own experience, my grandmother told me before that never ever try to clip toenails or fingernails at night because it will bring you bad luck; the person will be visited by a ghost. Another thing is if you hearing a crow cawing between 3 and 7am means the hearer will receive gifts; while hearing a crow caw between 7 and 11am means rain and wind; and between 11am and 1pm means quarrels. Another belief is if you hear a dog howls continuously at night, this means death! Unbelievable? You better believe it!
STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 Hungry Ghost festival is a popular occasion that is taken very seriously by the Chinese. This festival that falls on the 7th month of the lunar New Year is celebrated mainly in China and other countries like Singapore & Malaysia. It is believed by the Chinese that during this month, the gates of hell are opened to free the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on Earth. Some even think that the ghosts would seek revenge on those who had wronged them in their lives. The reason why the Chinese celebrate this festival is to remember their dead family members and pay tribute to them. They also feel that offering food to the deceased appeases them and wards off bad luck. Another belief among the Chinese is that the dead return to visit their living relatives during the 7th month and thus they prepare a sumptuous meal for the hungry ghosts. The Chinese feel that they have to satisfy the ghosts in order to get good fortune and luck in their lives. During the 7th month, the Chinese offer prayers to the deceased relatives and burn joss sticks. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is a common sight to see entertaining wayang shows and concerts performed on outdoor stages in some neighborhoods. These events are always held at night. There is a belief that this entertainment would please those wandering ghosts. An interesting superstition that the Chinese have about the festival is that it is bad to go swimming during the 7th month. They think that an evil ghost might cause you to drown in the swimming pool. In addition to this, children are also advised to return home early and not to wander around alone at night. This belief is due to the reason that the wandering ghosts might possess children. During the hungry ghosts festival, the Chinese also do a lot of offerings to the deceased. These offerings are made by burning fake money notes, which are also known as hell STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 money and even paper television or radio sets. Some families also burn paper houses & cars to give to their dead relatives. The Chinese feel that these offerings reach the ghosts and help them live comfortably in their world. The Chinese regard the 15th of the month as an important date to give a feast to the ghosts. On this date, the family will cook a lot of dishes and offer them to the deceased. This is done to please the ghosts and also to gain good luck for the family. 15 days after the feast, the festival will be over, as the Chinese believe that the ghosts return back to where they come from. There are innumerable superstitions and practices surrounding the Chinese New Year. Some of them have been passed down the centuries from one generation to the other where as some are recent additions. Before New Year's Day, the entire house should be cleaned. On New Year's Eve, all brooms, brushes, dusters, dust pans and other cleaning equipment are put away. Sweeping or dusting should not be done on New Year's Day for fear that good fortune will be swept away. After New Year's Day, the floors may be swept. Beginning at the door, the dust and rubbish are swept to the middle of the parlor, then placed in the corners and not taken or thrown out until the fifth day. At no time should the rubbish in the corners be trampled upon. In sweeping, there is a superstition that if you sweep the dirt out over the threshold, you will sweep one of the families away. Also, to sweep the dust and dirt out of your house by the front entrance is to sweep away the good fortune of the family; it must always be swept inwards and then carried out, then no harm will follow. All dirt and rubbish must be taken out the back door.
STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 Shooting off firecrackers on New Year's Eve is the Chinese way of sending out the old year and welcoming in the New Year. On the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, every door in the house, and even windows, has to be open to allow the old year to go out. All debts had to pay by this time. Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. Back when tinder and flint were used, no one would lend them on this day or give a light to others. Everyone should refrain from using foul language and bad or unlucky words. Negative terms and the word "four" (Shi), which sounds like the word for death, are not to be uttered. Death and dying are never mentioned and ghost stories are totally taboo. References to the past year are also avoided as everything should be turned toward the New Year and a new beginning. If you cry on New Year's Day, you will cry all through the year. Therefore, children are tolerated and are not spanked, even though they are mischievous. On New Year's Day, we are not supposed to wash our hair because it would mean we would have washed away good luck for the New Year. Red clothing is preferred during this festive occasion. Red is considered a bright, happy color, sure to bring the wearer a sunny and bright future. It is believed that appearance and attitude during New Year's sets the tone for the rest of the year. Children and unmarried friends, as well as close relatives are given "lai zi", little red envelopes with some cash money inside, for good fortune.
STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 For those most superstitious, before leaving the house to call on others, the Almanac should be consulted to find the best time to leave the home and the direction which is most auspicious to head out. The first person one meets and the first words heard are significant as to what the fortunes would be for the entire year. It is a lucky sign to see or hear songbirds or red-colored birds or swallows. It is considered unlucky to greet anyone in their bedroom so that is why everyone, even the sick, should get dressed and sit in the living room. Do not use knives or scissors on New Year's Day as this may cut off fortune. While many Chinese people today may not believe in these do's and don'ts, these traditions and customs are still practiced. These traditions and customs are kept because most families realize that it is these very traditions, whether believed or not, that provide continuity with the past and provide the family with an identity. Superstition seems to be created from our aversion to back luck and especially death. I know of a couple of friends who will never sleep with their feet facing the door. They tell me that only corpses lie down with their feet facing the door! Soon they will be carried out through that door. My friends said that they have no desire to be corpses yet. So where do your feet face when you sleep? To avoid evil spirits, some people carry good-luck charms in their wallets. While some hang them on their doors, windows, walls and even inside their cars. How effective these things are not questioned. The point is not to take the risk of finding out. STUDY SKILLS IN ENGLISH SSE 131 Some Chinese people consider it is a bad omen to see a black cat or to walk under a ladder. Yet others say that it is definitely bad too see a funeral in progress or to see a dead man. On the lighter side some will say it is bad to take a batch after a meal or to sill salt on the table. Millions of people avoid the number 13 like the plague. They will not sleep in room 13, or go to the thirteenth floor or have anything to with the number 13. However others swear that 13 is their lucky number. As for me I tend to agree with the latter group. Now that you have read about some superstitions, do you believe them? If you do not, will you be brave enough to challenge them? It takes a brave man to challenge any of them. Honestly speaking, I am not dare to challenge them because I am not that brave.