Tag Archives: Chinese-American

Head on Traditional Chinese Statue

Context/Background: The informant has grown up with many Chinese customs on her mother’s side as a 2nd gen Chinese-American. In her childhood home, they had a traditional Chinese statue which, if touched on the head, was viewed as a sign of bad luck and could not only harm you, but potentially curse an entire building and its inhabitants.

“Basically, it’s like this lion statue that a lot of- I don’t know if it’s Chinese or, I think it’s a Chinese tradition- that you just have in your house, and they’ll have it in like a lot of buildings and you can’t touch the head of it… like you can clean around it, but like you can’t even like, with like a duster, like clean the top of its head or else its like very bad luck and it’ll like curse the building that you’re in”

Me: [Does your family] do that?

“Yeah. We got one… Like when my Dad used to have his like… annual poker party at the house and we’d like put a box over it’s head to like hide it so his friends- his drunk friends- wouldn’t touch it. So, we’d hide it.”

Introduction: The informant learned from mother’s side of the family and it was a part of her immediate family practices.

Analysis/Interpretation: One thing I noticed was that this statue exists both in homes and in public places. I wonder how cleaning it and avoiding the head being touched can be regulated in that more public capacity. I also have also wondered when it exists in public spaces, with visitors from outside of the culture that haven’t been socialized to understand its significance, if there are issues with head touching. Though there are people that will intentionally touch artifacts carelessly, there is an element of accidents and I’m curious as to if there are any reversal methods or predetermined courses of action in case the head is touched.

Hong Shao Yu – Ginger Fish

My informant is a 22 year old Chinese-American young woman studying communications. She heard this recipe or fish cooking strategy from her mother, who passed it to her and her sister. She likes it partly because she’s used to the flavor but partly because it’s hygienic, and also reminds her of her family. It means a lot to her because of this connection with her family.

This interview was conducted in the informant’s living room.

“So when Asian people cook, or I guess specifically like Chinese people, they make this thing called hong shao yu, it’s a type of fish that you kind of like, that you, I guess you pan-fry? and Asian people don’t eat like, old seafood, like they hate the old fishy taste, and so what you do, and like plus eating like dead seafood is like… dead shellfish is like bad luck, like you don’t eat dead crabs and stuff, yeah. Just read like Amy Tan. Um. But like fish is okay, of course cause a lot of times it’s dead before you get it, and so when you make fish, you have to stuff it with like, green onions and ginger. Like, TONS of ginger, because it gets… ugh gosh I don’t even remember what they call it, but if you translate it it’s like the fishy taste from old fish, but ginger’s so fresh that it’s kind of antibacterial, so it kills the bacteria and stuff. Now whenever I make fish or any type of seafood I’m like ‘Oh I want it to taste as fresh as possible, so I always put in like, tons of ginger. Something I learned from my mom.” “So is this something you do with your mom a lot, or just something you saw her do? When did you learn it from her?” “I’ve watched her do it a lot, like growing up I was just next to her whenever she made food, and so I’d always seen her do it. She cuts slices almost where, if fish had ribs, where the ribs would be, and she just puts in slices of ginger into the fish. I’d always seen her do that and I never thought about why… I always thought it was more for flavor and not for like, health reasons. She taught my sister and I how to make it about a year ago, and since my sister’s always been better than me I usually just let her do it, but I know how to do it now.”

My informant enjoys the taste of this ginger-y, onion-y method of preparing fish, as well as the supposed antibacterial functions this method has; the two seem to be connected by a cultural dislike of the “old fish flavor” she mentions here. This method connects her to her Chinese cultural roots as well as her mother and sister.