Tag Archives: Asian

Dragon Boat Festival


JK: Dragon Boat Festival, an Asian festival, you can see it in Taiwan, in China, in a lot of different places. I’m not exactly sure, but it’s the 5th day of the 5th month in the Chinese calendar, so around June for us. It’s about this guy called Qu Yuan who was the Prime Minister and known for his wisdom but there’s a story where he was correct about something he told the king, but his enemies convinced the king to kill him. So the king did not believe him and the kingdom fell to ruin. Qu Yuan committed suicide by falling into a river. The villagers were so upset, they wanted to make sure his body wasn’t eaten by fish. So they dropped wrapped “zongzi” into the river so the fish would eat that instead. So now the Dragon Boat Festival exists because there are a lot of Dragon Boats and races across the river. So we eat the zongzi as a way of remembering Qu Yuan and thanking him for his wisdom and his service.

It’s near the summer equinox and you can also balance eggs on the floor. 


JK’s family is from Taiwan, he grew up celebrating this festival every year. He has participated in eating zongzi and balancing eggs for the Dragon Boat Festival. 


Festivals surrounding other folklore are fairly common. In this case, the festival is surrounding the legend of Qu Yuan. Similarly to other festivals around the world, the Dragon Boat Festival honors a historical event through ritualistic storytelling. It also involved communal activities designed to foster a sense of community and cultural identity through the use of culturally significant objects like zongzi and dragon boats. Its practice of honoring historical events and culture bears similarities to the Japanese Obon Festival, a vibrant festival celebrating deceased ancestors similar to the Day of the Dead in Latin America. Another example is the Korean Dano Festival that involves cultural foods similar to zongzi in the form of rice cakes.

Red Ribbon of Fate in Chinese Folklore

Main Piece:

KY: “The red thread of fate, or the red ribbon of fate, is this idea originating from Asian culture— I think specifically Chinese culture. It’s this thread that connects two people, these two lovers, two partners, or star-crossed lovers… It connects them even if they are far apart or right next to each other… It’s this idea that they will somehow meet. It’s been told in a couple of media, one specifically… (Your Name) Kimi no Na wa, anime movie. There are some people who like have a red ribbon attached to them or an accessory that they have… I’ve seen it more often used as a way to tie someone’s hair… Like a charm of sorts… My friend spoke of it… Once you hear about it, you see it everywhere now, especially in Eastern Asian media….


This was taken from a conversation with me and one of my suitemates, who is of Japanese descent, in the Cale & Irani Apartments in USC Village. He heard of this from one of his middle school friends who was Filipina.


The Red Thread of Fate or Red Thread of Marriage is an East Asian belief of Chinese origin. The psychological associations we have with the color red such as passion, love, or lust remain ever present in this belief. From my own Vietnamese cultural background, I know it can also be associated with luck. This is just one of many examples of how people use physical objects as representations of themselves or something that keeps them connected to others, along the same line as friendship bracelets or wedding rings. One should also note how the folk belief was popularized beyond China, and to Asian audiences in general, through its use in film and cartoon, particularly in anime. This can be evidenced by my suitemate and his childhood friend, who are Japanese and Filipina.

Soba for Long Life

Description: During New Years, people would cook and eat long noodles believing it to mean having a long life.

Background: This tradition is something that the informant’s family engage in every year.


ML: My mom would cook a certain soba noodle dish on new years to signify a long life. Toshikoshi Soba I think. 

Me: Is the noodles cooked in any special way?

ML: Not anything special, it’s just cooked soba noodles, it’s kind of just a symbol and not like a ritual, it’s just a dish as in like long noodles means a long life.

Me: And your family would do that every year?

ML: Yeah it’s always on new years.

My thoughts:

Special traditions and events in the start of the new year is something that I believe to be quite universal. The practice of eating noodles for a long life is also something that is seen in other Asian traditions such as in China. In China’s case, it would also be done during birthdays, signifying that the person would live for years to come. Sometimes, people would say that eating longer noodle strands will extend your years. It’s obviously not true, but it’s a good way to signify a special occasion while trying to think positively about the future. Of course, any special occasion should be paired with good food or drink but that’s just my opinion.


Chinese Longevity Noodles – Author: Na Zhang and Guansheng Ma – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/307875115_Noodles_traditionally_and_today

The usage of “FOB” and “ABG” to describe Asians


The informant, MG, went to high school in New Hampshire and now attends college at the University of Seattle in Washington. This story was collected when asked about her experiences of being Asian American in college over the phone.

