Chinese Superstitions

It’s time to throw out your lucky rabbit’s foot. Now that you’ve crossed into the East the polarities of fortune have changed and the normal good luck charms many longer be so charming but don’t worry, here is a list of the top 5 Chinese superstitions to keep you abreast of the whims of chance.

1. 4 is bad! 8 is good!

Lucky numbers seem to be everywhere but what drives me crazy is that they’re constantly changing. According to my last fortune cookie (which is almost non-existent in China) the numbers 4, 8, 13 and 24 were lucky which was a dead giveaway that fortune cookies aren’t Chinese! The number 4 in China is bad luck (I mean really bad, like black cat under a ladder made of broken mirrors bad). It is a homonym for the word ‘death’ and people actually pay extra money to have it removed from their phone numbers and license plates. Fortunately the number 8 is good luck. It is a homonym for the word ‘prosperity’ and people pay extra money to have it added to their phone numbers, license plates and even pay extra to live on the 8th floor.

2. Noodles should be eaten whole!

A lot of foreigners wonder why eating a bowl of noodles has to be such a noisy, slurpy business in China. What we don’t realize is the disastrous consequences of cutting a noodle in half. Imagine this; a noodle represents your life. Every inch is ten years. If we cut that line we are segmenting our lives and figuratively shortening them! Noodles must be eaten whole! I learned this lesson thanks to the good graces of a patron at my local noodlery. I had brought a plastic knife and fork with me (yeah, I was that guy) and was about to cut up my noodles into manageable pieces when a good Samaritan leaped over a table, bulldozed through some chairs and shoulder checked the cook right before tackling me through a plate glass window. As I regained consciousness and began picking shards of glass out of my forehead the man explained to me the importance of wholesale noodle consumption. God bless you sir!

3. Black Cats are your friends!

Witches can transform into any creature they want, this is a well known fact (just like how they are made of wood) which is why if a black cat crosses your path you better turn around and run! The problem is that it could be the infamous spirit of Li Shou who wards off evil at night as he roams the streets in his cute and cuddly black cat form. This one concerned me because witches travel (and fast) so I had to find a way to root out evil. My solution: carry salt with you everywhere. If you see a black cat take a handful and throw it at the cat’s super soft, cuddly face and see what happens. If it is a witch it will be reduced to ash, if not you may have blinded some random kitty (warning: Chinese people might think a foreigner throwing salt at cats is a bit strange but better safe than ambushed by witches).

4. Don’t trim your nails at night!

This is a weird one but don’t cut your fingernails at night. Apparently it attracts ghosts (I guess it’s like catnip). Ghosts aren’t inherently bad luck but they’re definitely bad news. They normally haven’t talked to anyone in a while so they will you chat you up to no end and prevent you from getting any sleep. To be fair I don’t know why you’re cutting your toenails at 2 in the morning anyway unless you like the sound of ghostly apparitions rattling chains and lulling you to sleep with their boring, undead anecdotes (it’s all in Chinese anyway so I always have a hard time understanding).

5. Dreams of teeth are dreams of death!

Ok, all sarcasm aside I’ve heard that dreams of teeth falling out are extremely common. These dreams have been interpreted in a number of ways but the general consensus is they indicate periods of dramatic change in life (unless you’re Sigmund Freud and then it has something to do with sex, obviously). In China it’s a little more serious. A dream of teeth falling out means someone in your family has died. This seems like it could be easily proven false but in China family names are shared much more commonly (like if everyone in the states was named Smith, Springer and Williams). This means that if anyone dies there is a good chance you were related to each other somehow (and in the end aren’t we all related?)

Now that I live in China I have to be careful with my luck. There are a lot of conflicts between good luck in the East and good luck in the West so I have to pick and choose carefully. I’ve decided that luck must be based on some phenomena that changes as we travel the globe. With this in mind I carry a rabbit’s foot on me until my plane crosses the 75th longitude then I trade it for a bowl of long noodles keeping luck on my side!