Residence: Santa Clara
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish, Mandarin
Background: My informant is a friend of mine of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese heritage. His parents are both from Taiwan and are mixed between Chinese, indigenous Taiwanese, and Japanese. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. The entire main piece is a transcription of our call.
Context: This conversation was recorded on a zoom meeting that we had on a Wednesday afternoon. My informant is a friend of mine, and the conversation occurred in both of our rooms. The purpose of the call was specifically so that I could gather folklore from my informant, and they were aware about that as well. During the call and in between our discussions of different folklore items, we talked socially about how we were acclimating. Thus, this conversation was more casual than the rest of my interviews. My informant’s dad, who is the source of this piece, is mixed between Taiwanese native and Chinese from the Hunan province.
This was the first one I thought about right now when you were listing stuff out…uhm let’s see… the first thing I remember was when I was younger like when I was in elementary school I was told that I could not play with my chopsticks at dinner, like I couldn’t make them into like I couldn’t use them to pretend to be drumsticks or couldn’t use them to pretend to be like standing up in the rice. And I thought it was kind of odd because I saw everyone else around me doing it. Like, why can I do this, his belief or rationale behind it was that Ancient Chinese people believe that the chopsticks, where the tools of ….I believe it’s like the word God or something like that. And so by playing around with them, you’re disrespecting the wood God and children who played with. I’m not kidding. I swear, you looking back on it, it seems pretty ridiculous but you know for a kid who doesn’t know any better, like, you know, you’re just like enthralled by this. Anyhow, so as a kid. If you played with the chopsticks, and like, you know, use them as drumsticks or whatever you make the word God angry and then in the middle of the night. The word God will come and spank in the middle of the night with the chopsticks
Me: ahahahaha. What if you sleep on your back?
Too bad. I don’t know how much I believe that at the time. But I can tell you after day, to this day, I still don’t really play with my chopsticks. I’m very Utilitarian with them.
Me: So, so, like, how old were you when when this story was told to you.
I would say like five or six ish. I was like the beginning of elementary school.
Thoughts: I found this very interesting because my parents are Chinese and I have never heard of a wood god that spanks people. Like many folk stories/tales/beliefs, this folk belief is probably told to children to make sure that they behave.