Never Write a Name in Red Ink

A, the informant, was born in California, but her family is from China. She learned this from her parents and grandparents. She said it was something she feels like she was just born knowing. It was ingrained in her not to write her name or anyone else’s in red ink. She says she also just never really uses red pens anyway.

The following belief is very common throughout China and other Asian countries. A said it was very important especially in school to be careful whenever writing, and make sure not to use red pen very often.

“So there’s this belief that you should never write someone’s name in red ink. I learned this from my mom and it’s a Chinese thing. One time I learned that it has to do with something about the ruler of Hell writing the names of those cursed to go to Hell in red ink. It comes from some folk tale I believe. If you write your name or someone elses’ name in red ink, the person whose name you write will die. There’s also just like an aspect of using red ink to be bad in general, like someone using a red pen when writing a curse for someone to die, or writing a letter that someone has died.”

I personally had never heard of this up until now. It’s surprising to me, since red is such an honored and respected color in China. I would never guess that it would be a bad thing to write in red ink, I would actually assume it was a good thing because of how prominent the color red is in China.