Tag Archives: Chinese beliefs

Birthmarks and Beauty (Chinese Folk Belief)

Context/Background: This informant is from China, but currently resides in the U.S. In their culture, there are many belief systems and stereotypes based on features within the modes of attributing value.


“[In Chinese culture], the most beautiful people have moles and birthmarks bc the gods were jealous of the beauty so they want to make them imperfect.”

Introduction: As a part of Chinese culture, the informant was immersed in its social principles and beliefs; this being one of them.

Analysis/Interpretation: When I hear this, I think it’s actually really touching because of the idea brought forth that something that makes someone “imperfect” actually being very much worthy of admiration. I’ve found in American culture at least, there are pervasive ideas surrounding imperfection, and while they may not be specifically steered towards birthmarks, there are many standardized and normalized ideas of beauty. Additionally, this does not go to characterize or ostracize an entire region, but merely accentuates my appreciate for small parts of cultures that challenge a traditionally enforced idea of what validates someone.


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.