How to Understand and Respect Chinese Superstitions 2021


China is home to many diverse and ancient cultures, thus Chinese people traditionally have certain superstitions. When in China or interacting with Chinese culture, it is best to learn and understand these superstitions to avoid offending people.


Part 1 of 6:Numbers

1Avoid the number 4 whenever possible. 四(four) is pronounced si (四 sì (si) - like a snake with 'uh' (say the vowel in the back of your throat)). The word for"death"死 is pronounced si (with falling intonation). Because of the similarities in pronunciation, the Chinese avoid anything to do with 4.

Some buildings may"lack"a fourth floor.

Avoid giving gifts in sets of four.

Some more modern buildings may also lack a thirteenth floor, having adopted the Western superstitions.

2Celebrate eight. In contrast, the number 8 is considered extremely auspicious. It is associated with wealth.

Part 2 of 6:Gift Giving

1Avoid giving anyone (particularly the elderly) clocks. The Chinese word for clock 钟 (zhong1) is pronounced exactly the same as the word for end 终. Giving a clock as a gift in Chinese culture is the equivalent of wishing death upon someone.

2Avoid offering pears to close friends. The Chinese word for pear 梨 (li2) is pronounced the same as 离, meaning to leave. Giving pears to friends is considered bad luck, as it is considered an omen for the end of your friendship.

3Avoid giving shoes to friends or significant others. Giving shoes implies that you want them to walk out of your life.

Part 3 of 6:Colors

1When in doubt, wear or use red. Red is an auspicious color in Chinese culture.

2Avoid giving white gifts, or gifts wrapped in white. Unlike in the West, where black signifies death, China uses white for the same purpose.

Part 4 of 6:Chinese New Year

1Celebrate with noise. Fireworks were used in ancient times to frighten bad spirits. Fireworks in China, particularly 鞭炮, are loud. These are used during holidays like 春节 (Chinese New Year) to frighten away spirits who would bring bad luck.

2Clean out the old. Cleaning during the New Year will bring good luck. You essentially"sweep out"the old.

3Eat fish on 除夕 but leave some leftovers. Chinese has a saying"年年有鱼,年年有余", meaning that if you have fish every year, then every year you'll have surplus; however, you need to leave surplus in order for this work.

4Hang 福 upside down on your door or in your house. The word 福 (fu2) means happiness or prosperity. By hanging it upside down (倒 dao) then 福 will arrive (到 dao).

Part 5 of 6:Pregnancy and Birth

1Learn the interactions between superstitions and pregnancy/birth:

During pregnancy, women must be very careful about what animals they interact with. The presence of some animals is said to influence the characteristics of their baby.

Women avoid cutting their hair during pregnancy and after birth. Some women believe it will affect the life expectancy of the child.

Many Chinese families will plan their child's birth to coincide with certain years. Every year is represented by a different Chinese zodiac animal. Most often, people will aim for the year of the Dragon or Pig and avoid the year of the Sheep.

Part 6 of 6:Miscellaneous

1Eat noodles to celebrate. On birthdays, Chinese people eat a special kind of noodle. These noodles are very long, symbolizing longevity.

2Understand feng shui. Feng shui 风水 is the Chinese art of balance. Homes, businesses (and originally graves) are designed in certain ways to maximize benefit and maintain an overall balance of qi.

Avoid facing beds near doors.

Certain locations are associated with certain elements.

Avoid clutter, which disrupts the flow of qi.