Main piece:

MG: Since going to school in the west coast I found it very difficult to acclimate to a college in the west coast because I’ve never had to utilize code switching before. The type of personalities…and the goals, and lifestyles, were so completely different it was difficult socializing when I had no idea how to relate to anyone….and that’s the thing…even the other asians…like, usually on the east coast, the other asian americans just find each other, you know? They just find each other and form a group. But on the west coast, it was just different. They had these two terms for asians that I didn’t know what they meant: fob and abg.

Interviewer: And what do those mean?

MG: haha you sound dumb asking that now. “Fresh off the boat”, bitch. And abg is “Asian baby girl.”

Interviewer: And how do those make you feel?

MG: Umm…well I’m not an FOB. And I’m not cute or small enough to be an ABG, but I also wouldn’t wanna be one. It’s just weird that people use those on the east coast so much.


I went to middle school with the informant, but she went to the East coast for high school and I stayed on the West. Staying in California, I knew these words that she was talking about and it was something that was propagated throughout all the groups of Asians that were our age. It’s interesting to me now that she didn’t have any particularly strong feelings about the words when asked. Rather, she just tried to categorize herself into them. It goes to show that as a West coast Asian American, we feel like we have to categorize to try to make friends with other Asians–like letting out a signal to let people know who you are so that you can make friends more easily.

White Headbands – A Chinese Folk Belief


Q: Why can’t you wear white headbands?

H: 嗰啲 (go2 di1) white 係人地死咗人地 先戴白色吖嗎(hai6 jan4 dei6  sei2 zo2 jan4 dei6  sin1 daai3 baak6 sik1 aa1 maa3)

[Translation: People only wear white when people die, right.]

Q: 白色件衫定係 白色喺個 頭(baak6 sik1 gin6 saam1 ding6 hai6 baak6 sik1 hai2 go3 tau4)

[Translation: White clothes or white on the head?]

H: 個頭 (go3 tau4)  Like when the parents, like the- your upper generation, like your parents or your grandparents or something, yeah.  When they pass away, so wearing the white [gesturing a headband]. So Asians nope, not gonna wear the white headbands.

[Translation: The head.] (Rest of line remains the same)

Q: So the person who dies wears the white or when you have someone who passed away?

H: Mhmm. So the younger generation will need to put the white thing on their heads, so that’s why no Asians wearing white headbands.



I collected this folk belief as part of a conversation in both Cantonese and English about Chinese traditions and customs.  The informant, denoted by ‘H’ in the exchange above, is Chinese and was born and raised in a Chinese community in Vietnam before immigrating to the United States in her late teens.  She can speak Cantonese fluently but chose to speak to me in both Cantonese and English for my understanding.  It should also be noted that the informant likely meant East and Southeast Asians when referring to Asians in the text because these are the cultures that are most similar to her own.  She didn’t mention specifically where she learned about white headbands from when asked but only said that you just know this kind of thing growing up because you would see it all the time in Vietnam.  She also told me about how one of her daughters unknowingly wore a white scrunchie once and thus had to explain the symbolism behind it before making her take it off.  White headbands as a funeral custom is an inherent part of the culture in which she grew up, and as such, she will never forget about it and will always stay away from wearing one out of proper context herself.



This folk belief can be tied to a belief in sympathetic magic: since white headbands are worn as part of funeral custom when a member of your family has died, you could potentially cause death in the family by wearing them if no one has actually passed away.  The likeness of performing the custom during a particular event may evoke the event itself to happen.  Here we can also see an example of the difference in color symbolism between cultures, a difference that becomes apparent when one is removed from the immediate environment of their own culture.  The informant grew up around this symbolism, taking it as a given, and as such never recognized it as significant until coming to the United States.  In the United States and other western countries, white is often a symbol of innocence and purity.  On the other hand, in Vietnam and other eastern countries, white is a symbol of death and thus only worn during funerary rights.  This is likely why the informant’s daughter did not initially realize the bad omen of wearing a white scrunchie because she did not have the background of having grown up in Vietnam where white headbands were only worn for funerals.  Now with another example of the symbolism in the color white in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, I can understand why it is also a bad omen to wear white during the lunar new year.  Since it represents death, you may bring death upon yourself.  All in all, this folk belief outlines the symbolism of the color white in East and Southeast Asian cultures and furthermore, it proves how one’s own culture is not immediately recognizable until taken out of its initial context.