Superstition – Chinese/Korean

Don’t stick utensils vertically into your food.

Jaywon learned this superstition from her parents while growing up.  As she went to school with other Asian children, she also learned that it is known across the Asian culture to never stick the utensil directly into the food.  Her mother said that this superstition started with never sticking chopsticks into the rice, but after she came to America, the superstition was converted.  The chopsticks became any utensil used and the rice became any food eaten.  Jaywon says that sticking chopsticks directly into the rice is inviting death to the table.  In some funerals, the chopsticks in the rice symbolize an offering and is put on the alter of the shrine.

The Chinese culture has many superstitions about death and luck.  In this belief, avoiding putting the utensils in the food is also a sign of good manners at the table.  By improving one’s etiquette and shunning death from the table, this proverb shows much popularity in the culture.  Although the ceremonial sticking chopsticks in rice during funerals is not very common now, the action is now considered rude.  Anybody who does it is looked down on and taught not to do otherwise.  The Chinese are very traditional in their manners and are very respectful of one another.  Respecting their ancestors is also very important to them; the tradition to stick the chopsticks in the rice on the ancestral shrine is an old sacred ceremony that should not be imitated at the table.  The Chinese revolve much of their culture around food, so it is expected that there are many superstitions about avoiding death at the dinner table.  Because of this, the action of sticking any utensil into one’s food is both bad luck and bad manners, a combination that any Chinese would want to stay away from.

Annotation: This superstition was found in Deborah Steinborn’s “Cross-Cultural Training Gains,” in the Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Apr 4, 2007. Retreived from Proquest database.