Monday, 4 August 2008

Between myth and truth

I grew up in quite a traditional Chinese family and my Mom was one who goes by the book very closely. Many will know that most Chinese are also a superstitious bunch. We have many rituals and taboo, things you are not supposed to do at a particular time, age or place.

I would consider most of these practices as myth. One that comes to mind is this instructions where we are not suppose to cut our nails at night, lest we want a lot of people talking behind our back. Have you heard of this before? I don’t know about you but to me, I find this to be a myth. Please let me know if this has been proven to be correct.

However, there are a few practises that I find it difficult to discern whether they are proven ancient discoveries, or purely myths. Most of these practises are usually medically driven.

And they are…

One should not rice if you have fever. I understand this is widely practised. When I was young, I somewhat found this to be true. When I was recovering from fever and decided to have some rice, the fever mysteriously returned. Any doctor wants to provide a medical connection in this?

One should not drink soup if you have flu. Again, I think there is no medical connection between the 2 but I understand this is also another widely practised lifestyle amongst Chinese. Any mothers out there still practising this?

One should not eat egg if you have a sore throat. Apparently egg is considered ‘tuk’, meaning ‘toxic’ but not one which will kill you; just bad enough to cause it to worsen. I remember this very clearly as my throat has not been good since I was young. Anyone with me on this?

One should not have cold drinks or ice-cream when one is having a cough. I believe this is one of the most common practises amongst Chinese. I personally find this to be very true. If you are having a cough, the moment you down an ice-cold coke, the cough will come almost immediately. But then again, ask any western medical practitioner and they will probably tell you there is no connection between the 2. Or is there?

I have just mentioned a few and I am sure there are many out there where they border between medical truth and ancient beliefs. But there is one which is quite mind boggling. It is a very strict practise amongst Chinese, and even in other races but to the western world, this is practise is virtually non-existent.

What I am talking about is… …. confinement. For those who are not familiar with confinement, it is a time (usually a month) after a mother has given birth to her child and she is supposed to stay in-door and observe a very strict military like ‘protection’. This is a time where the mother is supposed to wrap herself all the time to guard against ‘wind’ and she is eat a lot (and I mean a whole lot) of ginger to ensure there is no ‘wind’ inside her. Taking a shower during confinement is a privilege.

My Mom said the body of a mother is at its weakest during that time and thus, one has to protect herself or else, she might have to face the repercussions later on in life. My Mom was unfortunate enough to fall sick during one of her confinement and according to her, that is why she has been weak and not healthy all her life.

But then again, there was this English couple in my church where she brought her baby to church within days after delivering and the mother was happily worship God in an air-conditioned environment. Mind you, that was her second child. And I also understand that most westerners do the same.

Do you find them anything less healthy towards the end of their lives? I have yet to be enlightened.

55 comments:

Just Jasmine said...

I'm only familiar with this, Zewt: One should not have cold drinks or ice-cream when one is having a cough.

The rest are all a new thing for me, thanks for sharing! :D

Pauline Yap said...

thanks for the confinement info. :)
zewt, do you have msn?
can u add me in? :)

day-dreamer said...

Hmm... let's see.

1) Not having rice while fever. I was told because rice stores a lot of energy (and you know the part where tenaga kimia --> tenaga haba blah blah blah), so better refrain from eating it. My doctors always told me to take something light like porridge or bread when I have fever.

2) I like hot soup when I'm having flu leh! LOL. Having something hot going down feels oh-so good when your nostrils are blocked and your head is so heavy. :x

3) Never hear before cannot eat egg while soarthroat... haha.

4) Not having cold stuff while coughing because the cold temperature irritates the throat and thus, making your cough even worse. I thought this one is "recognized" in the medical world? Because my doctors always forbade me to take cold stuff whenever I'm coughing since young.

5) The confinement thingy... yeah Chinese normally practise it that way but I've known people who doesn't. Haha. (Are you asking this because of...? :P)

I think Westerners and Easterners have different beliefs and practices so there's no definite right or wrong. :)

Terra Shield said...

Someone said that you shouldn't cut your nails at night because people those days used to use a knife/blade to cut their nails and they only had the 'lampu minyak tanah' to work with, hence if they did the cutting at night, then they might cut their finger as well.

I thought that made a lot of sense. As for the others, especially about not having soup when having the flu, or rice during fever, I can't say much. Never heard of those actually...

Life for Beginners | Kenny Mah said...

Hehe, I've heard of all of these but I usually ignore all of them. Makan comes first, ill or well! ;)

BossCat said...

i still enjoy cold drinks and ice cream even when i am having cough.

*cough cough*

for the confinement, nowadays even my cousins are happily enjoying air con after giving birth to my nephews and nieces. they said enjoy now, suffer later.

mistipurple said...

cough must drink coke with lemon leh. brings up the phlegm. i think in hongkong they practise that. if go to a hong kong kind of cafe, they have this on their menu.

eggs make me cough. i found out. thank goodness. imagine how hard to pin down?

cc said...

