Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: Mar 13, 2019
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English
Zhèng Yuè Jǐan Tóu Sǐ Jìu Jìu
This is a Chinese saying that literally means “If you get hair cut in the first month of Chinese lunar calendar, your uncle (your mother’s brother) will die”.
Context: The collector and the informant were talking about weird Chinese sayings and customs heard from parents. The informant is a USC student from Beijing.
The informant heard this saying from his mother. Once he planned to get a haircut in the first month of Chinese lunar calendar. His mother stopped him by telling him this saying. However, he forgot his mother’s word and went to get a haircut anyway. Then his mother asked him to text his uncle new year greetings and whish his uncle a year of great health. The informant found it funny and that is why he always remember this saying.
Even though the informant’s mother didn’t necessary believe that her brother would die because her son got a haircut, she didn’t think that was a good sign.
The informant doesn’t believe the saying.
The informant doesn’t know why there is this saying. He guesses it is only because it is in rhyme (“Tóu” and “Jìu”).
I have also heard of this saying, but only with little impression. I thought it was a very weird saying or custom. Maybe it’s because Chinese people view renewable body parts such as hair and finger nails also as important part of body granted from parents, so it is an ominous sign to cut hair in the first month, a meaningful period of time that is supposed to pave the way for good luck of the entire year.
However, I did some research online and found an explanation: After the Manchus overthrown the Ming Dynasty and established the Qing Dynasty, the Manchu government enforced a policy on Han people that all Han men should shave their hair and have the required hairstyle like the Manchus. Han people valued hair very much. Hair being shaved was considered humiliating. Many Han men refused to follow the policy as well as other oppression, which led to some massacres. The result was Han people passive resisted by not getting haircut in the first month of the year to express their longing for the lost Ming dynasty as “思旧 (Sī Jìu [Literally: Longing for the past])”. However, as the saying was spread, “Sī Jìu” turned into “Sǐ Jìu Jìu (Literally: Uncle dies)”.