Chinese, Death, Reincarnation


My informant, a Chinese- American, told me that the idea of reincarnation is very prevalent in Chinese culture.  There is a myth that when a person dies you can go over a bridge. At the end of the bridge is an old lady holding a potion. Drinking this potion is supposed to erase your memory and make you forget your past life. Before you cross the bridge this old lady makes you drink every last drop of the potion so you completely forget your past life. After you drink the potion and cross the bridge you forget your past life. This is one way Chinese people explain prodigies, for example why some children are natural pianists or musicians. What happens is that they fool the old lady with the potion or unknowingly/mistakenly didn’t finish the potion. Essentially, what happens is that the potion doesn’t take full effect—thus the spirit is left with some memory, whether that memory be remembering a person, place, object, or remembering a talent or skill. When people say things like “ I feel like I’ve been here before”, that is because they did not finish drinking the entire potion. Also there are many Chinese love songs that mention this potion (ex// songs that say give me the potion so I can forget about my heartache or broken heart).