New Year taboos in China

It’s true that China has many customs, traditions and superstitions which translate to taboos if one is not careful to control some habits on a special day like the New Year.

There are countless number of behaviors or expressions which are acceptable in foreign cultures but considered “wrong” in the Chinese setting.

For instance, you are expected to “enjoy” and finish up your meal when served by a host. Leaving some grains of rice on your plate is considered a disrespect. Eat it up to prove he/she isn’t a bad cook.

Wearing a green hat/cap isn’t fashion in China, especially for men. A man wears a green cap only if his wife/girlfriend has been unfaithful. Surprised?

Hugging a member of the opposite sex in public isn’t allowed although handshakes may be considered OK for the educated ones. Just say hi, if you care, or smile and walk away.

French kisses are only allowed if you’re in France. Don’t try western culture in China unless you’re in your bedroom. Strictly for foreigners, any way.

Asking about someone’s age – especially if they’re from the opposite sex, is considered an insult.

The number 4 and anything that has it, is bad. Four is pronounced “si” in Chinese numerals but the same word – in a different tone, means “death”. It’s hard to see vehicle licence numbers with 4. People don’t offer gifts if they come in fours. Other numbers like 6 and 8 are seen as “good luck and wealth”.

Looking for a gift to express your feelings in China? Don’t go for a clock. The Chinese word for clock is “zhong”, also the same spelling for “death”. You can’t wish someone death if you truly love them.

Don’t give shoes as a gift unless you want to trample upon the receiver, and probably remind them how “poor and wretched” they are.

Handkerchiefs? No! People share these only at funerals.

Mirrors? No, too! It attracts ghosts.

Though foreigners are always forgiven for our ignorance, here are some strict New Year’s Day taboos which every Chinese person must observe:

1. Medicine: Taking medicine on the first day of the lunar year means one will get ill for a whole year.

2. New Year’s breakfast: Porridge should not be eaten because it is considered that only poor people have porridge for breakfast and people don’t want to start the year “poor” as this is a bad omen.

3. Laundry: People do not wash clothes on the first and second day because these two days are celebrated as the birthday of Shuishen (水神,  the Water God).

4. Washing hair: Hair must not be washed on the first day of the lunar  year. In the Chinese language, hair (发) has the same pronunciation and  character as ‘fa’ in facai (发财), which means ’to become wealthy’.  Therefore, it is seen as not a good thing to “wash one’s fortune away”  at the beginning of the New Year.

5. Sharp objects: The use of knives and scissors is to be avoided as any accident is thought to lead to inauspicious things and the depletion of  wealth.

6. Going out: A woman may not leave her house otherwise she will be plagued with bad luck for the entire coming year. A married daughter is  not allowed to visit the house of her parents as this is believed to  bring bad luck to the parents, causing economic hardship for the family.

7. The broom: If you sweep on this day then your wealth will be swept away too.

8. Crying children: The cry of a child is believed to bring bad luck to the family so parents do their best to keep children as happy as  possible.

9. Theft: Having your pocket picked is believed to portend your whole  wealth in the coming year being stolen.

10. Debt: Money should not be lent on New Year’s Day and all debts have to be paid by New Year’s Eve. If someone owes you money, do not go to their home to demand it. Anyone who does so will be unlucky all year.

11. An empty rice jar: A depleted receptacle may cause grave anxiety as the cessation of cooking during the New Year period is considered to be an ill omen.

12. Damaged clothes: Wearing threadbare garments can cause more bad luck for the year.

13. Killing things: Blood is considered an ill omen, which will cause misfortunes such as a knife wound or a bloody disaster.

14. Monochrome fashion: White or black clothes are barred as these two colours are traditionally associated with mourning.

15. Welcoming the New Year: According to tradition, people must stay up  late on New Year’s Eve to welcome the New Year and then let off  firecrackers and fireworks to scare off inauspicious spirits and Nian, the New Year monster.

16. Giving of certain gifts: Clocks, scissors, and pears all have a bad meaning in Chinese culture.

Unbelievable Tradition: Women strip to celebrate boy’s transition to adulthood

Nigeria’s foundation as a nation is solidly built on its enviable socio-cultural diversity, a blessing that can be maximised for the greater good though the reality shows this beloved country has suffered more for it. The people of Edo state are known as tradition keepers, hate it or love it.

