Superstitions of Malaysian Chinese

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Picture of a "money generating tag" (Chinese: 對我生財), which is popular among Chinese Malaysians
Words written on a lamppost in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, translated as "The auspicious stars bring wealth and good fortune to me"

The superstitions of Malaysian Chinese are the traditional beliefs of Chinese Malaysians and Chinese Singaporeans. The ethnic Chinese in both neighbours share a common culture and historical heritage.

Sacred stones[edit]

In September 2008, large crowds of people flocked to the Bukit Minyak Industrial area near Bukit Mertajam, seeking good luck from a piece of granite. Nearby residents claimed the stone had been worshipped for several years, then abandoned. The number of people visiting the area increased as word started to spread; some came from as far as Kuala Lumpur. Local residents erected temporary stalls selling prayer paraphernalia, flowers, fruits and holy water with which to bathe the stone. Ah Poh, a 60-year-old man from Chai Leng Park near Butterworth, said he saw four numbers on the stone when he washed it with water he bought at a stall for 1 RM. B. Kala, a 38-year-old mother of three children, said she had won 1,400 RM in Wednesday's four-digit draw.[1]

General examples[edit]

  • Red and yellow are considered lucky, while black is considered unlucky.
  • Pineapples are considered lucky (the Hokkien word for pineapple is ông-lâi [𦬬莱], which sounds like ōng [旺] - "luck" or "fortune", lâi [來] - "coming").
  • Clipping fingernails or toenails at night is believed to invite ghosts.
  • Mirrors are said to draw in the souls of those who sleep in front of them.
  • When in bed or when sleeping, it is considered bad luck for a person's feet to point towards a door.
  • Sweeping another person's feet with a broom is considered unlucky.

Numbers[edit]

  • Four is considered unlucky because "four" sounds very similar to "death" in Hokkien, Mandarin and Cantonese. Some buildings in Malaysia call their fourth floor "3A" and house addresses such as 44 and 4 are changed to 43A and 3A.
  • Six is considered lucky because it is a homonym for the word "flow" or "smooth" (liu). Therefore, six is often used when starting a new business.
  • Seven is considered unlucky because it coincides with the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar, the "ghost month," when it said the gates of hell open and ghosts wander the human world in search of food.
  • Eight (baat) is considered lucky because it sounds like the word for "prosperity" and "wealth" in Cantonese (fatt). It is pronounced ba in Mandarin, while fa means "to prosper."
  • Nine is considered lucky because in both Mandarin and Cantonese it sounds like the word "longevity."

Pregnancy[edit]

It is believed that pregnant women should:

  • Be as happy as possible, because it said that whatever affects a mother's mind also affects the baby.
  • Watch what they eat, because if their food is not properly prepared, the child will have a careless disposition. It is also believed that eating light-coloured food leads to a baby with light skin, while dark foods lead to dark-coloured babies.
  • Place knives under their beds to ward off evil spirits.
  • Not cut anything on their bed, since it is considered to symbolically represent cutting the baby's umbilical cord.
  • Not use glue, lest it bring about a difficult labor.
  • Never attend funerals or weddings.
  • Avoid getting a stroller or push chair before the baby is born. An empty stroller in a pregnant woman's house is considered unlucky.
  • Never use foul language; it is believed to risk the baby being cursed.
  • Not rub their baby bump, or the child will be spoiled and over-demanding.
  • Not visit houses which have been vacant for a long time. They are considered spiritually unclean, which means dangerous entities may be present.
  • Hang images or posters of babies around their house and bedroom.
  • Leave a light on when they're sleeping.

It is also considered important for a groom to carry his bride over a pan of burning coals when entering their home for the first time, to ensure trouble-free labour.[2]

Lunar New Year[edit]

The Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays celebrated in Asia. In hopes of a prosperous and successful new year, many superstitions are observed, such as:

  • Having the house completely clean before New Year's Day.
  • Never cleaning on New Year's Day, as it is believed to sweep all of the good luck out of the house.
  • Wearing red when the new year starts, as it is considered to be the most lucky colour.
  • Opening windows to let good luck into the home.
  • Not using any sharp objects because it is seen as cutting off good fortune.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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