Author Archives: Audrey Huang

Sana Sana Colita de Rana

Text: “sana sana colita de rana”

“heal heal frog’s tail”

Context:

Informant: Whenever we got home when we were younger our mom would say “sana sana colita de rana”. Colita de rana is frog’s tail, it means heal heal frog’s tail, if it doesn’t heal today it shall heal tomorrow.

Informant: It’s um it’s kinda like not a really good luck thing, but when a young person gets hurt you know their crying and stuff so the mom says the magic potion thingy stuff so the kids stops crying and supposedly they heal faster. But it’s like I think it’s mostly like to make the kid shut up it’s a nice tradition thing, instead of saying oh you’ll get better, there’s a whole song to it and stuff so it’s like wow. It’s the “magic healing saying that your mom tells you”

Me: Is this saying a family tradition?

Informant: Yes and like no. A lot of people in Mexico use this. so it’s like passed down from generations I think. But it’s like a lot of people do it

Me: Would you personally consider it magic?

Informant: No, but I will add the placebo effect comes in

Context of Performance:

In-person conversation about things our parents would say when we were younger.

Personal Thoughts:

While “modern” medicine creates a clear distinction between the mind and the body, phenomena such as the placebo affect seem to call this distinction into question. This particular phrase – “sana sana colita de rana” – seems to play into the placebo effect. This phrase is merely words, it doesn’t physically tend to a child’s wounds. However, these words from a parent or trusted adult can comfort and soothe a child.

I’ve seen many memes on the parenting side of social media that joke that as long as a parent doesn’t act like they’ve been hurt, a child could be hit by a meteor and not cry. This particular piece of folklore seems to have a similar philosophy – a child will be ok if you comfort them with a magical healing little song.

Additional Notes:

As noted by the informant, this saying usually comes in song form, with an example linked below:

Chin Pum Pan Tortillas Papas

Text: “chin pum pan tortillas papas”

Context:

Informant: A magic thing that, if you want something to work, but it doesn’t work, let’s take the TV. You like do a few things and then you’re like chin pum pan tortillas papas and you turn on the TV and it’s like ay it works. It’s like abra kadabra but it’s like *indistinguishable noises* and then it works. You know?

Me: Is this a family tradition?

Informant: Um I think it’s a regional thing. Not everyone in Mexico does it it’s just certain regions.

Me: Do you know the origin?

Informant: No

Me: What do you personally think of it?

Informant: Um it would help make things work magically, but it’s again a placebo effect thing.

Personal Thoughts:

As noted below under additional notes, this phrase may have originated from the 80’s TV Show ‘Chuiquilladas’. Of course, the show could’ve been inspired by another source. In the case that this originated in the TV show, this saying then appears to be a case of a pop culture catchphrase becoming a folk saying. While that may seem like inauthentic folklore (a TV show comes from a institution, presumably with power and money and authority), the use of the phrase seems to have moved away from the TV show to become something independent.

Additional Notes:

The following link claims that this phrase came “from the magician ‘Rody’ in this 80’s TV Show ‘Chiquilladas'”

Why do frogs croak when it rains?

Text Transcript:

“and it was that like, ummm, that so the son was very arrogant sort of thing, and he did the opposite of whatever his mom told him, and then, when the mom was going to die, how did it go again, like each time he disobeyed her she would get weaker and sicker, and then when she was about to die, she went ok well he always does the opposite of what I say, so let me say I want to get buried by the river, so um where she actually wanted to be buried was by the hills, so he’ll do the opposite and bury me where I want to be. But the sun was really sad and wanted to do the thing his mom said for once, so he buried her by the river. But then the rain came in and essentially swept her away, so the frogs croaking is like he’s crying because… frogs croak, it’s normally when it rains, but like, so it’s like they’re crying”

[for clarification, the mother and son were both frogs]

Context:

Collected from an in-person conversation, the informant said that she was told this legend by a Korean girl in one of her classes. The myth is of Korean origin.

