Tag Archives: bath

Brown sugar in the bathtub – a treatment for rashes

--Informant Info--
Nationality: United States
Age: 48
Occupation: Healer and Meditation teacher
Residence: Burlingame, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

Main piece:

AW: When I was little, I would get eczema––you have it too, you probably get it from me. Our side of the family has all the allergies, haha. Well, so, my mom, your grandma, would put me in the bathtub with a little block of brown sugar. It’s like, that Chinese brown sugar block that is brown and has a white stripe through the middle. So she would put me in the bathtub and tell me not to eat the brown sugar, and I’d have to sit there and not eat it, and apparently it helped my eczema. I don’t know if it actually did though, haha. But sometimes I would eat it anyways. It was very delicious, of course. That was probably my favorite Chinese medicine that my mom ever gave me. A very fond memory, too.


The informant, AW, is my father. Our family is ethnically from Shanghai and Guangdong, China. This story was collected over a phone call about when I was little.


I agree with AW. When I did this brown sugar treatment when I was little, I also don’t know that it truly yielded any results––I still have eczema to this day and I don’t think brown sugar ever made it any better. My assumption when I was small was that the sweet taste was supposed to distract you from how itchy you were, and I think in that sense, it did work. I think it’s important to realize that, especially when you are that little and you have an ailment that’s not that serious, sometimes it doesn’t take that much to make you feel better. And there’s nothing less valid about that kind of a treatment.

How Lord Ganesha Got His Head

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Apple Valley, Minnesota
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/2/2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Kannada


My informant is a 18 year old student from the University of Southern California (USC). This conversation took place one night at Cafe 84, a place where many students at USC go to study at night. The informant and I sat alone at our own table, but were in an open space where there was a lot of background noise. In this account, she tells the story of how Lord Ganesha, a Hindu god that is distinctly known for his elephant head, got his head. She learned this story from her mother, who told this story to her and her sister as a child. In this transcription of her folklore, where she is identified as P and I am identified as K.



P: Okay, yes, okay, this is story of how… my mom told me how Lord Ganesha got his elephant head.

K: Wait, who?

P: Hinduism [laughs]. Lord Ganesha. So, background: He has the body of a human and the head of an elephant, so the story of how he got his head was his, I guess his mom? Wait wait wait, let me restart.

    Ok, so, Parvati wanted to have a bath. So, she was like “I need someone to guard the door while I’m having this bath,” so she creates this human child out of the earth… to guard the door! [Giggles] So her husband, Lord Shiva, comes and says “Let me in, little boy!” The little boy was like, “No, Parvati’s showering, you can’t go in.” And this man was overcome with anger, that he cuts off the head of this… this boy… this guard boy, who was made from the earth. Anyways, so Parvati comes back outside, and she goes, “What did you just do, you just killed my… ‘guard boy,’ my son…? I don’t know… Um, I need you to fix this!” So she makes Lord Shiva go down to… the earth? Go down I don’t know where, but go down to kill the first animal that he sees and bring the head to her. So the first animal he sees in an elephant, cuts off the head of the elephant, brings it to her, and magically creates Lord Ganesha with the head of the elephant that got killed and the body of a human. Yep, that’s the story [laughs].

K: Did she tell it to you, like in what context?

P: Um, she’d always tell the story if we went to the temple, and we’d walk past Ganesha, and then she’d tell me about the story and everything.



As my informant expressed, this story was most likely told to children to teach them a moral or a lesson. I’ve always been fascinated with how certain cultures and religions have their own special stories to tell to children to help shape their values to be the same as the people that share their culture. After telling the story, my informant told me that her mom often told her this story as a child when she was especially upset or made a rash decision out of anger.

This story seems to serve the purpose of reminding us that we should never let anger overwhelm us or dictate our decisions. For example, I did more research on this story and I read another version where Parvati, upon learning that Shiva had cut off Ganesha’s head from his unreasonable anger, became so enraged she decided to destroy the world. Shiva then realized his mistake and gave Ganesha not only a new life by giving him the elephant head, but also granted him a status of a god just to make Parvati happy again and prevent her from destroying the world. Here, we see that Shiva realizes his anger was unreasonable. He realizes that his rash decision to cut off Ganesha’s head resulted in even the greater consequence of the potential detroyal of the Earth. This story would teach a child to never act on their initial ideas when they’re overcome with anger, because they never know what consequences they may have to face as a result.


For other versions of this story, please refer to the citation below:

Cartwright, Mark. “Ganesha.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 23 Apr. 2019, www.ancient.eu/Ganesha/.

Sekar, Radhika. Lord of Beginnings: Stories of the Elephant-Headed Deity, Ganesha. Vakils Feffer & Simons Ltd, 2004.

Sharma, Richa. “Corporate Lessons from Lord Ganesha.” Speakingtree.in, Speaking Tree, 10 Sept. 2018, www.speakingtree.in/allslides/corporate-lessons-from-lord-ganesha.

