Superstition – Chinese

For good luck, never flip a fish over.

Growing up in a family-run Chinese restaurant where his dad was the chef, Carl learned this superstition from his parents from when he was young.  At a meal, a fish is usually served family style, but there is an accepted way to eat this fish.  He says that one is supposed to eat the meat from one side, then remove the bone to eat the other side. Carl once asked his father where this superstition came from, and learned that it came from the ancient fisherman culture.  According to this story, if one flips the fish over, then it symbolically flips the fisherman’s boat over.  This flipping over of the boat is bad luck, thus flipping the fish over is bad luck as well.

The Chinese culture, which includes the Cantonese culture, is filled with various superstitions that one learns while young.  These superstitions originated in Asia, but as the immigrants came over to America, these beliefs were brought over with them.  In this way, Carl is brought up with the same Chinese beliefs that his father grew up with, even though he is in a completely different country.  The effect of the 2nd generation Cantonese-American does not rid one of a culture, but rather integrates the Chinese culture with the American culture.

Since Chinese fishermen have a long past, it is expected for them to have many superstitions about luck.  Thus, these beliefs are transferred to modern habits of dinner etiquette rather than a struggle with good luck.  In other words, the superstitions of the past are now acknowledged as good manners and not simply for luck.  Though it seems as if the bone is being removed for ease of accessing the meat of the opposite side, this is actually a superstitious act to get good luck.  Chinese society revolves around luck and is believes that it will help achieve a successful life.