Author Archives: Mintra Maneepairoj

The Rice Grain Warning

Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.

 

My parents told me that if you do not finish every single rice grain on your plate you have to count how many you have left…Then you have to jump into the river, and every time you jump you have to make a splash sound…So it actually means you take each rice grain individually and then jump into the river again and again until your plate is empty. And every time you jump into the river you have to make a really loud splash sound. Nobody actually does this….they end up just finishing their rice. I mean the adults don’t really expect you to do it…it’s more like a threat so you finish your food.

According to the informant this proverb is more common among older generation. She grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. Though Bangkok is a metropolitan area she heard this from her parents.  It was usually for parents to say to their children when the children do not finish their food. She has heard it from some of her friend also. She said some family has variations of threat when their kids have leftover food on their plate but this is the most common one she has heard. She mentioned that the origin of the splash come from the fact that before cars were highly used it was very common in Thailand for people to live in a house near water (canals, river, and lake) where boat was their main transportation. Many of those houses near the water are farms and gardens where they value their harvests. That is what the informant believes this saying generated from.

She also said that rice is the main part of the diet in Thai food. One of Thailand main export is also rice. In a meal each individual is given a plate of rice. Protein and vegetable are then in the middle of the table as shared dishes. It is then more evident if the individual has rice leftovers on his/her plate.

 

I believe this saying is a warning to teach children to value the food that they eat and the importance to every little rice grain. It is easier to finish the small rice grain on the plate than having to take each grain to the river and jump. As the informant mentioned, Thailand is mainly an agricultural society with majority of crops grown being rice, this is to teach children that every little grains of rice is highly valued. To tell the children that they have to jump into water as many times as the rice on their plate is a reflection of the hardship a farmer would endure to grow the crops.

The informant said she also heard this phrase not from my family but from many movies and TV shows. The characters would usually say it in older movies or movies that are set in older times. Sometimes she said her teacher will say something similar in the lunchroom if students have leftover food. I agree with the informant that this is said as a threat rather as a dare. From her personal experience she has yet to hear that anybody actually jump into water instead of finishing some rice grains.

Thai Wedding Traditions

Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.

 

Weddings in Thailand most of the time happens in one day. But there are different approach es depending on the size of the family.

Okay if you have a small family sometimes you would just go to the government building, you know like city hall here, and just dress semi-nice and get married there. They will sign the paper and then be done with it.

Bigger family usually dedicate the whole day for this event. Oh, way before the wedding day there are usually a lot of stuff the bride and the groom would do. Usually the bride will find her dress…usually people do both traditional Thai clothing in white with the western wedding gown type of thing…The bride and the groom would then have a photo session where they take photos in their wedding clothes in some nice place…some people do it at where they met, or a park, or a photo studio and what not. Some people even do different wedding themes…sometimes even casual clothes…some people even do their old school uniform you know…it really depends on the couple.

On the actual wedding day the day would starts with the groom and his family marching with money, food, and valuables to the bride’s house. Oh, the wedding usually takes place there. The groom and his group of people would sing songs as they march along. The size of the march depends on the groom’s family, friends, and relatives. They would have some Thai musical instruments. It’s like a marching band you know some wind instrument, drums, etc. And then these songs would be songs you only sing on weddings. The songs usually talks about how wedding is this idea of trading between family…the lyrics would be like “if you have lemons, you can trade for lime, if you have a daughter, you can trade for a son”…it’s kind of funny but most people still do it today.

Once the groom arrives he is faced with what we called “gate.” These “gates” are usually made by children of the bride’s family holding a string on two ends prohibiting the groom to see the bride. The groom would then have to give the children envelop with money inside. The number of “gate” depends on the number of children in the bride’s family. Sometimes the friends of the bride would set up the “gate” as a dare for the groom where he has to do jump rope, drink weird stuff, or push-ups to pass. It’s almost like a prank.

After that then the groom can see the bridge and the ceremony will then start. The two will be on their knees in front of the invited guests… And then the bride and the groom put their hands out on top of a small pedestal where the adults of both family pour water into their hands…while pouring the water the adult give consent, advice, and wishes to the bride and the groom…This usually begins with the oldest family members to the youngest. Sometimes close elderly guests participate as well.

After that the bride and the groom can sign the marriage papers stuff. Sometimes you can even book the government officials from your district to be at this event so they can bring you the paper to sign…so you know you don’t have to go to city hall to sign before or after the wedding day…so everything can happen on the same day.

There is also certain district with good names that people want to get married in. The most popular is this district called “Bang-Rak” which translates to something like “area of love” or “place of love” or you know something like that. This district is so popular that people would go there to get married even though they live like an hour away.