Take a Bath, Turn into a Witch

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Former Soviet Union/Ukranian/Russian
Age: 46
Occupation: Interior Designer
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/9/18
Primary Language: Russian
Other Language(s): Ukranian, English

Main Piece:

When I was little girl, maybe five or six, I always liked to take long bath. My fingers would get all wrinkled and shrunken, and this annoyed my mother. She told me that if my skiw wrinkled too much, that I would turn into Baba Yaga [note: Baba Yaga is a witch-like common character in Russian folklore] and start eating children. This scared me a lot, so I only took only very quick baths afterward. I now know it was to scare me away from taking too long baths. It seems so silly to me now that I was afraid of turning into Baba Yaga (laughs). Children will believe anything especially if it is scary.

Background Information:

  • Why does informant know this piece?

It was told to her by her mother.

  • Where did they learn this piece?

Soviet Union

  • What does it mean to them?

This was a cautionary tale of what happens when you shower for too long.


This is told to children to scare them from wasting water and taking baths for too long.

Personal Thoughts:

Parents often tell weird stories to children to keep them from wasting food, water, or time. This is a cautionary tale about what happens if you waste water and bath time. This was probably used to save money and prevent the child from staying in the bathroom for too long and not letting other people take their turn.

Bath Time – Japan

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: San Diego
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/24/2107
Primary Language: Japanese
Other Language(s): Chinese, English

My informant was born and raised in Japan, but moved to America to finish her college degree at the University of San Diego. She told me about a childhood custom that is common among Japanese families.

“In Japan a little daughter and dad shower and bath together is normal–with son too. People from other countries say that’s disgusting. (But) it’s because normally dads don’t have time to communicate with their kids cause the work, so bath time is perfect time to have kids time to them. We did until I was 7 or something.”

I knew she had an older brother, so I asked if her dad would shower with both of them simultaneously or one by one. Her response was:

“Both! But that’s only when we’re little like 3 or 4. After that let’s say probably when I’m taking the bath my dad join me after. We just talk and play in the bathtub. Maybe he help me wash my hair, but not the body.”

I thought it was interesting how my informant pointed out how other countries saw this custom as strange, and felt the need to provide an explanation (almost in a defensive manner). I think it is because in Western culture it is more commonly heard of for mothers to take baths with their children since they are the ones to have given birth and are the “caretakers” of the family. A father  taking a bath with his child–especially a daughter– could be interpreted as inappropriate or even as sexual abuse.

However, baths are a huge part of Japanese custom. Japan has numerous public bathhouses located all over the country, varying from rural to urban areas. These bathhouses have large communal baths that are typically segregated by gender. Visitors comfortably bathe and walk around nude in front of complete strangers. With this information in mind, I was not surprised to hear that it is typical for children to bathe with their fathers.

Bath of Pomelo Leaves

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 55
Occupation: Funeral Counselor
Residence: Arcadia, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 12, 2017
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English

Daniel is an immigrant from Hong Kong who immigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities and a better life for both him and his family. Living in a poor family with seven other siblings, he immediately went to work as a police officer after receiving his high school diploma in Hong Kong. Once he moved to Los Angeles, he worked as a computer technician, and subsequently, changed his career to a funeral counselor.

Original Script

In our Chinese tradition, we believe the pomelo leaves can clean up all the dirty, evil stuff. Okay, so uh during the uh New Year Eve night, most of the Chinese, they will like to—I am talking about the Asian ones, the old ones—they will boil some pomelo leaves with a whole bowl of water, so all of the water will turn into green after boiling it. And then they will use the pomelo leaves to take a bath during the New Year Eve in order to clean up all the dirty, evil stuff from them. So they said they will cause them lucky for the coming year.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

The informant performed this tradition with his family ever since he could remember as a child. He continues this practice with his wife and children every year on Chinese New Year’s. Although he does not believe in its ability to grant luck anymore, he maintains this tradition because it is a custom he was raised with as a child.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant at his house.

A longstanding tradition of the Chinese for Chinese New Year’s is bathing in pomelo leaves. By cleaning their bodies in water boiled with these leaves, they believe that they are washing away the dirt and casting away evil spirits from the previous year. This tradition follows the Chinese principle of “cleaning” and starting anew for the coming year.

My Thoughts about the Performance

There are many traditions during Chinese New Year’s, such as eating sweets to ensure one a “sweet” year and opening windows or doors to bring in good luck for the coming year. Considering what the pomelo fruit represents to the Chinese—abundance, health, childbearing, prosperity—I find this custom befitting for this holiday.

Woodcutter and Angel

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Korean
Age: 47
Occupation: computer programmer
Residence: LA
Date of Performance/Collection: 2017-4-25
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Korean

Main Piece:


나무꾼이 나무를 하다가 숲 속에서 도망치는 사슴을 만나게 된다. 사슴은 사냥꾼이 쫓아오고 있으니 자신을 숨겨달라고 말한다. 말하는 사슴을 신기하게 여긴 나무꾼은 사슴을 숨겨주고 뒤쫓아 온 사냥꾼은 다른 곳으로 보내서 구해준다.


