Interviewer: Do you have any cultural beliefs or superstitions?
Informant: Well in Chinese culture, jade is in a lot of the jewelry that we wear. It is supposed to be worn for good luck and protection. But the most common forms that jade comes in for a lot of people is in bracelets or necklaces. There are various colors that jade comes in is green, orange red and purple but green seems to be the most popular. It is also really important that the jade is real and not just a fake or an imitation. My mom has a jade necklace and a jade bracelet that she never takes off, never. The jade is supposed to be for protection and also it channels one’s chi or energy. And typically jade is really vibrant, but my mom’s jewelry becomes really dull when she wears it but my aunt had jewelry that she wears it doesn’t fade or go dull. So it’s kind of weird because when my mom gets a new bracelet the old one will become vibrant again once she takes it off, so it’s almost like she’s using the magic in it, like she’s draining it. I don’t know if that’s very common but I have only seen it happen to her.
Interviewer: Are there any times when the jade actually protects someone?
Informant: Well I have heard this story that one of my grandmother’s friend was wearing a jade bracelet and she one day took a really bad fall. And when she looked at her bracelet it had shattered but she walked away with no injuries. It was also very important for my grandmother that when I went away to school, I had a jade bracelet to protect me. So even if I don’t wear it I always have it with me somewhere.
Interviewer: so do you believe in its powers?
Informant: I think that growing up and being told that jade is protection and a source of good luck has made me believe in it. But I also don’t believe in the tradition of having to wear it for it to protect me. I don’t wear mine often, but I keep little pieces of jade everywhere. Like in my car there is a piece hanging from the rear view window and in my wallet there are pieces of it. But I don’t actually wear it most of the time because my taste in jewelry is just different but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in its power. I think it would be very weird for me if my family members stopped wearing their jewelry or took off their jade. It is also more of a practical choice because I am in a lot of science classes and they are often really careful about what we wear and I don’t want it to get damaged or get chemicals on it. So I do believe in the tradition and the magic but I don’t practice it in the same ways that my elders do, and I should probably be doing it but I just haven’t recently.
Interviewer: Great thanks for sharing!
Background: The informant is a Junior at USC studying human biology. She is half Chinese and half Italian but spends more time with her Chinese family and has more beliefs and practices based on her Chinese ancestors. For the informant, this piece became a form of self-reflection about her own beliefs and how she lives them out in her daily life. It also served as a reminder of where she came from and the people who are supporting her while she is away.
Context: This interview was done during a discussion in a dorm room as the informant and interviewer are roommates. The informant first experienced this belief and practice as a young child and was given her first piece of jade upon birth. Though the informant is unsure where the belief originated, it is understood throughout most of China as a folk belief and has traveled with people who have immigrated to other parts of the world.
Analysis: This belief is evident throughout a lot of mainstream culture and exemplified in many Chinese practitioners. It was interesting to understand the meaning behind the practice and the stories that reinforce the belief. I have seen many people wear jade but it was more meaningful to learn about the power and strength of having this cultural symbol always with you. In a way it made me related to my own pieces of jewelry that I do not take off and what they mean to me.