Personal Thoughts:

I know that the scientific reason why frogs croak after it rains is because male frogs are looking for a mate, but explaining that to a child can definitely be very daunting. In addition, this short myth hides many moral stories as well. For example, the son didn’t obey the mother, but when he did, his mother had assumed he wouldn’t obey and her body was washed away. In this series of events, we can see society’s desire for a son to obey his mother. In addition, we can see how a mother could lose trust in their child, as seen with the mom frog assuming that her son wouldn’t listen and saying she wanted to be buried where she didn’t want to be.

FengShui: Don’t Put Your Stairs in Line with the Door

Clarification:

Chinese (Simplified): 风水
Chinese (Traditional): 風水
Romanization/Pingyin: fēngshuǐ
Literal Translation: wind water
Free Translation: “Chinese geomancy” (Wikipedia), essentially harmonizing with the natural world

Text:

Q: Did your parents believe in FengShui?

A: Yeah, they believe it. But even like our house, our people say, like the stairway? If the stairway directly point to front door, that mean all your money is gone. That mean

That’s why when you go to Chinese family you don’t see stairway pointing directly to front door.

Q: So is it just the way things are positioned?

A: Well, I mean they basically you directly point front door that mean all your your your wealth going out the door.

Context:

Q: How did you learn about FengShui?

Informant: I mean, the thing is I, I didn’t get as much knowledge as I should because when I, when the high school already away from my parents grandparents. […] Yeah, but, even then they aren’t experts. They always found somebody pointing a certain thing to them.

Q: Did a lot of people believe in FengShui?

Informant: Well… more and more now. I think the, in China, when Cultural Revolution came, they kinda destroyed a lot of those believes. But like, people in HongKong, Taiwan, they believe a lot more than mainland China. But in mainland China now, they have more and more people believe. Especially uh in my side of the area, those people.

Q: As in like in the country side or in your province?

Informant: Well in the province, but well I think now more and more people believe. In the whole China. Because they they, I mean, this is traditional culture so. So even though Cultural Revolution interrupt for a period of time, they those things coming back. Yeah, they have all kind of stuff, but as I say I don’t do a lot of study for this kind of stuff. 

Q: Do you know when it originated? Like what Dynasty? 

Informant: I’m not quite sure, I, I obviously I mean, follow the tradition I don’t know when it started. I’m not quite sure.

Q: How did the Cultural Revolution affect FengShui?

Informant: Well cultural revolution, Chairman Mao basically want to break all of the traditions, right. This this fengshui is tradition, I mean they they go through all this Well basically Chairman Mao break everything that is tradition. basically want a brand new culture, everything brand new. So it last for 10 years, obviously affect uhhh some people. I mean when I came to U.S., I found out a lot Taiwanese family, HongKong family, a lot more tradition. I mean they you go to their house, or even I work for a restaurant they always have some food put aside to to try to what you call, to feed your ancestors that kind of stuff. But in my time, in China, Cultural Revolution those things stopped. So we haven’t practiced for until a little bit later on, when Chairman Mao died, Cultural Revolution end. So maybe another 10 years people slowly slowly bring back the practice.

Personal Thoughts:

This one was really weird to me, because whenever I visited the homes of my non-Chinese friends, having the staircase lined up with the front door was a point of pride. On the other hand, I’ve always found it weird that the staircase in my home was slightly to the side of the front door.

In addition, I’ve always felt that my family has had less traditions than my friend’s family (who was Chinese-Malaysian). Then, coming to USC, I also saw a lot of Taiwanese and Hong Kong families with many more traditions than my own. It was interesting to learn that a lot of it is due to the Cultural Revolution trying to tamp down prior traditions. In addition, the Cultural Revolution essentially happened during my parents teen years, so even if they were told stuff when they were a kid they wouldn’t quite understand it, and they wouldn’t have been exposed to it in their teen years when they could understand.

