Superstition – China

“I know that on Chinese New Year, you’re not supposed to eat medicine because it means you’ll be eating medicine for the rest of the year.”

Teng learned this superstition growing up in China until the age of nine. She claims she grew up knowing about it, because her mom would remind her every Chinese New Year. Even when she moved to Australia, her mother would never allow her to eat medicine on that day. Fortunately, Teng has never been sick during that time period, so she has never had to suffer a day without medicine due to a Chinese superstition.

Her mother probably learned the superstition from her mother, who probably learned it from the generation before them. The superstition is the type that is passed down between families and friends.

Teng said that she would tell other people about not eating medicine on Chinese New Years in any sort of context. However, it would be pertinent when that time of the year draws nearer and thus the risk factor of falling into the faux pas increases. She would usually tell this to her friends or younger relatives because the older adults she comes into contact with would probably already know about it. She would also talk about this superstition to during a conversation about all of the different kinds of Chinese superstitions, as she claims there is a plethora of.

Chinese New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar. Thus, following the commonly used solar calendar, the day usually falls sometime in early February. During this day of celebration, many superstitions and traditions are followed. There are even preparations going into the event to ensure a happy, healthy, and successful new year. Usually, it is a day when spirits roam free and need to be chased away.

Although Teng does not really believe in the superstition, she said that her mother reminds her every year anyways. Because she grew up in Australia, she cites a scientific education that has led her to doubt ideas that have not been proven. Superstitions do not play as heavy of a role in her life, because she does not believe in things that are not logical. Yet, at the same time, she has never tested the superstition because her mother would never allow her to toy with long held beliefs.

Although the origins of this superstition are unknown, Teng thinks that it probably comes from ancient times, when an emperor became sick for a whole year after eating medicine on the first day of the New Year, and ended up dying after a year of suffering. Because Chinese culture is very based on what previous generations passed down, compounded with the fact that not much was known in the field of medicine, people tended to follow superstitions no matter how foolhardy the advice seemed. She said it is a legacy based on paranoia and a few false beliefs.

The superstition is told as a word of warning to all of the dangers. It reveals that health is considered especially important and is valued in Chinese culture. Taking these seemingly strange precautions on New Year’s Day lends people who believe the superstition a piece of mind. I do not necessarily believe that this is true. If indeed there was a king who suffered a whole year and then died, I feel like the people that were around just needed to find a reason to explain away his death. This superstition is successful in the Chinese culture because it has taken many important elements and combined them into one simple rule of life that is easily followed.