A recent traditional ceremony which requires women to go half-naked while young boys are initiated into adulthood, was held in the state. This is one of the many cultural celebrations where nudity is considered an indispensable part.

Pictures taken at the event were posted on Facebook, and people have aired their opinions on a culture which some of them described as “weird and bizzare”.

Critics are yet to figure out the relationship between nudity and a boy’s transition to manhood.

Worse still, the fact that those men at the event were all clothed while women who have nothing to do with such celebrations are made to strip naked, calls for an immediate action from human rights activists.

Isn’t this an an outright violation of women’s rights?

The ceremony was reportedly held on 29 October in Lulehaland, Uzebba, Edo state, according to a report from Tori.ng

The Facebook user who shared the information is known as Comrade Osiki Odion. He wrote: “I want to officially, traditionally and culturally thank friends who grace the age grade celebration in my community Uzebba-Iuleha, Owan West, Edo State, Nigeria for their show of love and belief in promoting and encouraging the values and essence of our culture.
“Of importance, there is none like this culture in the entire globe.
 
“To my Facebook friends I love and cherish your comments.
“Our aim is to put this age-long tradition in the global scene for it to attract local, national and international tourism.
“We as children of Africa must not allow our Reverend culture to go into extinction. Our names, our language, our greetings, our dressing, our marriage, our naming, our cooperation, our administrative tradition, our economic and social values must stand us out in the world.
“Thanks. Our ancestors will continue to bless you all. ESE.”

“I am just wondering why I am not seeing any manhood displayed since its manhood celebration,” a concerned citizen asked after seeing the pictures.
 
“Nice one, I don’t poke nose into what I don’t know our cultural heritage must not go into extinction because of the so called civilization. Those bickering about this need to be schooled historically about the need for the renaissance of our cherished traditions,” another netizen argued in defense of the tradition.

The impact of tradition, morality and law on sex education in China

Over the years, “sex education” in China hasn’t been an acceptable subject for adolescents as most parents and even teachers avoid it like plague. People who brand themselves as “traditional” often see sexuality as a taboo that shouldn’t be discussed in public or education institutions.

Image shows a group of young girls who work in massage and spa houses. Such places are always used as brothels with the employees rendering sex services in secret. 

Young people are often scolded for their curiosity on sex-related matters and as fate would have it, they quickly mature into adulthood without knowledge of sexual crimes, safe sex, unwanted pregnancies and sex ethics. In return, the society gets to pay for its hypocrisy.

There’s truth in the saying, “a stitch in time, saves nine”.

Sex education refers to people’s comprehension about sex, which involves not only sexual structure (anatomy, physiology, birth control, pregnancy, etc.), but also sexual relationships concerning human and moral problems. It includes at least sexual physiology, sexual psychology, sexual ethic, sexual law, etc., which aims to help people form the attitude and behavior that both society and morality can accept.

Recently, one sexual education pilot programme in Beijing made headlines for the wrong reasons. The textbook approved for students to learn about the sex life of bees and birds, was criticised for being “overly-graphic”.

Parents were divided over the matter as some argued that schools were trying to pervert their kids while others admitted it’s a necessary evil.

In may schools, teachers always skip Biology lesson chapters on sexuality. Most educators would rather ask students to read the pages at home.

However, the times have changed from those days when students were denied answers to life-changing questions on their sexuality. Parents now have a better understanding of the need for sexual education and would want their kids to get an all-round development.

Image shows a group of prostitutes under arrest at a Chinese brothel.

Ma Li is a teacher in Shanghai who teaches a small group of Chinese women about sex. The subject is called something that literally translates to “sex-taboo”.

Li’s educational course is aimed an sensitizing woman about wrongs done to the society by “traditional thoughts” on sexuality. According to a Huffingtonpost report, the teacher charges about $410 per month for every student.

Surprisingly, a large number of women in Shanghai are registering for the “somewhat funny lessons” to learn about their anatomy, psychology and intimacy positions.

“I had absolutely no sex education at all. I thought adult male bodies look the same as baby boys’,” said Sophia Hu, a 30-year-old lawyer who’s Ma Li’s student. “I want to understand myself and the realities of sex.”

Don’t let your mind wander. Read along and you’ll understand there’s more to the story.

Image shows a sex worker busted in her hotel room.

“In Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities, women are very influenced by Western, Taiwanese and Korean culture so have very modern attitudes to sex,” said Jay Zheng, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan. “But in rural areas, some women know nothing.”

