The Luck of Red – Chinese Superstition

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Chinese
Age: 19
Occupation: Student
Residence: Shanghai, China
Date of Performance/Collection: 04/21/19
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English

“So there is a kind of tradition in China, that for example, I was born in the Year of Rabbit, so when it is the Year of Rabbit again, I need to wear red underwears again for the entire year to ensure luck and happiness.”

Context: The informant, YT, is a student at USC originally from Shanghai, China, and is one of my roommates. We were discussing weird superstitions involving luck that our families abide by, and she brought up these superstitions that involve the color red. According the the informant, red is very influential in Chinese culture, and is largely associated with China on a global scale. YT, though not very superstitious, is still impacted by the widespread folk belief, and ends up abiding by this superstitions partially.

Analysis: Color is an incredibly important component of many cultures around the world. Specific colors can be seen as lucky, unlucky, beautiful, or cursed; the way that a culture sees these colors greatly impacts the superstitions of that nation. For China, red holds several meanings. First off, red was seen as bringing good fortune and luck, which is showcased in the initial red underwear superstition. Another component of this superstition is its reliance on the importance of Chinese zodiac. Chinese zodiac is assigned to each person based on the year that the individual was born in, in a 12 year cycle. It is also believed that when the year of your Chinese zodiac returns, that year will be an unlucky one; therefore, this superstition is an attempt to counteract this unluckiness. Masking the unlucky year with an article of clothing is there was of restoring joy and luck into the world.

It is also important to comment on the importance and proliferation of superstitions even in the modern era. Most of the Chinese superstitions have persisted in the culture for many years, so it could be thought that the folk beliefs would slowly die off as time went on, but such is not the case. YT is not superstitious, however, she continue to follow the folk beliefs because of the influence of those superstitions. For many members of the younger generation, they follow the folk beliefs because they think “what is the worst that could happen?” and that any potential luck that they obtained would be beneficial. Due to this mindset, young members of the Chinese culture continue to abide by this folk belief.