This is a transcription of an interview with a friend from high school, identified as A. In this piece, I am identified as IC.
A: There’s this tradition called 打小人 (da siu yan), which means like to hit villains or hitting villains. The basic idea is that you hit a symbolic piece of paper or item, usually paper, while chanting in order to curse someone or something.
IC: So, it’s kind of like voodoo?
A: Kind of, I mean it’s not like a precise comparison, but you could say that it’s similar concept. So, you can target a person, spirits or just overall life to get it to do what you want to do. Like, you can try to hit away bad luck. Say you have an exam coming up and you don’t want to do badly, then you can ask someone to help you hit whatever might get in the way of you achieving your goal. It’s not a very big tradition in China; I’ve only really heard it in context of Hong Kong and maybe Guangzhou.
IC: Okay, what’s the process like?
A: I’ve never seen it in person but apparently, it’s best for it to be done in like shadowy areas. So, what you do is go up to these women who are in specific shadowy location and say what you want to curse. From what I understand each woman who does the hitting has a specific god or deity that they like to… I guess evoke when they are doing the chanting. The chanting for this is very nonsense, like I watched a video once and it was strange because no one ever talks that way. But I saw another video of another woman who said I guess, scripted prayers. It was like prayers towards a specific God or whatever.
IC: So, it’s just prayers asking a god to help?
A: Yeah, for example you ask about protection from bad spirits or another god about someone who’s cheating on you and wait until the woman is done hitting villains. I’m not sure how long it takes precisely.
IC: Are these deities ones that actually exist in like Chinese culture or is it just kind of made up?
A: They actually exist, like there are gods for specific things. There are so many deities in China.
My informant is 23 years old and she is my friend from high school, which was in Hong Kong. She went to New York for college and graduated last year. She is currently working in Hong Kong.
My informant was describing a common tradition in Hong Kong that she has never seen before but know about from her previous internship for a newspaper. She mentioned this when I asked about any traditions or activities that she knew about.
I remember seeing some women with incense and hitting pieces of paper when I grew up in Hong Kong, but I didn’t think much about it because I wasn’t familiar with the tradition. After hearing my informant describe what it was, I pieced the two together. I think this is a very odd tradition, and I’m not sure if it works but I guess there are some people who believe in this and it’s why they participate.