Have not heard of most, except the confinement. Most people practice it because, well, better to be safe than sorry.

kyh said...

Cant cut nails at night not bcos of what what ghost thingy meh (like yum yong thingy)... dunno :P

Cant eat rice during fever... this one i agree... bcos rice is considered as having 'heat' or smth like that... Chinese categorize food into yinyang, cold and hot. Complicated rite? But I find them to be true to some degree...

Havent heard of flu cant drink soup... I hampalang sapu one... Except when I'm down with fever or having cough la...

kyh said...

Btw, Western practitioners are not always right. Chinese medicine can be traced back to thousands of yrs, which is older than any of the Western medicines you see today. Westerners didn't believe in acupuncture decades ago, but now what, science has proven it's got medical truths in it.

And oh another diff between Western and Chinese medicine. Western medicines tend to suppress an illness (like panadols or aspirins to suppress the pain for a temporary period) while Chinese medicines sought to cure from within.

iamthewitch said...

I have heard of most of the superstitions except for the eggs! I heard that you're not supposed to eat Chicken when you have cough though. :P And I used to abide by the rules of not cutting my nails at night... but not anymore. :)

u-jean said...

there are also taboos on what not to eat after getting a jab. like seafood, eggs. etc... i thought the no eating rice when you're having a fever is because rice is carbohydrate and will give you energy is the form of heat. it's my own assumption only

Aphrodite said...

theres a whole lot i can tell u about...don't comb your hair at night outside under a tree especially..spirits apparently get hold of u easily that way...don't leave the house if some1 just sneezed behind u just as u were about to leave...it brings bad luck...etc. etc..the list of myths can be long...
the ice cream thingie is so true...and science has an exlanation for that...u have a cold and ur eating chilled stuff...duh!! wdn't that make it worse...

Mcmercedez said...

Well, most of these are actually a tradition stuff that was passed on since long time ago.. Some of it is quite true like things not supposed to eat during fever and cough.. Even doc also advise the same..

For confinement, i think this is up to the person and the family.. Typically every women in any religion also have their rules during this particular period.. So sometimes maybe just follow also will not harm anything.. Better be safe than sorry.. hehe..

sharlydia said...

hey! it's always depending on oneself how much he/she wants to believe or practice after hearing them from the old folks lar! I was in air-con room almost throughout my whole confinement month coz it was just too hot! Didnt really wrap myself or had plenty of ginger though...But i'll surely avoid cold drinks when i'm having cough...Infact during pregancy, there are more myths than u can ever think of, but i guess it's up to u if u want to practice them. For me, unless it's medically proven, otherwise i dun really bother...

apap said...

ya,zewt. my parents oso said no nail-cutting at night. haha! but,i jz cant help it sometimes at night,n i cut my nails. haha! anyway,i thk no one is perfect. there must one or two back-stabbers talk about us if there is any lah... :)

abt d cough and confinement one,i oso somehow do believe. after we drank cold drink,our mucus cant be killed away unless take antibiotic. for confinement,we need to better becareful loh. or may be if we want to treat d mother/wife well,then we let her rest well loh. we oso dun 1 sthg bad happens to her mah.

i oso got a myth. we cant point to the moon as we might get cut on our ears somedays. ;)

Kimmy said...

Well, it make sense according to which time of era. Most of it, my family had taken away a lot of the taboos that was passed down from generations. And so far, we're fine. One funny myth in my culture is that we kids were not allowed to eat buntut ayam (pygostyle - better known as the Pope's nose) because it'll make us slow in thinking. Apparently, I found out the older people didn't encourage kids to eat because it's nice to eat.

HuntressMoon said...

i always cut my nails at night- so far nothing and have been doing that since i was a kid. I like to rebel.

But my mom did mentioned that she was told by someone when i was a baby, that i was not allowed to go into any temples if my mother converts to christianity, or else i will surely die.
hmm that is one thing i have not broken it. Because she reminds me everytime i am about to go on a trip somewhere.

the Constantly Dramatic One said...

"...we are not suppose to cut our nails at night, lest we want a lot of people talking behind our back."

Ouuuu, I should do that more often. I like it when ppl talk behind my back. Make me feel feh-mes. Also more drama like that. I liiiike. =p

The confinement thing? I think in the Malay culture also got something like that but not too severe. Also the Ginger tea, well ginger tea are believe to have properties that make blood flo in your body better or something. So that sounds......legit I guess.

Anak Merdeka said...

There's lots of myths surrounding confinement and it is better to just be sensible about it. No point for mom & baby to lose precious sleep sweating it out in a hot and stuffy room.

I spent my nights in an air-con room (and most hot afternoons too) but I made sure it's not chilly. And I dry my hair immediately after washing and keep changing my T-shirt to keep dry because new moms tend to sweat buckets.

That said, I did take in lots of ginger mostly because I enjoyed it. And lots of green vegetables too, much to my mom's displeasure!