Oh, usually after the traditional Thai stuff the bride and the groom would change into the more Western wedding clothes…you known tux and gown…for their wedding reception with dancing, food, and cake.  

This is a common Thai marriage tradition observed by the informant. The march with valuables represents the groom’s family size and wealth. It also symbolizes how these valuables is the bride’s price, or how much the groom is paying the bride’s family. The march differs in scale from less than ten people to about a hundred. The “gate” serves the same purpose to present obstacle for the groom and how he must have wealth to get the bride. And that the value of the bride come at a price where the groom must be willing to pay and does to get to her. The adults play an important role as they give consent and pass on wisdom to the next generation. Having the oldest member of the family start the ceremony also reflects the value of the elders in the Thai culture. This is also a ritual where both sides of the family can get to know each other, especially the older generation, to create the joining of two families.

Since there are many religions practiced in Thailand, sometimes the wedding takes place in multiple forms to accommodate different believes. The informant said that since the traditional Thai wedding ceremony ritual stems from Buddhist traditions, those usually occur in the morning with close family. Then the reception will take place at night where all invited guests, family and friends, attend. The reception is then host more similar to the American wedding reception with food and music, and the wedding cake.

 

 

This wedding ritual, in my opinion, reflects how the importance of marriage transcends the bride and the groom. The march of the groom singing songs involves a small community. It shows how so many people have to come together for the two people. It also shows wealth and connection within the community. The dare by the bride’s family shows how her strong family ties and emphasizes this idea of trading the bride through money and wealth. The kneeling before adults shows the importance of the older generation to the new and upcoming generation. The ritual shows how the importance of the wedding day focuses as much on the people around the bride and the groom in comparison to the bride and the groom themselves.

Without the traditions the bride and the groom can just go to city hall and get married legally as the informant pointed out some small family would do. But I can see the importance of the wedding becoming an event that is for the micro-community. The legality of the day is much less importance than the traditions performed on the day.

The different traditions also show how the local tradition is infused with the international tradition. Having both shows how the people want to keep on their tradition while being open to new ones.

The photos taken before the wedding seems very strange in my opinion. As seen in many wedding traditions the day is deemed as very exclusive, sacred, and sometimes religious. The clothes that the bride and the groom wear at wedding are also exclusive to the day. I feel that to take photos before the actual day in wedding apparel loses the importance of the actual wedding day.

The Midnight Dare

Informant Background: The individual was born in Bangkok, Thailand. She grew up there and still has family in Thailand. She said her family origin is Chinese. Her family still performs a lot of Chinese traditions such as: Chinese New Year, Ancestry Day, etc. Being in Thailand her family also practice a lot of the Thai traditions. She does not speak Chinese but she does speak Thai and English. She currently lives in Los Angeles to go to school. She has been travelling back and forth between the United States and Thailand constantly throughout the years because her family still resides in Bangkok.

 

If you want to know who you were in your past life…You light a candle, turn off all the lights…And then at midnight you stared into the mirror…then your reflection will be what you looked like before this life. I tried this once with my sisters. We stayed up when we were in elementary school and went to our bathroom and looked at the mirror. We all ran away from the mirror before it’s midnight because we were all too scared.

The informant said that this is a dare many kids were told in school by their classmates in Bangkok. While growing up she was told about this game by her classmates at school and her older relatives. It is a dare usually done in groups and usually takes place in the bathroom. It was a test of courage among young children, and sometimes even adults. It is one of the sleepover dare or camp dare. Sometimes it is a dare told at school and then some individual try it at his/her own home. Most of the time the majority would run away before the clock strikes midnight from fear of the unknown. She said according to the dare some people who tried it and stayed passed the midnight mark said they saw shadows, silhouette of a person, or even blood dripping on the mirror.

This also becomes a belief among some people. The informant stated that she avoid looking into the mirror at midnight herself until this day just because of the dare. She said even though she did not stayed until midnight to see the alternate reflection the fear still lingers constantly.

 

 

This shows how fear plays a part in belief and how it interferes and shapes a person’s daily life routine. I think that this dare, similar to the concept of legend, is kept alive by certain “friend of a friend” memorate. An alternate reflection does not have to happen every time but if it happened to someone once in a while the story can continues. It is similar to the “Bloody Mary” dare that children do because both challenge the idea of fear. It is also a bonding experience for groups of people under scary unknown circumstance.

Turning off the lights while having the only one light as a single candle emphasizes this idea where many ghost stories are relating more to primitive objects rather than contemporary objects. Candles are barely used in everyday life and mostly used in religious and spiritual settings.

This dare also shows the fear and the unknown concept at the liminal period in a certain time line or cycle. In this case the liminality, or the in between state, is at mid night which is the in-between state of two days, night and morning.

