Taboos of Chu People
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Starting from the pre-Qin period and through 2000 years of development, the Chu people’s custom of advocating witchcraft has accumulated some social and ideological contents. Among the folklore activities, setting taboos means to conduct self-repression in a negative way. Specific manifestations are as follows:
Body Taboo: there is an old saying: “the man’s head and woman’s waist can only be allowed to watch but not touched.” It’s humiliating and insulting to touch male adult’s head; and it’s profane and humiliating to touch women’s waist part (including buttock and hip) after their adolescence.
Hair and Beard Taboo: when one’s parent passes away, before “Five-Sevens”, male relatives in the family should not have their hair cut or beard shaved so as to show their commiseration and filial piety.
Face Taboo: face is where one’s dignity lies. As the saying goes: to curse but not poke holes; to hit but not in the face. It’s the most insulting to hit people in the head and face.
Gender Taboo: woman’s clothes are forbidden to bask right in the street, in particular, clothes rods with women’s clothes are not allowed to be put across the passageway; when drying female underwear, it is advisable to be done unnoticed. After pregnancy, woman are not welcomed to take part in other people’s wedding ceremonies; in the menstrual period, woman are forbidden to enter the temple or monastery; women are not allowed to participate in activities like stove-building and beam-raising etc.
Dinning Taboo: before a meal, one should not tap the empty bowl with chopsticks, for only beggars do that asking for food; after the meal, one should not place the chopsticks right on the bowl, for it’s a way to worship dead spirits.
Language Taboo: evil words are forbidden. When relatives die, one would say “pass away” “cease to be” instead of “die”. Coffin is called “longevity coffin” or “longevity wood”. During festivals, it’s not allowed to say “damn the ghost”, etc. The lintel hall needs to bear red paper with the words “kids say it all” to prevent negative consequences as children tend to say what they like directly.
Social Taboo: when hosting guests, it’d better not serve them with eggs in odd number or with two eggs, for “Er-Huang” is cursing words in local dialect. When guests are seated, one should not wipe the table or sweep the floor for it implies that the guests should take their leave.
Rats Taboo: rats are honored as “Gaogao Die”, which means they frequent their activities on the beams. Because of their alertness and good gnawing at clothes, rats are worshiped like god. What’s more, in folk cultures, if rats leave the family, it predicts fire or water disaster. Accordingly, rural people have taboos towards weasel.
Name Taboo: sons of the only child families are named without prudence. They are often called with contemptuous names as “Gou-er” (puppy), “Shaniu (cow)”, “Naizi (Milk boy)” or “Niaopao (Urine bubble)”, etc to avoid being haunted by ghosts.