Chinese Eye Twitching Superstition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2013
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

Interview Extraction:

Informant: “There’s a belief that if your left eye is twitching, then that’s good, like good luck, and if your right eye is twitching, then that’s bad. I think in other cultures, like in India, it depends if you’re a boy or a girl, like for guys, if your left eye twitches, then its good, and if you’re a girl and your right eye twitches, then that’s good, but in China, it’s just the left eye that brings good luck if it twitches, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or boy. I think it’s because the word for ‘money’ is similar to the word for ‘left’ in Chinese, and the word for ‘disaster’ is similar to the word for ‘right.’”

Me: “Do you believe in it?”

Informant: “Me? No, I don’t. It’s just a saying. I mean, when my eye twitches, I think about it, but I don’t worry if the wrong eye twitches.

Me: When did you hear about it?

Informant: “In middle school I think. I just hear it from around I guess, and when I was older I got what it means, but when I was younger I just sort of heard it, you know? I still don’t really believe it though.

Analysis:

There are indeed many different superstitions regarding eye twitching around the world, and they come with different explanations or remedies, depending on what each culture believes. Eye twitching is a natural and common enough phenomenon, and yet it can be unusual enough to merit its own series of legends and superstitions, just as other bodily functions can be used ways to predict fortune or events. The eye itself is, of course, universally an important symbol, so there would presumably be much folklore surrounding every aspect of it, from twitching to shape to color. My informant was correct about Indian culture centering the auspiciousness of eye twitching around gender. In Africa, some people have different predictions of good and bad luck depending on which part of your eye twitches, while in Hawaii, eye twitching can foretell the coming of a stranger.

I found it interesting that in Chinese culture, the good and bad luck are designated based on their proximity to fortunate or unfortunate words, thus emphasizing the importance of language and word significance. This is similar to the number four being a very unlucky number in Chinese culture, again because the word for “four” is homogonous with the word for “death.”

Perhaps because my informant speaks other languages besides Chinese, the value and significance of each word in her native tongue are somewhat decreased. Therefore, although she consciously thinks about the superstition every time her eye twitches, she doesn’t necessarily feel either elated or frightened, depending on her luck. Additionally, my informant doesn’t live inChinaanymore either, so she wouldn’t be surrounded by people who believe the superstition, and this could also lessen her own belief.