Halloween is just around the corner. In the West, it is common to see people bringing out their funky costumes; putting up spooky decorations; children and young adults getting ready for trick-or-treating. There would be no Halloween without Jack-o’-lantern, paper bats, and scream masks. Oh, how could we forget about ghost stories and Halloween superstitions!
Now, that’s the Halloween that we know and love.
Halloween is also big in Asian culture. If you visit Asia somewhere towards the end of October— or, mid-October for our early decorators, you will definitely get to see their take on this eerie season! We’re talking about Halloween parades and Halloween themed parks!
In the spirit of Halloween, we thought that there would be no better way to celebrate our beloved holiday than to talk about Asian superstitions that will send chills down your spine! Plus, Asian superstitions do play a huge role across Asia! Brrrr...
Let’s get started with our list of Asian superstitions!
But before we jump right into our compilation of some truly fascinating Asian superstitions, we would like to clarify a few things with you. First, our list of must-know Asian superstitions will be categorized by countries; and in no particular order, to avoid confusion and for the ease of navigation. Second, we thought that it would be wise for us to start by defining what we mean by ‘Asian superstitions’! (Yes, we know that they are a mouthful but bear with us...)
Asian superstitions are the term we use to describe superficial beliefs of supernatural things that are involved in the daily practice of Asians. These Asian superstitions apply to people who live in and outside of the region of Asia— including American-Born-Chinese (ABCs) and other multiracial populations!
With that out of the way, let’s look at our first Asian superstition on our list.
When moving into your accommodation for your six-month internship in South Korea, you should always keep in mind this South Korean superstition. South Koreans have their lucky and unlucky moving days for every month of the year.
In all lunar months (which are calculated based on the different phases of the moon), you are strongly advised to move on the following dates: 9th, 10th, 19th, 20th, 29th, and 30th. Before you move out, you should refrain from doing any cleaning around what would soon be your old house to avoid malevolent spirits following to your new place of residence!
You may notice that number 13 does not exist in the Thailand directory, on the elevator, and as hotel rooms. Sometimes, it’s skipped over or replaced with 12A or 12B. The reason for this is that when rotated 90° clockwise, number 13 resembles the Thai word for ‘ghost’.
Aside from number 13, other numbers in Thai connote different meanings. Number 9, for example, is highly valued in Thailand. In Thai, number 9 is pronounced the same way as the Thai word for ‘progress’. For the same reason, it is widely believed among Thais that important ceremonial events should happen at specific times of day.
Shaved heads and monks are nothing peculiar or unusual. According to Buddhism, having virtually no hair signifies the monks’ renunciation of the materialistic world. However, meeting a monk is not considered as something good for everyone!
If you work as a salesperson or in the field of business in Singapore, you probably want to start your day off without seeing any monks. Many Singaporeans believe that seeing a monk in the morning could signify that the day would be a bad day to do business. For the best possible outcome, commute on the routes you know you will never encounter a monk!
Tidying your hair with a comb is a good way to keep your appearance neat and fit you right into the Japanese social standards. Do not underestimate the importance of a good first impression! We strongly suggest that you be gentle with your comb.
If in the west, breaking a mirror brings bad luck, destroying your comb in Japan gives you the same result. The gist of this is that you are recommended against using broken combs, or ones with missing teeth. The explanation to this Asian superstition is one that is easy to wrap your head around: combs were expensive and difficult to make in the past!
Aside from obvious safety reasons, it is widely believed by Hong Kongers that you should not walk under a ladder. Leaning against a wall, a ladder can work like a guillotine. Therefore, walking under one is foretelling that you would be the one getting hurt— that is one indicator of bad omen.
When you have no choice but to walk under a ladder in Hong Kong, make a wish until you make it. Alternatively, you can choose to walk backwards— though we strongly suggest that you double check your surroundings before attempting to follow through with the latter option!
Although the color red alone is believed to attract good luck and prosperity in China, writing something in the same color connotes death. To have someone’s name written in red is to wish death upon them.
This Asian superstition is considered to be one of the oldest and most traditional taboos in China. Historically, the name of the deceased; or those who were criminalized and imprisoned were written in red ink. For this, it is not unusual to see people of Chinese descent get furious when foreigners write their names with red pens!
In Indonesian culture, sweeping at night is said to repel good luck. As always, there is a reason behind this Asian superstition! Back when ceramic tiles and wooden floorings had not been invented and discovered, the earth was basically the floor. Sweeping with hard brooms causes a lot of unnecessary noise pollution..!
With limited natural light, it can become quite a bit of an inconvenience. Since you cannot possibly locate where all the dirt was on the ground in the dark, you would probably have to start the process all over again in the morning with the sun out!
Our next Asian superstition pertains to financial burdens. Though finances and pillows have nothing to do with one another in western culture, in Malaysian culture, they certainly do… Sitting on your pillow where your head is supposed to go is believed to bring you debts.
At the end of the day, Malaysians, like many other Asian cultures, view our bums as unhygienic. Hence putting them on pillows is not preferred. And if you ask your parents or elders at home, they would probably tell you that sitting on your pillow will give you pimples.
According to the Taiwanese culture, whistling at night means that you are inviting evil spirits to your home. They are less likely to leave you alone if you accompany your whistles with knocks.
The Taiwanese believe so because the frequency of a whistle is close to the sound ghosts made! Simply put, by whistling, you are communicating to, and in the same wavelength as them.
Our final Asian superstition on the list may seem like something ordinary but don’t let that fool you! When studying or preparing for important tests in Vietnam, you should always refrain from getting your haircut before taking them.
It is traditionally believed that cutting your hair off leads to the loss of your memory. Hence, everything that you have done leading up to those exams could all go in vain. Even though, scientifically speaking, this is untrue, it is always a good idea to pay respect to the virtues and beliefs of others!
There you have it– essential Asian superstitions that you should always keep in mind when traveling to or undertaking an international internship in Asia!
We hope that you find our list helpful to you in keeping you well informed of superstitions in Asia! Did we miss any Asian superstition? Let us know in the comment section below!!