Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine
general

Hong Ahn (Egg Rub Remedy)

Barbara is a Chinese-American who graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Her parents are from Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States, before giving birth to her in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles. She recently received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and is currently working at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles. Her hobbies are baking, exploring hipster cafes or restaurants, and reading thriller novels.

Original Script

So whenever I like fell down or had a nasty fever my mom would put this egg—she would boil an egg and she’d cut them open and then you’d have to slice it and then you take out the yolk and then you put a real silver coin in it where the yolk was and then you put the egg in a like cloth like hanky and then you twist it and then you rub it against wherever you‘re hurt like if you got a headache you put it on your forehead and then if you have like a bruise on your knee you’d put it on your knee and then you’d have to keep rubbing it and then the coin would suck out all the bad vapors from that area all the negative stuff and then the coin would turn to different colors so like it depends on what color it is. It means like different things. So if the coin turns black or blue it means you have too much like cool air and red and orange it means it’s too much hot air or like yi-hei and then that means like you’ve been eating too much fried food instead—you’ve had like too much hot air. Well that’s it, so the coin sucks out all the bad stuff that’s been making you hurt.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first learned of this Chinese remedy when her mother performed it on her when she was sick as a child. She felt much better laying on her mother’s lap and feeling the pleasant warmth of the boiled egg gently rubbed on her face.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

This traditional Chinese medical treatment involves continuous pressured strokes over the skin with a rounded tool. It has been practiced by practitioners, who believe the treatment releases negative elements from injured areas, stimulates blood flow, and encourages healing. Nowadays, Chinese parents often use this remedy on their children whenever they have a fever or a cold or whenever they feel depressed.

My Thoughts about the Performance

This is a remedy that my mother has also practiced on me when I was sick or unhappy. Common spots parents rub the boiled egg on are the forehead and eyes. The warm sensation of the egg, while laying on one’s parent’s lap, gives a sense of security and calm to the child. I find it fascinating how this ancient folk medicine maintains a continued presence in today’s world, passed down by generations of families. In the past, this treatment seemed to have a more respectable and legitimate status. Now, it is generally treated as a placebo effect to comfort people, specifically children.

Childhood
Narrative
Tales /märchen

A Korean Tale of Two Brothers

Jenny is a Korean-American studying Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Studies at USC. She transferred from Mt. San Antonio College to USC in the fall of 2016. After graduating and attaining her B.S. in a year, she plans to pursue her Master’s in Korea. Her hobbies are watching anime, eating Korean BBQ, and playing phone app games.

Original Script

Ok, so this is another story I actually saw—but I actually saw it on this, like, cartoon show that my mom got for me. It’s like a Korean cartoon. Um, basically what happened is there were two men and they were brothers and they were both farmers. And they lived in farms like right across from each other and every night one of the brothers, he, would be like, “Oh I think I want to give my other brother more hay so that he can be…he can like have more success.” And, so every night, he would bring over a bunch of hay from his farm to his brother’s farm and he would keep doing that with food and, um, maybe like fertilizer—things like that. And then what happened is one night he accidentally—‘cause it was really dark so he couldn’t really see well—he was walking and then he bumped into somebody and then he like looked to see who it was. And it was actually his own brother who was giving him, who like had, like, fertilizer and hay also. So it turned out that they were both giving each other, like, what they had just for the sake of the other brother.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant learned of this story from a book her mother read to her as a child. The tale of the two brothers has a special place in her heart because she admires the strong bonds between the siblings. Their ability to give and never expect anything in return brought a smile to her face every time before she fell asleep. The story taught her about familial sacrifice and to treasure her family.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

Although the story is a folk tale, there is a memorial tomb dedicated to the two brothers in Chungcheongnam-do. This suggests that the tale could actually be based on real siblings, making the story even more inspiring to people who have heard of it. Erected in 1497, the tomb is engraved with 173 hanja characters, extolling the brothers’ familial love and piety as ideal examples to future generations concerning how one should behave towards one’s family.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I found this narrative very heartwarming because of the sacrificial familial love it promotes. Hearing the tale reminded me of the numerous times both my parents and older sister have gone out of their way to support me and my dreams. Rather than the several stories I have heard about family feuds or sibling rivalries, this is one of generosity, of selfless love, and of everlasting brotherhood.

Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

O-mikuji

Aubrey is a Japanese-American currently attending ELAC. She plans to transfer to UCSD to pursue a bachelor’s in Marine Biology because she intends to protect the marine environment with her university education. She enjoys drawing, watching anime, attending sports games with her dad, and playing with her dogs.

Original Script

So every morning on New Year’s Day, Japanese people would go to a shrine. They would toss in yen in this, like, designated area where you’re supposed to toss yen. And then you ring this large bell, bow, clap your hands twice, and you pray for good luck…And also some people choose to buy these small papers with messages called o-mikuji and some papers have really good luck, some papers have really bad luck. The papers that have good luck you’re supposed to keep so that the good luck will stay with. And the papers that have really bad luck, you’re supposed to tie them on a tree that’s in the shrine area so that the bad luck can stay away from you.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first performed this ritual at a Shinto temple during her trip to Japan on New Year’s Day in elementary school. She remembered this custom because she enjoyed fortune-telling practices and the concepts of second chances and casting away bad luck on a tree.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

In Japan, people perform these actions—ringing the bell, bowing, clapping twice—at temples for various reasons. The three main reasons are to draw the god’s attention, to ward off spirits, and to express their gratitude and respect for the god. Found in various temples and shrines throughout Japan, o-mikuji are strips of paper that grant fortunes ranging from a great blessing to a great curse. They predict one’s chances with various aspects of life: health, love, success, etc. However, when the prediction is bad, it is custom to fold the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree. This custom originates from how the Japanese character for “pine tree” (松 / matsu) sounds like the characters for “to wait” (待つ / matsu), with the concept being that the bad luck will wait by the pine tree.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I found the Japanese custom for praying at a Shinto temple interesting, because I never knew what the reasons were for people ringing the bell, bowing, and clapping. I also thought the idea of placing bad luck in the form of strips of paper, or o-mikuji, on pine trees amusing. I did not realize that this custom was built on a sound pun, but I appreciate the fact that the custom provides several chances to a person for good fortune.

Childhood
Customs
Festival
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hinamatsuri (Doll Festival)

Aubrey is a Japanese-American currently attending ELAC. She plans to transfer to UCSD to pursue a bachelor’s in Marine Biology because she intends to protect the marine environment with her university education. She enjoys drawing, watching anime, attending sports games with her dad, and playing with her dogs.

Original Script

When I was small, every year on March 3rd, we celebrate this holiday called Hinamatsuri, which is Girls’ Day. And you set up these dolls called hina-ningyō on these 5- to 7-tiered stands called hina-dan and the dolls are supposed to protect the family from evil spirits. And you’re supposed to leave the dolls up for a few days after the holiday because putting them away quickly will be bad luck.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first performed this ritual during her trip to Japan on New Year’s Day in elementary school. She enjoyed Hinamatsuri because it was a memorable family bonding event and it was fun handling the dolls.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

Hinamatsuri, also known as Doll Festival or Girls’ Day, is celebrated every year on March 3rd in Japan. On this day, the parents pray for their daughters’ happiness, health, and growth. This festival originated from a thousand years ago in the Heian Period. It is a tradition to display ceremonial dolls, dressed in the attire of the people of the traditional court, on tiered shelves.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I find it endearing that there is a festival purely dedicated to ensuring a daughter’s happiness and wellbeing in Japan. Over time, it seems that the festival’s promotion of one’s health and good luck has also spread to other members of one’s family. However, the placement of the dolls, decreasing in status as one moves down the platforms, remains generally the same. The festival connects the past to the present by having the ancient court from the Heian Period watch over and protect families of today.

Childhood
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Omusubi Kororin (The Rolling Rice Ball)

Aubrey is a Japanese-American currently attending ELAC. She plans to transfer to UCSD to pursue a bachelor’s in Marine Biology because she intends to protect the marine environment with her university education. She enjoys drawing, watching anime, attending sports games with her dad, and playing with her dogs.

