“Basically, yeah, one of our common sayings is that if you, you know, walk, like, a hundred steps after you eat your food, it helps you live longer.”
The informant is a 19 year old, undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, studying accounting. He was born and lived in Shanghai, China for most of his life. He spent his high school years at a boarding school in Connecticut, before coming to college in California. He still spends his summers back in China, where he likes writing music and working on potential future business projects.
The informant was asked if there were any common sayings that he heard in China. He had heard this saying from his family, often after meals.
The Chinese are renowned for their medicine practices. They are largely responsible for what many call “holistic medicine” today—acupressure, acupuncture, and herbal remedies. They are very interested in health and have many folklore remedies, as a result. This particular one, of walking a hundred steps after one eats, is just another of such remedies. Exercise is always a good thing, and walking after a meal can help circulate the blood in the body.
Why 100 steps? Well, 100 is an important number in Chinese culture. On a baby’s 100th day, there is a large celebration. A hundred is also ten times ten. Ten is a holy number, as it is the sum of the first four numbers (1+2+3+4), and people have 10 fingers and 10 toes. Ten would be too few of steps to walk, so the Chinese say 100 to maintain the holiness of the numerical symbolism, while still making it a practical way to maintain health.
It is interesting that the Chinese, with this saying, have people exercise after they eat. In America, there is the saying that you should wait to swim until an hour after you have eaten. This is thought to protect from cramps, and therefore drowning. The Chinese would likely disagree with this way of thinking.