The informant is a 21-year-old woman who lives in Taiwan. She went to a temple and asked the God of Love for a red thread to stop bad relationships from happening. The interview was conducted through a video call.
Collector: Can you tell me more about the red thread from the God of Love?
Informant: Yeah, of course. The red thread from the God of Love represents the marriage that is meant to be in your destiny. In our culture, there’s this idea of 緣分 [yuan fen] which is roughly the idea of fate in terms of love and marriage. It’s often described as an invisible string that connects two people who belong to each other. The red thread represents the right 緣分, and it will stop other bad or just not meant to be relationships from happening.
Collector: How do you get a red thread from the God of Love?
Informant: You have to ask for one from the God of Love 月老 [yue lao]. You bring sweet snacks to the temple and put them in front of the altar. You take these things called 筊 [jiao] which are two red moon-shaped wooden pieces that can indicate what the gods and goddesses trying to say. You list out what you are looking for in your future partner and toss the pieces. If you get yes 3 times consecutively, you can get a red thread from the God of Love. I got mine from one of the biggest temples in the city. Your parents can ask for one for you as well, but you should only have one with you at all times. If you own more than one, the old one needs to be burnt in the furnace in the temple after you get permission from the God of Love.
Collector: What do you do with the thread you have?
Informant: They used to say that you should tie it on your wrist. However, the staff in the temple told me to keep mine in my wallet and make sure I look at it often. She said don’t tie it because it would mean that there will be 結 ([jie]; knots) which represent 劫 ([jie]; obstacles or disasters).
Collector: Will anything happen when you find the right person?
Informant: When they used to tie it on the wrist, they said that it would break and fall when you find the right person. But I don’t think this is the case anymore. What I’ve heard is that you will lose the tread somehow.
The religious life in Taiwan is mostly a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism. Though the God of Love 月老 mentioned by the informant is a Taoist god, the practice of asking for a red thread is a part of vernacular religion. People who would want to go through the process of earning a red thread are often feeling lost or frustrated about their dating life. The red thread acts as a guiding light in their search for their happily ever after or reassurance from a higher being that the owner’s love life is being taken care of. Owning a red thread is homeopathic magic because it symbolizes the invisible string that connects one to the right person. Jiao bei, sometimes called moon blocks, which are the red wooden indicative pieces are really amusing in the sense that the sign from gods is quite straightforward. It is also worth noting that the name 月老 or the full-name 月下老人 means the old man under the moon (Full moon), this ties back to the common connection of full moon and fertility since the god is mainly in charge of marriage.