사슴은 은혜를 갚겠다고 하면서, 나무꾼에게 선녀들이 하늘에서 내려와서 목욕하는 선녀탕이라는 샘을 가르쳐준 다음 선녀를 아내로 삼는 법을 나무꾼에게 알려준다. 나무꾼은 사슴이 가르쳐준 때에 선녀들이 목욕을 하고 있는 샘으로 갔더니 과연, 선녀들이 하늘에서 내려와 날개옷을 벗고 선녀탕에서 목욕을 하자 나무꾼은 사슴이 가르쳐준 대로 날개옷을 하나 훔쳤다.


날개옷이 없어진 탓에 한 명의 선녀는 하늘로 올라가지 못했으며 다른 선녀들은 날개옷이 없는 선녀를 내버려두고 간다. 나무꾼이 선녀에게 자신의 부인이 되어달라고 하자 하늘나라로 올라가지 못하게 된 선녀는 할 수 없이 나무꾼의 아내가 된다.


사슴이 ‘아이 셋 낳을 때까지는 결코 날개옷을 돌려주면 안 된다’고 경고했었는데 아이가 둘 뿐인 상황에서 애원을 못 이기고 날개옷을 돌려줬다가 선녀가 아이 둘을 양팔에 한 명씩 끼고 그대로 하늘로 날아올라가 버렸다


A woodcutter meets a deer who runs away in the woods. The deer tells that a hunter is chasing him. The woodcutter who wondered about the talking deer hides the deer, and tells the hunter who comes after him that the deer has gone to another place.


The deer tells the woodcutter that the female angels come down from heaven and bathe in the spring, and how to make one of them his wife. The woodcutter went to the spring and when the women from heaven were having a bath, he hid clothes of one of the women.


One woman could not go up to heaven because her wing clothes were gone, and the other women left. She marries the woodcutter.


The deer warned, ‘You should never give the wings back until you have 3 children’ When he had only two children, the wife begged for the wing clothes and he gave them to her and she went away with children to heaven leaving the woodcutter.

Background Information:

This story is widespread throughout East Asia. There are different versions with a similar structure. Unlike other stories, it is hard to find any special lessons from this story.



This story is performed as many different forms like puppet animation, song or TV comedy.


Personal Analysis:

This is a tragic love story. It’s told to kids but it’s not really about romance. The woodcutter was deceiving to be lying to his wife about the clothes for a long time, but it is sad that she leaves him so suddenly. Her eagerness to leave makes it seem like there was no love to begin with. It might teach a lesson to follow instructions to live a good life, because the woodcutter didn’t listen to the deer.

whore’s bath

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 22
Occupation: actress
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 30, 2014
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

“So a whore’s bath, it sounds funny but it means I don’t have time to take a shower but I’ll just douse myself in perfume, maybe some deodorant. Ya you put on ALOT of perfume and it’s funny because people think you smell really great but you haven’t even showered! So back in the olden day I guess it just meant, I don’ think people could really shower that often and they just had oils and aromas so that’s probaly where it came from historyically. But i learned it from my cousin Neghan. She’s Megan with an ‘H’. I don’t know if this really adds to the story but she’s the one who was my fake ID when I was younger so she was like my cool cousin. I was fake 24 for a real long time. She was my older cousin and older is therefore cool. She always said whore’s bath but I never knew what it was. Some of my other cousins said it too and my Aunt Yaya too. Aunt Yaya smoked alot of grass. *laughs*. I heard this term growing up but now as a 22 year old who is far less ashamed to ask a question, we were in Vegas, cuz we were driving across the country. And in Vegas you don’t have alot of time for showering and so she suggested that I take a ‘whore’s bath’ and I said ‘Well i don’t really know what that means.’ I may have also been a little intoxicated. She said ‘Just throw on a bunch of perfume and some deodorant and go!’ So that’s how I learned about it and I do it all the time *laughs*.”

I personally had never heard of this term. I did some research but I didn’t find anything concrete. It means different things to different people. For some it is similar to a sponge bath. For others it is to only clean the ‘critical’ areas, especially after sexual intercourse. There are several other variations on the definition.

I thought that the inclusion of perfume in my participants definition was interesting. Perfume is often used to heighten physical attraction and to attract a mate. Due to the sexual nature of the use of perfume or even more so the pronounced use of it can be associated with prostitutes.

Also, I found it notable that her use of “whore’s bath” was light and playful in nature. I would assume that even a few decades ago if someone had used the word ‘whore’ towards a women in any way it would be considered an insult. I think this points to the overtly sexual nature of American culture, where women call each other whore’s jokingly and do not use the word in a literal sense and maybe even in a complimentary way.