Author Archives: Marcus Wu

Shitty Luck

Informant is my friend that has grown up in Taiwan and Canada, while also studying in LA.

Informant:

狗屎運 (Gou Shi Yun) literally means: “dog poo luck”. In our culture upon stepping on any type of poop is considered good luck. We just happen to say dog poo because there are more stray dogs that poo on the streets. Stepping on the dog poop on the street is in itself an unlucky event, but doing so is supposed to bring some personal good luck. Walking around carrying the luck everywhere as you go around!

I personally think that this is a pretty funny superstition about stepping on dog poop. It is like feeling bad for yourself to be this unlucky to step on poop, but thinking of it bringing good luck to yourself is a good way to get around being sad for oneself.

Chopsticks

Informant is my friend that has grown up in Taiwan and Canada, while also studying in LA.

Informant:

 

Never, ever, ever put your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice. This is a physical resemblance to burning incense. We only burn incense when you go to a temple and usually during a funeral, so putting your chopsticks vertically into a bowl of rice is like praying for someone’s death. Not tot the point of like a threat or anything but like a sign of disrespect.

My mom has always told me as a child to never do this. I never knew the reason, but only knew it was bad. This has really given me some interesting insight into my own culture and why we do these things.

4th Floor

Informant is my friend that has grown up in Taiwan and Canada, while also studying in LA.

Informant:

 

In almost every modern apartment in Taiwan, they will usually have the 4th floor, but older buildings will not have the 4th floor because the number 4 is a homophone to the word death. 死(si) death and 四(si) four sound similar so to prevent people from living on the “floor of death” they got rid of the 4th floor. It is especially the case in Hospitals. There are no floors or rooms with the number 4, no one would want to stay in a hospital room or floor that has anything that reminds them of death!

I think this is very similar to the American unlucky number 13, although this seems to be more prevalent in Taiwan. Although not seen as much in newer buildings and such, it is still seen in the older buildings. Just goes to show that with time, some superstitions disappear in many ways.

Shaky Legs

Informant is my friend that has grown up in Taiwan and Canada, while also studying in LA.

Informant:

I personally hate looking at people who shake their legs, especially seeing you do it so much annoys me so much. My dad used to say that it is bad in our culture because it is a sign of boredom as well as a sign of losing wealth. In ancient China, if you were to shake your legs, it is like shaking away your wealth. If you kept shaking your legs, you would lose all your coins as they would slip out of your pockets. That is why I always tell people this story to help them get rid of their bad habits.

I have a really bad habit of shaking my legs, after hearing this story I felt that although it does not really happen in our age with the invention of wallets and deep pockets, it is still partially true and definitely a better thing not to shake one’s legs.

Trip to Dun Huang

The informant went to Dun Huang China in the early 2000s for her dissertation work and upon entering various old caves that contained Buddhist arts, she had a very supernatural phenomenon happen to her.

Informant: The first time I went there, I stayed in Dun Huang for a month. Then, that was a seminar for several professors and mostly graduate students in art history. Dun Huang caves have over 15 centuries of caves, until the 13th century. Over 400 caves there. For the first few weeks, we went through a few hundred caves. The earliest cave we went and did a review of it. During the last week, we went back from the earliest week as a review. Went back to one of the earliest caves there. 4th or 5th century. (refer to the picture). Painted on top of the door. So, it meant that it was the first thing you see when you look up.

When we started reviewing, the morning we went to the earliest caves and went over the significance of it. After lunch time, I did not go to nap though. I followed 2 nuns instead to the souvenir shop instead, and those 2 nuns were studying at the University of Arizona in religious studies. I didn’t buy anything, but they were looking at paintings of buddhas/bodhisattvas. Then, after seeing that picture you saw, it kind of reminded me of 四大天王, like guardians of the sacred/heaven. I saw that I was really drawn to the painting, so I decided to buy it. Then, I went back to my room and took a nap. After the nap, we went back to those caves and went back to a certain cave. The teacher wanted to show me something rare. The vegetable pigment was not that stable, so the pigments change color faded over time.

Then, the rare thing they used was that the white was from lead/minerals. However, after the lead has been exposed to the air for too long, it becomes black. It takes a few centuries for it to change in color due to oxygenation. So, it looked all blackened out because of the white lead became black from all the oxygen.

But in one special cave, one area of the walls was peeled off, we could see the inner layer of the wall. So, we could see the original painting would look like without the color tarnished. Because in the cave it was dark, the darkness of the cave would make it even darker for the paintings. The cave was incredibly small, a few of us stood there and talked while some of us were still outside waiting to see. Suddenly, there was a something like a sandstorm, but because it rained very shortly last night, the humidity was higher. So, because of the rain made it more humid, the walls were old and gained moisture, something fell off from the ceiling. All the student left, but because I was talking to the professor, we were not wary of the painting falling. And because I realized what was going to fell on my head. One of the nuns that went to the souvenir shop pulled me out and tried to dust off the painting. But I said that it was a national treasure so I told them not to ruin the treasure that was all over me.

The painting that fell off? It was the painting that I bought. The other nun then walked up and told me to do more studying on Buddhism, had I done my research I would not be asking stupid questions. I guess it was something that Buddha was telling me, “Go do your research!”. Almost creepy for me.

 

After hearing her story, I personally thought it was a very supernatural experience. In her case, it felt like it was a wake-up call from above to take her studies seriously! Not only was that the case, but the sudden feeling to purchase that specific painting from the souvenir shop and leading to the pigment of the same painting to fall on her head was definitely not just a coincidence, but also a very significant symbolic sign.