Additional Notes:

For a similar discussion of the oppression of culture under Communism and Post-Communist revival, read:
Valk, Ulo. 2006. Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore. Journal of Folklore Research 43: 31-51

FengShui: Where to Bury a Body

Clarifications:
Chinese (Simplified): 风水
Chinese (Traditional): 風水
Romanization/Pingyin: fēngshuǐ
Literal Translation: wind water
Free Translation: “Chinese geomancy” (Wikipedia), essentially harmonizing with the natural world

Text:

Informant: My grandparents talk a lot of stuff. They also, they also told me a lot of my great father where bury, his location, how good it is, that kind of stuff. I- at that time I was quite young I don’t quite understand. He uh my grandparents basically looking everywhere to find a a a place to bury to bury my great great parent father. He he obviously he not expert, but he got somebody who claim to be expert. They found location in some mountain point in a certain direction, it’s just well, I mean, whatever you want to saying say it makes sense, they believe.

Informant: I mean, when people bury need to find a optimal location and direction. Well supposedly we find a good location and direction, we you you you can benefit your your offspring and all this stuff. That’s what they… claim. That’s fengshui.

Informant: That’s why I mean everything. House, location, direction inside the house furniture how to put it… is all fengshui.

Context:

Q: How did you learn about FengShui?

Informant: I mean, the thing is I, I didn’t get as much knowledge as I should because when I, when the high school already away from my parents grandparents. […] Yeah, but, even then they aren’t experts. They always found somebody pointing a certain thing to them.

Q: Did a lot of people believe in FengShui?

Informant: Well… more and more now. I think the, in China, when Cultural Revolution came, they kinda destroyed a lot of those believes. But like, people in HongKong, Taiwan, they believe a lot more than mainland China. But in mainland China now, they have more and more people believe. Especially uh in my side of the area, those people.

Q: As in like in the country side or in your province?

Informant: Well in the province, but well I think now more and more people believe. In the whole China. Because they they, I mean, this is traditional culture so. So even though Cultural Revolution interrupt for a period of time, they those things coming back. Yeah, they have all kind of stuff, but as I say I don’t do a lot of study for this kind of stuff. 

Q: Do you know when it originated? Like what Dynasty? 

Informant: I’m not quite sure, I, I obviously I mean, follow the tradition I don’t know when it started. I’m not quite sure.

Q: How did the Cultural Revolution affect FengShui?

Informant: Well cultural revolution, Chairman Mao basically want to break all of the traditions, right. This this fengshui is tradition, I mean they they go through all this Well basically Chairman Mao break everything that is tradition. basically want a brand new culture, everything brand new. So it last for 10 years, obviously affect uhhh some people. I mean when I came to U.S., I found out a lot Taiwanese family, HongKong family, a lot more tradition. I mean they you go to their house, or even I work for a restaurant they always have some food put aside to to try to what you call, to feed your ancestors that kind of stuff. But in my time, in China, Cultural Revolution those things stopped. So we haven’t practiced for until a little bit later on, when Chairman Mao died, Cultural Revolution end. So maybe another 10 years people slowly slowly bring back the practice.

Personal Thoughts:

China is incredibly, incredibly old. While people in England can trace back their family line centuries, people in China can trace back family lines even further. I think the meticulousness in choosing a burial place for passed family members is in part because of this massive traceable family history. In addition, Confucianism – one of the main philosophies in China that has existed for a long, long time – also places a heavy emphasis on family and the obligation of each member of a family. Confucianism also emphasizes the duty of young people to respect their elders, which is reflected by younger people finding a perfect place for their elders to rest. What I find particularly interesting about this though is the intersection between family dynamics and harmony with the natural world.

Additional Notes:

For a similar discussion of the oppression of culture under Communism and Post-Communist revival, read:
Valk, Ulo. 2006. Ghostly Possession and Real Estate: The Dead in Contemporary Estonian Folklore. Journal of Folklore Research 43: 31-51