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Miscellaneous customs and beliefs


Many superstitions abound in Chinese culture about brooms. The use of brooms should only be for cleaning the house, shop etc. Traditional Chinese culture holds that a broom is inhabited by a spirit, thus explaining why it should not be used for games, playing etc. The broom should not be used for cleaning the household gods or altar as this is disrespectful. These objects are cleaned with a cloth or a special small brush. During the Spring Festival, Chinese custom prohibits the use of the broom for three days from New Year’s Day, as it is thought that use of it will sweep away the good luck the new year brings.

Beating a person with a broom will rain bad luck upon that person for years. The curse can however be lifted by rubbing the part of the body hit several times. The broom should never touch the head: this is very bad luck. In gambling, the spirit in the broom is sometimes invoked by ‘threatening’ it until luck in gambling ensues. The broom is also sometimes used in temple rituals. Here, the person’s whole body is swept with the broom in front of the deities and the broom then beaten. This functions to remove bad luck.

Moustaches and beards

Despite a long history of beards and moustaches in Chinese heroes and Chinese deities pictured with beards, wearing a moustache is considered bad luck by Chinese custom, and can bring misfortune on the family and relatives of the wearer. Being unshaven is associated with the working classes- who are thought not to have time to shave- and thus lowers the status of the wearer.

Finger and toe nails

Chinese custom forbids the clipping of one’s toe or finger nails at night as it is believed that this may cause a visit from the dead or a ghost. Nail clippings are to be carefully collected and disposed of in a place unknown to others as it is believed that nail clippings can be used to cast a spell or curse upon the person from whom the clippings have come.

The fluid from a dog’s eye

Dogs are believed to have the ability to see supernatural beings such as ghosts and phantoms, and howl when they see one. If a dog howls continuously, it is believed that this presages an imminent death.

Following from this, it is believed that the fluid from a dog’s eye can enable humans to see the spirit world, for example ancestors’ souls. A medium will smear the fluid on his/her eyes in order to see the supernatural world for the purposes of exorcism etc. However it is believed that ordinary people who smear the fluid from a dog’s eye on their own eyes may die from the shock of seeing the afterlife.

Miscellaneous customs and superstitions

Dreaming of snow or teeth presages the death of a parent.

Hearing a crow cawing between 3 and 7am means the hearer will receive gifts, whereas hearing a crow caw between 7 and 11am rain and wind will follow, and between 11am and 1pm quarrels will ensue.

If a man's ears burn it can mean special things: if they burn between 11pm and 1pm there will be harmony between him and his wife; if they burn between 1 and 3 in the afternoon, a guest will soon arrive.

Yarrow and tortoiseshell are considered to be lucky.

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Page last modified: 14-12-2017 17:07:13 ZULU