Over the years, China has recorded very little improvement in sex education due to the country’s cultural background. This is so, partly because people generally hate to talk about these things with others.

In 2011, a married couple in the city of Wuhan made the news for believing – for three years – that lying side-by-side on one bed would result in pregnancy. Only after a visit to the doctor did the couple, both college graduates, realize their failure to conceive was down to not having sex, Chinese media reported.

“In China, schools are focused on grades, so non-examinable subjects are often changed to ones that will raise grades,” said Maggie Hu, who works for the Guangzhou-based sex education provider SexualityZone.

According to Ma Li: “One of my clients said they were told by their mother that sex is like being shot at with a gun.”

“Many people will grow up thinking that sex is a dangerous thing or really shameful,” the sex educator added.

Image shows prostitutes under arrest as police clamps down on sex workers around China.

 

It’s not surprising that over 300 million youths in China are said to be uneducated about sex and this is causing problems. Marriages have ended in divorce due to ignorance on sexual matters.

There are wide speculations that over 80 percent of young people in China have very little or no knowledge about sex. This is so because parents have always believed young couples will finally learn about it when they get married but they’ve been proven wrong in so many ways.

Even with the country’s one-child policy, a lot of young people are going through abortions thanks to the “kind” and “selfish” laws which made it legal.

How is it reasonable that sex education is frowned at, while abortion is legalized?

Students in S China learn how to prevent sexual assault

Image shows primary school students taking lessons in a sex education class.

According to a report by China’s National Working Committee on Children and Women under State Council in 2010, 60% of young Chinese aged 15-24 were open to pre-marriage sex, while 22.4% actually had sexual experience.

Among those who got pregnant before marriage, 91% had an abortion, while only 4.4% of unmarried people aged 15-24 had the “correct knowledge” about reproduction. It also added that only 14.4% of that group understood the risks of HIV.

A Xi’an university which recently opened a sex education course has gained wide popularity among students, a local newspaper reports.

According to Qi Xinyan, a teacher at Xijing University, the university started several new optional courses this semester, including sex education, death psychology and female psychology.

The course is expected to help students get an overall understanding about sex and health and to allow them to gain more information about how to prevent AIDS, venereal disease and other sex related disease.

“Besides theory, how to use condoms will also be taught in the class,” said Qi. “Students are very interested in the course, and there are no vacancies left.”

Students in S China learn how to prevent sexual assault

Image shows a primary school pupil drawing on the board during a sex education class.

The higher institution in Xi’an is one of the many universities in China who have adopted sex education among their courses.

“The Chinese government’s general attitude (toward sexuality and sex education) has been more and more open,” USAToday quotes Li Yinhe, a leading sexologist in China and a fellow with the Institute of Sociology at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“When I was in Peking University back in 1988, I intended to open a course on the sociology of sex, but the university did not approve it.” Li said. “But Renmin University later opened a similar course, lectured by Pan Suiming.”

“Students cannot start to receive sex education after entering their adolescence, because all the compulsory education is ‘advanced’,” Pan, another sexologist said. “Also, it (sex education) should be absolutely ‘compulsory’, not only for students, but also for parents and government.”

Chinese Woman Poses Nude at a Sacred Lake.

Chinese woman poses nude at sacred Tibetan lake

This Chinese woman whose identity is yet undisclosed by the authorities has been criticized for posing nude and taking pictures at a sacred lake in Tibet.

Internet users see this as a show of disregard for the Tibetan culture and a breach of religious taboos which should need some kind of spiritual cleansing.

Local police has refused to give details of the photographer who reports say has been detained for ten days together with the woman. The punishment to be meted by the police has been also kept a secret.

A web user identified as “YouchumDolkar” on Weibo, posted the series of photographs on Monday night. Alongside the pictures, the woman posted a message: “A good photographer and a good model have broken cultural and ethnic boundaries.” 

There are also other pictures in which the woman appeared stark naked.

Continue reading “Chinese Woman Poses Nude at a Sacred Lake.”

An Old-School Chinese Wedding.

These days it has become trendy for young couples to have wedding ceremonies in the old Chinese traditional style. This wedding was held in Chengdu, China on April 2. The bride’s name is Li Li Juan and her husband is Jonathan Ducourt.

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Continue reading “An Old-School Chinese Wedding.”