Changing Teeth

Pronouns: She/Her

Age: 23

Nationality: Chinese

Primary Language(s): Mandarin/Cantonese


“So mine is when changing teeth as a child in Chinese families. This happened sometime around when I was in lower school (grade 1-3??). So basically when one of the upper teeth fell down, my family buried it underground for me to grow properly downward; vice versa, when one of the lower teeth fell down, my family threw it over the top of a building or ceiling for it to grow properly upward. It’s kind of a ritual of wishing a child to change teeth successfully and wishing nice-looking teeth after changing.”


This informant is a classmate. She is from China but has been studying in the United States since High School.


This ritual is practiced in the presence of change with the purpose of eliciting a positive outcome for the child’s future. It is a ‘coming of age’ ritual and a ‘transition rite’ (as defined by Arnold van Gennep) because it ritually marks the transition from childhood to adulthood (or rather, childhood to older childhood). This ritual also follows James George Frazer’s homeopathic Principle of Sympathetic Magic – the informant’s family buries teeth underground to promote downward growth and throws the teeth overtop structures to promote upward growth.