Superstitions of Malaysian Chinese

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Picture of a 'Money generating tag' (Chinese: 對我生財) of local Malaysian Chinese. Money tags are popular among the Chinese community in Malaysia.
Words written on a lamppost found in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, translated as "The auspicious stars brings wealth and good fortune to me".

Folk custom of Malaysian Chinese refers to traditional beliefs of Malaysian Chinese and Singaporean Chinese. The ethnic Chinese in both neighbours share a common culture and historical heritage.

"Sacred" stone attraction[edit]

In September 2008, large crowds of people flocked to an open area at the Bukit Minyak Industrial area near Bukit Mertajam, seeking good luck from a "sacred" granite stone. Nearby residents claimed the stone was "worshipped" for several years before it was abandoned at the open area where it is found now. 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 praying paraphernalia, flowers, fruits and "holy water" to bathe the stone. Ah Poh, 60, from Chai Leng Park near Butterworth said he saw four numbers on the stone when he washed it with water he bought at the stall for RM1. B. Kala, 38, a mother of three children said she won RM1,400 in Wednesday's four-digit draw.[1]

Examples of superstitions[edit]

  • Car number plates containing the number 8 (examples would be 8888, 888, 88, 8, 168, 668) are a sign of good fortune (the Cantonese pronunciation for 8 is "baat" which sounds similar to "fatt" which means prosperity; whereas 8 is pronounced as "ba" in Mandarin, which sounds similar to "fa" which means to prosper.)
  • The number 4 is often avoided. (Some buildings in Malaysia replaced "4th Floor" to 3A, and house address 44 and 4 to 43A and 3A.) The number "4" itself has a similar tone to the Chinese character for "death".
  • Red and yellow are the colors of good fortune accepted by all, while black is a color of bad luck.
  • Pineapple is a sign of good fortune (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 will invite ghosts.
  • Sleeping in front of a mirror will make your soul enter the image in the mirror.
  • When in bed or when sleeping, the feet must not point towards a door.
  • Sweeping another person's feet with a broom brings bad luck.


Numbers play a large part in all superstitions. They are an important part of superstition in any culture and are very significant within Chinese culture.

  • 4 is the unlucky number in Chinese culture because the word for four is very similar to the word for death in Hokkien, Mandarin and Cantonese. This is very different from any other culture; in local Chinese culture the unlucky number is 14, because in Cantonese it sounds like “must/will die.”
  • 7 is considered unlucky in Chinese culture as well. The number 7 is also consider as ghostly, since it coincides with the 7th lunar month of the Chinese calendar which in the Chinese culture is the “ Ghost Month.” During the Ghost Month, the gates of the hell opens up and the ghosts would wander the human world in search of food.
  • Many stages of life according to the Chinese revolve around the number 7.
    • For example: baby teeth come when children are 7 months old, and children start to get their adult teeth when they are 7 years old.
    • These ages suggest a pre-determined "plan" for humanity and is the reason for why the Chinese consider these ages, and the number 7 to be lucky.
  • A few other numbers that are considered lucky in Chinese culture are 9 and 6.
    • 9 is considered lucky because in both Mandarin and Cantonese it sounds like the word "longevity". 6 is considered auspicious because it is a homonym for the word "flow." The pronunciation for the number 6 is “liu” and it means smooth in English. Therefore, Chinese people often use 6 when they start a new business. 8 is considered lucky in Mandarin because it sounds like the word for "Prosperity" and "Wealth".


The Chinese also have many superstitions concerning pregnancy and the woman who is pregnant. Although many people believe most of these to be false,[who?] others religiously follow many of the superstitions.

  • The emotional state of pregnant women is important. They should stay happy as much as possible. It is believed whatever affects a mother's mind will also affect the baby. If you cry and stress a lot, then your baby will always have a sour face and always cry.
  • Pregnant women should watch what they eat because it is believed that if one eats food that's not properly cut or mashed, her child will have a careless disposition. Light coloured food will make your baby fair-skinned. If soy sauce or dark soy sauce make up a large part of your diet, your baby may have darker skin.
  • Never attend funerals and weddings. This is to avoid any clash on each party.
  • To protect your unborn baby from evil spirits, pregnant women are advised to place a knife under their bed.
  • Pregnant women should not cut anything on the bed. Spiritually, it signifies cutting your unborn baby's umbilical cord.
  • Using glue is believed to bring about difficult labour.
  • Avoid getting a stroller or push chair before your baby is born. Keep it elsewhere, preferably away from the house if you happen to purchase one. It's bad luck to have an empty stroller within the house when you're pregnant.
  • Never utter foul or vulgar words or you might risk getting your baby cursed.
  • Stop that all too common habit of rubbing your baby bump if you don't want a spoiled and over-demanding child.
  • Do not visit houses which had been left vacant for a long time. Such premises have not been spiritually "cleansed" therefore might contain unholy entities that affects you and your baby.
  • Hang images or posters of babies around the house and bedroom.
  • Leave a light on when you're sleeping. A small night light will do just fine to avoid sleeping in total darkness.

This is for readers who are not yet married. Have the groom carry the bride over a pan of burning coals when entering his home for the first time. Doing this ensures trouble-free labour.[2]

Lunar New Year[edit]

The Lunar New Year is one of the most important holidays celebrated in Asia. There is a lot of time and preparation that goes into making the event an unforgettable one. With hopes of entering the new year prosperous and successful, many people in China follow certain superstitions to increase their chances of good fortune. Listed below are some of the most popular New Year's superstitions that many of the Chinese people believe in:

  • It is important to have the house completely clean before New Year's Day for good luck in the coming year.
  • However, never clean on New Year's Day, as it signifies sweeping all of your good luck out of the house.
  • It is best to wear red coming into the new year, as it is considered to be the colour that brings the most luck.
  • Opening your windows is said to let good luck into your home.
  • Sharp objects aren't supposed to be used during New Year's Day because it symbolises cutting of good fortune.

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