In Chinese culture, superstitions are a part of everyday life. Like any other culture around the world, some traditional Chinese superstitions may seem strange, but they hold significant value.

For example, one of the most common superstitions is around the numbers four and eight. “Four” (四 sì) is a homophone for the word “death” (死 sǐ) in Chinese. “Eight” (八 bā) on the other hand sounds like the word for “wealth” (发 fā).

Thus many people believe the number four brings bad luck while the number eight brings good luck. This is a common superstition.

But there are plenty of others that are uncommon that you may have never heard of. Here are a few lesser known traditional Chinese superstitions!

  1. 1 Do not clip your fingernails or toenails at night or you will invite ghosts into your house

    Clipping fingernailsNowadays, clipping fingernails or toenails at night doesn’t seem very strange or forbidden. However in Chinese culture it is said that clipping your digits can invite ghosts into your house. 

    This superstition was a way to prevent children from hurting themselves at night. Back when homes were poorly lit, if you clipped your nails in the dark you could end up cutting yourself. 

    Therefore to keep children safe, their parents would scare them with this superstition. 

  2. 2 Do not point your fingers at the moon or your ears will get chopped off.

    The moon goddess

    Gods and deities are important in Chinese culture. Finger-pointing is also considered rude in China. 

    Why the moon? Well there is a goddess (嫦娥 Cháng é) who lives up on the moon. Pointing your finger at the moon is disrespecting the moon goddess

    So to teach children not to point fingers at the moon to avoid dishonoring the goddess 嫦娥, parents would tell them, “If you point your fingers at the moon, your ears will get cut off at night.” Very creepy!

  3. 3 Do not give clocks or watches as gifts.

    A watch

    The word for watches and clocks is 钟 (zhōng). It is a homophone for the word end or finish (终  zhōng). To send a watch or clock to someone is 送钟 (sòng zhōng) and it sounds exactly like 送终 (sòng zhōng) which means to pay one’s last respect. 

    Never send a Chinese person a watch or clock. It is extremely disrespectful and a sign of bad luck. 

  4. 4 Do not go under trees when it rains or else you will attract ghosts.

    Lightning striking a tree

    It makes sense to try to take shelter or some sort of cover when it rains. However in Chinese culture, it is not good to take shelter under a tree when it rains. 

    There is good scientific reasoning behind this superstition. 

    It is very dangerous to go under a tree when it is pouring cats and dogs outside, because there might be a chance of lightning. There is a myth that sheltering under a tree during a thunderstorm is better than nothing. 

    But if the lightning hits the tree, you are likely going to get hit with it as well. You might not attract ghosts, but choosing not to go under a tree when it rains can save your life!

    Some people are extremely superstitious while others think of these traditional Chinese superstitions as merely folktales. Nevertheless, there is the truth behind these! Do you know any superstitions? Let us know in the comments below!

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Amie Lin

Amie Lin is currently attending Hunter College double majoring in Mandarin and Media Studies. She is such a foodie and loves Chinese dramas.
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