Original Script

So an old man was eating rice balls for lunch and he accidentally dropped them into this hole. And the man goes to see where the rice ball went and in that hole he hears like a bunch of mice singing, “Yay, yay!” And then the mice see the old man they’re like, “Oh thank you for the food. You’re so nice. Let’s give you a souvenir. Yay!” And they say, “You can either choose this small box or a large box as a souvenir.” So the old man chooses the small box and when he goes home the small box has a bunch of money and gold inside and since he’s so nice he gives the money and gold to all the people in the town. Then his next-door neighbor hears about this and becomes like super jealous. Then he tries to copy what the old man did and he puts the rice balls in the same hole and the mice were also, “Yay, happy, thank you, you’re so nice!” And then one of the mice asks what he wants for a souvenir. The old man imitates a cat and he tries to scare the mice so they go away and the mice get mad and they attack the old man and they kill him.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant heard this folktale from her grandparents as a bedtime story when she was just a small child. She remembered this tale because of the violent ending and because she likes eating onigiri, or rice balls.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

In Japan, parents would often teach their children important lessons and values through folktales. The lesson of this narrative is that a greedy man never prospers; it teaches children to not be selfish and materialistic.

My Thoughts about the Performance

Considering this is a story mainly directed at children, I was startled to hear such a violent ending. The folktale was very entertaining overall, but I did not expect the villain, the other old man, to die. However, there are many variations of this folk narrative; one alternate ending is that the old man escapes the mice’s den only to be accidentally hit on the head by his wife’s stick, and another is the old man successfully escapes the den without gaining any treasure.

For another version of this folktale, see:

“Omusubi Kororin – The Tumbling Rice Balls.” Morgan Schatz Blackrose International Storytelling. Trans. Morgan S. Blackrose. N.p., 20 Aug. 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://www.schatzblackrose.com/blackrose_web/pdf/Omusubi%20Kororin.pdf>.

Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

Three Times Japanese Superstition

Aubrey is a Japanese-American currently attending ELAC. She plans to transfer to UCSD to pursue a bachelor’s in Marine Biology because she intends to protect the marine environment with her university education. She enjoys drawing, watching anime, attending sports games with her dad, and playing with her dogs.

Original Script

If it happens twice, it happens three times. So for instance, if you drop something twice that day, the third time you drop an object it’ll be a much more valuable object such as glass or your phone.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first heard of this superstition from her mother one day when she was in elementary school. She had dropped her phone twice that day before her mother warned her what would happen for the third time. She was so scared of what would happen in the future that she handled her phone like a precious diamond.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

Although the Japanese believe the numbers, four and nine, are unlucky, they have superstitions where the penalty for committing a taboo action is three years of bad luck. There is also the superstition that sneezing three times means someone is talking unfavorably about you. This superstition told by the informant also calls upon the number three as a connotation for bad luck.

My Thoughts about the Performance

When I heard about this superstition, I thought the informant’s mother told her daughter about the superstition to scare her into treating her phone with care. In a broader context, this Japanese folk belief may have been created to encourage people to be more cautious about their possessions. It seems that one of the functions of folklore in most, if not all, cultures is to scare people into performing an action.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Signs

Chinese New Year’s Shoes

Barbara is a Chinese-American who graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Her parents are from Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States, before giving birth to her in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles. She recently received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and is currently working at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles. Her hobbies are baking, exploring hipster cafes or restaurants, and reading thriller novels.

Original Script

So, um, for Chinese New Year, also known as Lunar New Year, there’s a tradition that my family likes to follow. In addition to giving red envelopes to the youngsters who have not married yet, um, every year we like to, um, get some new clothes for the New Year, new shoes of course. And, the morning of Chinese New Year, we do a little ritual where we put on the new shoes and we kind of stomp around to step away all the bad juju and all the bad people or bad luck that will come our way for this year. And we just keep stomping, and during that time, we would chant, “Chai-siu-yurn!” Literally, it means like, “step away all the little people—the little people go away.”

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

Ever since she could remember as a little girl, she performed this ritual with her family on every Chinese New Year’s. She enjoyed stomping on the ground and making a lot of noise for the sake of having good luck.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

Many Chinese people believe that purchasing and wearing a new pair of slippers on Chinese New Year’s would expel the negative energy from their household. By stomping on the ground of their homes, they are metaphorically stepping on the bad luck and the people who have treated them badly.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I was surprised to hear of this superstition, because my Chinese parents told me it is unlucky to buy a new pair of shoes on New Year’s Day. They said new shoes would bring me unluckiness and invite evil spirits to plague me for the coming year, since “shoes” in Cantonese is a homonym for “rough” and it sounds like the word “sigh.” Since the informant and I both have Cantonese backgrounds, I find it interesting how we have different superstitions regarding purchasing new shoes on Chinese New Year’s Day.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Signs

Gift of Time Taboo

Barbara is a Chinese-American who graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Her parents are from Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States, before giving birth to her in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles. She recently received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and is currently working at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles. Her hobbies are baking, exploring hipster cafes or restaurants, and reading thriller novels.

