Author Archives: Wanlu Ni

Gatto Mammone

Gatto Mammone, meaning Mammon cat, is one of the creatures of myth in Italy. Long time ago there was a woman who had two daughters, one is ugly and one is very beautiful. Surprisingly, the woman loved the ugly daughter more and they were jealous of another daughters’s beauty. One day they decided to sent the beautiful daughter to a curse fairy to ask for a sieve. On her way to the castle of the fairy, she met a man who helped her and told her how to behave to find the object she sough after. In the castle, she must help the cats to do housework. The Gatto Mammone, who lives in the castle, is thankful and gives her what she asked for, along with a warning: on her way back home, she must not turn at the call of the donkey, but only when she hears a rooster. As she does so, a beautiful star is magically embedded in her forehead. After she came back, her sister also wanted to get the beautiful star so she went to the castle as well. However, she was shunned away by the cats. On her way back, she turns at the bray of the ass, and a donkey’s tail is magically embedded in her forehead.



Original Script: Ikebana is the art of arranging flowers. In Japan, women who are trained in Ikebana are thought to be virtuous. Ikebana also represents the arrangement of three elements–heaven, earth, and people. Rather than using a large variety of flowers, ikebana is minimalistic. Only a few flowers are arranged sparsely in a shallow vase. The arrangement often takes on the shape of a scalene triangle.

Background information: Ikebana is an art in which the arrangement of flowers represents a balance where nature and humanity are brought together. It also indicates a closeness with nature.

Thoughts on this piece: Ikebana is an example of a folk tradition that is elevated to an art form.

Feng Shui

Informant: my mother

Original Script: Feng Shui is a practice of arranging furniture for good luck in Chinese folklore. Doors, windows, and other types of furniture need to be balanced so that energy can flow through the house without stopping. For example, it is not good to have your bed facing the door of the bathroom, and doing so will weaken your luck. And crystals can be used to deflect negative energy. Putting a crystal figurine on your desk is beneficial.


Background information: Feng Shui is a superstition in Chinese folklore. Some people extremely believe in that so in China there is professional Feng Shui consultant that tells you how to arrange your home.


Thoughts on the piece: I did not hear any American or Western folklore that related to the arrangement of the furniture. But my friend once told me that McDonald’s use a lot of red colors in the interior because red makes people agitated so that they won’t stay in the McDonald’s for too long. The theory of color in Chinese Feng Shui is more about superstition. For example, green stimulates business and helps you earn money, and violet gives peace and insight.


The white monkey

Informant: my mother

Original Script: After the heaven was created, a book recorded the heaven’s secret was made. To prohibit human from discovering the secret of the heaven, a group of white monkeys was sent to guard the book. However, one of the monkeys was very curious so he looked at the book when there was no one around and learned some secrets of the heaven. As punishment, the monkey had to guard the book forever by himself, knowing the secrets but never able to tell anyone. The other white monkeys were set free and went down to the man’s world to discover knowledge from other sources.

Thoughts on this piece: Monkey plays a significant role in Chinese culture. The character of monkey is always curious and disobedient to the rules. One of the famous examples is the Monkey King, who rebelled against the heaven and then was imprisoned under a mountain by the Buddha.


The ama diver

In Japan, Ama divers are all female. Unlike average people who usually diving with the air tank, ama divers use no equipment but a special breathing technique called isobue when underwater. Ama harvests a lot of things from the sea, such as seaweed, sea snails, and abalone. Abalone in Japanese culture is believed to have a spiritual connection with Ise Jingu. Eating abalone contributes to longevity and youth and the deities like them. Tomokazuki is a sea demon who lures ama divers with abalone and lead to deep sea and drowns them. And it is said that Tomokazuki is a spirit of drowned ama. To protect themselves from the demon, ama sews symbols called seiman and doman on their cloth.

The Death

There was one day Alex slept next to his grandmother. He waked up at night and saw a shadowy figure standing next to his grandmother with a trident. He then raised himself from the bed and tries to see the face of the figure. However, the figure then disappeared suddenly. Next day Alex told his mom and grandmother the figure he saw yesterday. His mom said the figure was the Death and was going to take his grandmother; however, as Alex wake up and frightened away the death.


Italian Proverb

Original Script: La Befana vien di notte, con le scarpe tutte rotte

Translation: La Befana comes in the night, with her broken shoes.

Background information: Le Befana is an old, white-haired, wrinkly woman. She would come to only good kids on January 6th, leaving them candies and chocolates. And she would leave bad kids with charcoal in empty socks.

Thoughts about the piece: the story of La Befana is similar to Santa Claus.



Original Script: Tarantella is a dance always performed Italian weddings, festivals, and celebrations. Tarantella was originated from Taranto, a small town in the southern Italy, at around 15th century. The legend of Tarantella is related to a poisonous tarantula spider. A lady was once bitten by the spider, and she fell into a trance. The only solution to save her was the crazy dance performed by other people encircling her. The instruments used in the performance are usually mandolin, guitar, and tambourines. Every beat of the music would have a different effect on the lady, and the people searched for the precise rhythm that could cure the lady by trying different beats and movements.



Portuguese Proverb

Original Script: Quem não tem cão, caça com gato.

Translation: those who don’t have a dog, hunt with a cat.

Background information: the original proverb is “caça como gato”, which means “hunts like a cat.” Dogs help people during hunting,  but cats are always alone. The original meaning of the proverb is that when you want to do something but cannot find a companion, you should go doing it alone. Now the meaning of the proverb changed slightly and it used to indicate that when you cannot find the necessary means to do what you need, you should try to find other means.

Thoughts about the piece: cats always give people the impression of lonely and independent.


The rooster from Barcelos

Original Script: There is a legend about the rooster from Barcelos. Barcelos is a small town in Portugal, and one day there was a crime happened in the town but people could not find the criminal. Later a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela was suspected by the police. He was caught by the police and nobody believe in his innocence. Finally, he was condemned to death by hanging. The pilgrim then argued for his innocence by saying that, “My innocence is as certain as the roasted rooster will crow three times if I should be hung.” Everybody laughed at him because the rooster was roasted and it was dead. However, when the man was to be hung, the roasted rooster stood up and began to crow. People then believed in his innocence and set him free. The rooster from Barcelos later represents honesty and trust in Portugal.

Background information: The rooster from Barcelos is a mascot in Portugal. It is a rooster with lively colors that appears on souvenirs such as the t-shirt, keychain, and tea cups.