Have you heard of any of these quirky Hong Kong superstitions? Perform these acts and be prepared for misfortune, bad luck, unhappy relationships, and more.
While Hong Kong is renowned for being one of the top markets for finance, it also has a history deep-rooted in tradition and Chinese superstition, and there are times when there seems to be a combative dynamic between modern lifestyle and contemporary culture and heritage. Behind the beautiful Chinese temples, there are ancient stories and the markets in Kowloon and parts of Wong Tai Sin are still surrounded by many fortune tellers. Find out some quirky Hong Kong superstitions that don’t seem to make much modern-day sense but have withstood the test of time.
Hong Kong Superstitions
1. Number Four
The number four is considered an unlucky number, because it sounds the same as death in both Cantonese and Mandarin. To this day, in some apartment buildings, you won’t able to find the fourth floor because of this exact reason. This is probably one of the most well-known Hong Kong superstitions, and for good reason.
2. Leftover rice
A popular one for adults trying to get children to eat, make sure you finish everything in your bowl down to the last grain of rice. Each grain of rice left behind will indicate how many acne scars and spots your future spouse will have.
3. Chopsticks in your bowl
Make sure you never stick chopsticks upright in your food, especially rice, as it resembles incense sticks that are used to burn and pay respects for the dead. Not only will it bring you bad luck but will make you appear to have terrible table manners.
4. Cutting your birthday cake
When you cut into your birthday cake, make sure not to cut to the very bottom of the cake, because if you do, you won’t get married.
5. The gift of a pair of shoes
Don’t ever purchase shoes as a present. Firstly, because shoes in Cantonese sounds like a sigh, so thereby gifting them implies to the person you’re giving the gift, that they are a burden. Secondly, the practical use for shoes is to walk or run in them, so giving your giftee a pair of shoes means they will leave you. Lastly, shoes are stepped on, and can be used to step on others, symbolising poor relationships and bad luck.
6. Clocks as presents
Gifting a clock is incredibly bad luck, as in Chinese the word sounds similar to attending and paying respects at a funeral. Presenting your giftee a clock especially on their day of birth is considered inauspicious and a bad omen.
7. Never bring home a stranger’s umbrella or open it indoors
Umbrellas are known to carry ghosts, because spirits tend to be attracted to shadows. So, avoid opening an umbrella indoors, as the shadow from the umbrella acts as an entrance for ghosts to enter your doors and don’t ever pick up a stranger’s umbrella and bring it home.
8. Villain hitting
Ever saw an old lady beat the non-living life out of a drawing or photo with a shoe? Well guess what, they get paid to do so! People who are regarded as enemies will be drawn out, then these pictures will be given to these ladies for some serious beating. Sometimes, cursing can be paired along with it as well (so be nice to everyone!) Also, villain-beating has a worldwide recognition – Time Magazine selected villain- beating as Best Way to Get It Off Your Chest for its 2009 Best of Asia feature.
9. Trinkets and bells during the Hungry Ghost Festival
The seventh month of the lunar calendar marks the Hungry Ghost Festival when all gates of the afterlife let loose and roam the Earth. During this time, people should avoid wearing or carrying anything that has bells or trinkets that will make a ding sound, as this is believed to attract spirits. So if your little kitty has a cute bell, sorry boo it’s gotta come down!
Read more about the Hungry Ghost Festival here.
10. Dragon gates
You’re not alone if you wondered why there’s a massive square-shaped hole carved in buildings. What a waste of space, some would think, but there’s actually a feng shui reasoning behind the architecture. It’s believed that dragons still live in the mountains and these holes allow the beasts to pass through to reach the sea. This act also brings positive energy (known as qi) and the blockage of their passage is believed to bring bad luck.