Original Script

Ok, and you don’t want to give your significant other a watch or a clock or anything that tells time ‘cause it kind of means that you’re telling them it’s time for them to go, like they’re gonna to either leave you or they’re gonna die or something.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first heard of this superstition from a friend she was eating with in high school. They were discussing what to give to a friend for her birthday, and the topic of a watch as a potential present came up in the conversation.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

This ancient Chinese superstition has endured time because of its meaning and its sound. The phrase for “giving a clock” is 送钟 (sòng zhōng), which sounds like “song jong.” The pronunciation is similar to that of the phrase for “attending a funeral ritual,” which is 送终 (song zhōng). Besides the sound, clocks and watches also represent running out of time. Thus, the Chinese have always generally considered shoes as taboo gifts.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I have never considered watches or any other objects that tell time as gifts that imply death or abandonment. When I heard about this Chinese superstition I was surprised, because I have both given and received watches as presents. I find this superstition somewhat funny, because the source of this belief is based on sounds and metaphors. I have also never had any near-death experiences or had the person leave me after giving me the present.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Signs

Gift of Shoes Taboo

Barbara is a Chinese-American who graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of California, Riverside. Her parents are from Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States, before giving birth to her in Baldwin Park, Los Angeles. She recently received her Master’s in Clinical Psychology and is currently working at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles. Her hobbies are baking, exploring hipster cafes or restaurants, and reading thriller novels.

Original Script

Ok so you don’t want to give your significant other a pair of shoes for their birthdays or Christmas or as a present because it means that they’re going to run away with the shoes you got for them.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant first heard of this superstition when she was shopping for shoes with her mom. She remembers this superstition because she especially enjoys buying or receiving shoes as presents.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in my house.

This ancient Chinese superstition has endured time because of its meaning and its sound. The character for “shoes” is 鞋 (xié), which sounds like “syeah.” The pronunciation is similar to that of the character for “bad luck,” which is 邪 (xié). Besides the sound, shoes are also tools used to step on or run away from something. Thus, the Chinese have always generally considered shoes as taboo gifts.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I have never considered shoes as gifts of bad luck or ulterior motives. When I heard about this Chinese superstition I was surprised, because I have both given and received shoes as presents. I find this superstition somewhat funny, because the source of this belief is based on sounds and metaphors.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Bath of Pomelo Leaves

Daniel is an immigrant from Hong Kong who immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities and a better life for both him and his family. Living in a poor family with seven other siblings, he immediately went to work as a police officer after receiving his high school diploma in Hong Kong. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he worked as a computer technician, and subsequently, changed his career to a funeral counselor.

Original Script

In our Chinese tradition, we believe the pomelo leaves can clean up all the dirty, evil stuff. Okay, so uh during the uh New Year Eve night, most of the Chinese, they will like to—I am talking about the Asian ones, the old ones—they will boil some pomelo leaves with a whole bowl of water, so all of the water will turn into green after boiling it. And then they will use the pomelo leaves to take a bath during the New Year Eve in order to clean up all the dirty, evil stuff from them. So they said they will cause them lucky for the coming year.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant performed this tradition with his family ever since he could remember as a child. He continues this practice with his wife and children every year on Chinese New Year’s. Although he does not believe in its ability to grant luck anymore, he maintains this tradition because it is a custom he was raised with as a child.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant at his house.

A longstanding tradition of the Chinese for Chinese New Year’s is bathing in pomelo leaves. By cleaning their bodies in water boiled with these leaves, they believe that they are washing away the dirt and casting away evil spirits from the previous year. This tradition follows the Chinese principle of “cleaning” and starting anew for the coming year.

My Thoughts about the Performance

There are many traditions during Chinese New Year’s, such as eating sweets to ensure one a “sweet” year and opening windows or doors to bring in good luck for the coming year. Considering what the pomelo fruit represents to the Chinese—abundance, health, childbearing, prosperity—I find this custom befitting for this holiday.

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