During our stay in Wuyuan County I noticed a lot of the houses had a small mirror hanging above the front door.
I asked C. about it and he told me it was for protection against ghosts and evil spirits: if they try to enter they will see their own reflection on the mirror and, because they are very ugly, will panic and run away.
I wasn’t very convinced of the validity of this explanation and retorted: “But are all ghosts so awfully ugly that they will be scared of their own image? And what if they come from one side?” Of course his replies were: “Yes, they are all very ugly” and “No, ghosts only descend from the sky downward in a straight line”. “But what if?” (I love what ifs). “There are no what ifs“. It seems that in the Chinese tradition all ghosts are horrendous and only move in one direction.
I found this superstition very amusing and tried to think of other Chinese superstitions I know:
– You can’t sweep the floor on New Year’s Day or you will sweep away your good luck (well, not that I was going to clean the house on New Year’s Day…).
– When celebrating New Year, getting married, opening a business, etc, you need to have a lot of firecrackers, the noisier the better. This will scare evil spirits away.
– When eating with other people, the mouth of the teapot shouldn’t point to anyone. If you put it pointing directly to one person it means you are wishing him/her to have a child without an arsehole (I swear someone told me about this superstition, I don’t think it is very widespread though).
– The number 4 brings bad luck because it sounds like death. In some buildings you won’t find the 4th floor. On an Air China flight years ago I checked and there was no row 4.
– If you attend a wedding, birthday or baby party and noodles are served you can’t cut them with your teeth, you have to swallow all of them into your mouth. The noodles mean longevity.
But we also have superstitions in Spain. Well, most of them I’m pretty sure can be found also in other countries:
– Black cats, passing under a ladder, breaking a mirror, or opening an umbrella indoors brings bad luck.
– Knocking on a wooden door or table after you’ve said that something bad could happen will avoid that it actually happens.
– Crossing your fingers for good luck (for example, if you wish someone good luck you’d say “I’ll cross my fingers”).
– If you knock over the salt shaker and salt spills on the table you will have bad luck. This can be counteracted if you take a little bit of salt and throw it over your shoulder.
– If you buy a lottery ticket you can rub it on a hunchback’s hump (if you know any hunchback) or on a pregnant belly for good luck (ask for permission first or you might get slapped).
– In Spain the unluckiest day is Tuesday the 13th. In other countries it is Friday the 13th.
– And my favourite: If someone sweeps over your feet with a broom you won’t get married.
Do you know any unusual or interesting superstitions, either from China or from other countries? I’d love to hear them!