Since Thailand is a Buddhist country, the majority of the people believe in reincarnation. So to be able to see your past life is to see who you were before, which is unknown. It challenges the concept of beliefs and fear of knowing what you’ve done before this life.

The fear around mirror and mirror reflection echoes in Western Traditions as well: a vampire has no reflection, ghost does not appear in the mirror, ghost only appears in mirror, etc. The idea of mirror as another realm or reflection as a parallel world is a common theme that resonates in many cultures.

Story of Repentance

Informant Background: The informant is a student in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Indonesia. His parents moved to the United States and they now live in New Orleans. He speaks only English but he said his family still practice many Indonesian traditions especially folk-beliefs. He travels back once in a while to Indonesia to visit his relatives.

 

A serial killer who has killed hundreds of people realized at the end of his life how much evil he committed. He thought to himself something like: what am I going to do? Then he had a revelation toward the end of his life. He then heard of this city which consists of good people…you know where those people can teach him how to become a good person if he can reach the city…The people of that city can also teach him how to repay his since so he can reach salvation.

So this guy, the serial killer, starts walking to the good city. But he was really old, you see, so the serial killer dies on the way to the good city. The angels then wonder if he should go to heaven since he did have the intention to become good, or hell since he never made it to his destination. They decided to take the distance between his starting point and the city of good. If the man passes the half way point then he would go to heaven. But he didn’t pass the test, so an angel carried him pass the half-way point and brings him to heaven. So basically this story is pretty much saying that the intention to become a good person outweighs the evil in the past.

A story of repentance form Indonesia. The informant was told this story by his grandparents from Indonesian. The goal was to teach children to be good, want to be good, and continue to do good things despite past mistakes. The intention of the story was to teach that wanting to become good outweighs the bad things in the past.

 

 

I think this story reflects similar principles as karma. The serial’s killer intention to become good is so that he can go to heaven. He knows that his evil past will result in evil ends for him. He is doing good to expect good things in return. It is also evident that the intention to become good is so that he can eliminate or counter balance the evil he committed in the past. I think this story indirectly teaches children about karma and the consequences of good and bad actions.

This also reflects the idea of the ideal binary opposition in morality: the good and the bad. The character and the city are set as complete opposite of each other. The two are separated into pure ideal of how to judge morality. The killer is characterized as the definition of extreme “bad” while the city is defined as extreme “good” and filled with good people. The criteria of judging the good intention of the killer is a binary where the boundary is the halfway point of his journey.

This binary opposition of good and bad is blurred when the angel carried him pass the half way point so he can go to heaven due to his good intentions. The fact that only the intention to become good saves the killer from going to hell, in my opinion, makes the story effective. Since the goal of this story is to encourage people to have intention to do good things regardless of their past, the fact that the killer went to heaven shows how easy it could be to correct the evil past through simple change in attitude.

The Pregnant Woman Ghost

Informant Background: The informant is a student in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Indonesia. His parents moved to the United States and they now live in New Orleans. He speaks only English but he said his family still practice many Indonesian traditions especially folk-beliefs. He travels back once in a while to Indonesia to visit his relatives.

 

Okay, so there is this woman who was pregnant but she wasn’t married…she doesn’t have family or relatives…then when she was giving birth to her baby she died ‘cause the baby somehow came out of her back. …And then she became a ghost who looks like a woman but she has this bleeding hole in her stomach. She would appear with long black hair over her face while holding her dead baby …you know like those Asians ghost you see in movies where it’s like a girl with super long drapy hair in front of their face.

The informant heard about this story through his relatives in Indonesia. He is not quite sure what situation the ghost would appear but he said that she is one of the well known characters in Indonesia traditions.

 

 

I think this ghost story shows the improper ritual for two of life’s most celebrated moment: birth and death. The spirits of the mother and child transform into ghosts because they did not get a proper burial. It is also similar to other ghost stories where the ghost is created because the person died too young, in this case both of them.

The hole is a reflection the improper birth and death of both mother and child: the mother who died trying to give birth and the child who died before even being born. Souls or spirits can become ghost because of improper death or death rituals. Similar to other origin of ghost instead of being released into heaven the spirit stays on earth looking for family and relative for closure. It was both unconventional birth and death that leads to the belief of this ghost.

The absence of a proper burial is evident to the lack of family. The woman was pregnant without a husband, which is deemed unconventional and unacceptable by many societies. With no family she had no one to give her a proper funeral. Her ghost, in my opinion, is then her spirit that lingers around looking for family to give her closure.

I think this story could also be an indirect way to teach girls the consequences of going against traditions. Since the woman in the story did not have a proper wedding, she then was not able to give birth properly: going against tradition in this case not only lead to her death but an unsatisfying afterlife.