I kept sneezing uncontrollably for no reason for about twenty minutes, so I called my father to ask him if he had any allergy medication that I could take. He asked me if I was outside near pollen or if someone had their cat over since I’m allergic to both of those things, but I told him no one had a cat and that I was indoors. My mother overheard the conversation and told me that I was sneezing because she was thinking of me and missed me.
Performance [Mother]: “This belief is something that my friends and I used to joke about in school we were your age. I heard it from two of my best friends when we were walking to school and one of them starting sneezing. My other friend joked that it was because her crush at the time was thinking about her. When someone starting sneezing multiple times for no reason and couldn’t stop, we would think that it was because someone was thinking or talking about them. You could have been sneezing because I was just thinking about you coming home for dinner later and missing you!”
Meaning to informant: This was a superstition that my mother and her friends when they were in school and in their teens, and while she does not fully believe that someone is thinking or talking about you when you sneeze, she does not disbelieve it either. She did tell me later on that there were a lot of people in China who actually do think that this is true. She also mentioned multiple occasions in her life where she herself or someone she knew was sneezing, only for the sneezing individual to later find out that someone was talking or thinking about them.
Analysis: I would like to think that this belief is no more than a superstition, and is merely a fun way to explain little coincidences in our lives. However, I will say that there are many instances in my own life where someone next to me would sneeze and it was because I was thinking about them in that particular instant or vise versa, so like my mother, I do not disbelieve it. This belief does not just start and end with Chinese people, as there are many references to this particular belief in Japanese anime and Korean dramas as well. For more folk beliefs about sneezing and its implications, see The Omen of Sneezing (Pease).
Pease, Arthur Stanley. “The Omen of Sneezing.” Classical Philology, vol. 6, no. 4, 1911, pp. 429–443. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/261601. Accessed 2 May 2021.