Author Archives: Amy Kao

Trees are Pretty Fucking Beautiful

Text:

“I think I shall never see a poem as pretty as tree.”

Background:

My informant heard this quote from his aunt when he was 10, randomly. He thinks that it means that nature can do amazing things, and people can never make thing as nice. He said that it’s probably a “hippie thing”. He still likes it although he doesn’t think about it all the time because it rhymes and it still makes sense. “Trees are pretty fucking beautiful, and I’m not a huge fan of poetry.”

Context:

My informant’s aunt would say this to him randomly while he was growing up.

Personal Thoughts:

It’s hard to analyze this saying without knowing the informant’s aunt, but I think his interpretation seems pretty plausible. I’m not sure if his aunt made this up herself, or heard it from somewhere else.

UC Berkeley Superstitions

Text:

“At UC Berkeley, there’s a 4.0 hill that if you roll down it, you’ll get a 4.0. It’s near the middle of campus that’s called The Glade. There’s also a university seal on the ground that you can’t step on or else you’ll get bad grades. It’s also next to the glade, and it’s hard to miss because it’s really big. But people are actually scared of stepping on it, and go out of their way to go around it.

Background:

My informant heard this from a Berkely student when she was visiting in high school. She doesn’t know when the superstitions started, but she thinks it probably started as a joke.

Context: 

This superstition is passed around the Berkeley campus from students.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this superstition really shows Berkeley’s culture that’s centered around grades, and the effort that students will go through in order to earn good grades. There’s a lot of academic competition there, and students are almost obsessed with earning high grades. Because of this, I think it’s natural that superstitions were started surrounding this obsession.

Taiwanese Lantern Festival

Text:

“I’m not sure about the history behind it, but there’s a lantern festival that happens in Taiwan. People write wishes on a paper lantern, light a candle in it, and let it go. Nowadays it happens all throughout the year, but historically it was a specific season, but I don’t remember exactly which day. A specific township in Taiwan is known for this, so now tourists come to do it. Tangled shows it… a lot of cultures may have lantern festivals but I think that’s what Tangled was based on. Lanterns can be pretty big, as tall as my torso, and multiple people may share a lantern” Represents belief in greater being, writing wish and sending it to the sky will make it come true. Never done it herself. But heard about it visiting Taiwan. Multiple people per lantern, can be pretty big. Size of torso.

Background:

My informant believed that it represents belief in greater being, so writing a wish and sending it to the sky will make it come true. She’s never done it herself, but she’s heard about it while visiting Taiwan.

Context:

This festival happens in Taiwan, annually.

Personal Thoughts:

I believe the lantern festival happens in various countries in Asia, and that is indeed what the Tangled lantern scene is based on. It’s an interesting part of Asian culture that has been globalized through movies, and tourism.

You can see more about the festivals here: http://disneyandmore.blogspot.com/2010/11/where-tangled-animators-found-their.html

Facial Blemishes and Leftover Rice

Text:

“If you don’t clean your plate of food, typically rice, then your spouse’s face will have a lot of blemishes.”

Background:

My informant was told this belief by her mom. She would tell it to all of her siblings when they were kids. She thinks that her mom just used this to motivate her kids to not be wasteful with their food.

Context:

Usually, parents would tell their kids this at the dinner table when they said that they were done eating, but still had food left on their plate.

Personal Thoughts:

I think this belief or saying represents the values of not being wasteful, and the importance of marriage in Chinese culture. I’ve also been told a variation of this by my parents, but instead of my spouse’s face having blemishes, she told me that my face would have blemishes, in exactly the pattern of the rice that was left on my plate.

Akbar and Birbal: Kichri Story

Text: 

“One day, Akbar challenged this dude to sit in a cold puddle all night, and he bet him he couldn’t do it. I don’t really know why, it’s just one of those dumb things that you bet with other people. The dude ended up completing the challenge, but Akbar wouldn’t give him the reward he promised him because he said that there was a lamp nearby that gave the guy heat. The guy said that the lamp was too far to give him any heat, and plus, it was out of his control, but Akbar refuses the excuses. The next day, his servant/advisor Birbal invited him to dinner. They sit and talk in the living room, and Akbar starts getting hungry and asks if the food is ready. Birbal assures him that it’ll be ready soon. Four hours pass and Akbar is getting really hungry, so he goes into the kitchen himself to see what’s going on. He find that Birbal placed the pot of Kichri (a type of lentil soup) on a very high cabinet, close to the ceiling, very far away from the stove. He gets angry and says, ‘Birbal! How do you expect this soup to cook?’ and Birbal replies, ‘the same way the lamp heated the guy you challenged.'”

Background:

My informant told me that Akbar was a real Muslim King, and Birbal was actually one of his wise servants who was Hindu. He said that Indians love Akbar because he was a progressive person, and didn’t kill Hindus even though the two groups don’t normally get along. Instead, he appointed a lot of Hindus to be a part of his cabinet, and even married a Hindu woman. He said that there are a lot of stories that revolve around these two characters and they are commonly told to kids. He thinks that the moral of this story is to be reasonable and fair.

Context:

These stories are normally told by parents to their kids.

Personal Thoughts:

It was very interesting because my informant didn’t remember the details of the story so he actually called his parents to ask them what the story was. I got to hear both his mom and dad retell him this story of Akbar and Birbal. I hear that there are a lot of Muslim/Hindu jokes that revolve around these two characters too, but they are never mean-spirited. I think this was a way for the two cultures to try to negotiate peace, and break the negative stigmas against the other culture by telling their kids these stories starting at a young age.