Hope you get to experience "confinement" with your wifey soon! ;-)

pinknpurplelizard said...

The soup thing seems to be also a remedy applied in other cultures as well ie Jewish and Italians. As for other 4 I think its only a Chinese thing. There maybe some truth to it me thinks but need scientists to do the proving.

When I was little, I was told things like - Kids should not eat chickens feet or you'll become a mute and can't speak. Not truth to it but it was just their way of preventing choking incidents.

seokthong said...

About the cut nail at night, i was told not to cut nails at night because if i hurt myself, the blood won't stop to bleed. HAHA! So crazy...

I don't believe with all these taboos. Sick or healthy, i still eat my food like how i eat everyday.

SuLee said...

man i ve been thinking about the same things!! especially now that im expecting and my mom will constantly remind me things that i should avoid, and most of them doesnt make sense to me!? but ill do it just coz "leng hou xun kei yao"

im still pretty confused between the myth and truth!! guess i just have to find the balance between them.

myop101 said...

oh yeah...

if you are having measles or chicken pox, you can't eat chicken or duck. apparently very "toxic" wo...

personally, doctors advised my mom to just eat anything she wants as she undergoes chemo. they did however told my mom not to take any chinese medication just in case it causes unwanted reaction.

as for confinement, it makes very little sense to not take shower or keep the body clean. in this day and age where we are taught about bacterial infection, i think it is best to ward off immediate life threatening diseases.

Huei said...

i remember i wasn't allowed to have porridge when i was having a fever..n ironically whenever we watch TV..ppl always have porridge when they have fever..never understood that!

as for no cold drinks when u're having a flu..most commonly practiced! but i dun understand it too..i started questioning my parents when i learnt in bio that cold slows down bacteria n germs..warm makes it more active..so if i had warm food..wouldn't it be worst! haha

n oso..jumping alot right after u had a meal = u will get appendicitis? but i dun understand..appendics r at the end of ur large intestines..it takes a day for food to get from ur stomach to ur large intestine..so..how?

missironic said...

i guess some of the chinese beliefs can be accurate in terms of protecting urself frm any sickness when u're old..especially the confinement period. at the young age, newly mothers may not feel anything however, when they're old, the effect might hurt their aging bodies. so thats y my parents alwiz told me to take care of my body at the young age so tat when im old, i wont suffer much..especially got to do wif the "wind".

on another note, eggs are actually "tuk". probably westeners cant define why is it so (im not sure, is it defined already?) but i noe its the truth coz i've experienced it before. i guess some chinese beliefs are really true but some are really too superstitious to believe...depends on how real the beliefs can be.. =)

sooky said...

About the no soup when you have flu, I've never heard of it... In fact, soup is one of my remedies for flu. When you have stuffy nose, chicken soup with (lots of) ginger can make a hearty soup that will instantly make you feel better. My hubby thinks it works too.

As for confinement, I violated a lot of the pantang-larang when I was undergoing mine. I tried to avoid ginger coz it would slow down my baby's recovery from jaundice (as I was fully breastfeeding). I was not allowed to use the fan, but air-cond was allowed... I was out-door many times during the confinement month coz I had to bring my baby to the doctor for jaundice treatment. So, am I doomed or am I doomed? :P

PurpLe~MuShRooM said...

A lot of these are created during older times, and you must understand the reason behind it.

In older time, they do not have electricity and uses candle or kerosene lamp. To prohibit one from cutting their own fingers with a scissors (older days uses scissors), the elderly created this to tell the young ones that you cannot cut your fingernails at night. At this era with lights, this does not apply anymore.

Same thing for confinement. In the older days, it's difficult to boil so much hot water for bathing and hair dryer is non-existent. That is why they say the woman should not bathe and wash her hair. In this modern days, just bathe with hot water and blow dry the hair immediately lor... right?

My mum in law always says that I shld not wash my hair everyday. I told her that only applies to older days because during her era, there is no such thing as hair dryer. Full stop. No need to argue with her.

But as for rice, this applies to my body. Doctor says rice provides carbohidrat and carbo generates heat for the body. So if you are already heaty, eating rice may increase your body temperature and therefore, you get fever again. Some people don't get this as the way our body reacts differently to nutrition and food.

mumsgather said...

I think a lot of those not eating rice during fever, drinking cold drinks when you have sore throat sayings may actually have some scientific explanation for it. Its just that we learned from word of mouth over generations instead of scientifically. Haha.

As for the confinement month experiences, I find that if you believe something then its probably self fulfilling. I know of those who swear that they have athritis due to touching unboiled water etc and yet there are those who don't worry about those traditions and they don't feel weak as a result of not following the confinement month practises.

Just do everything in moderation or as you are comfortable with when it comes to your turn. ;)

amanda said...

i also don't understand bout this confinement thing .. when my friend give birth to her baby daughter last year, her confinement lady scold her because she sleep with fan on.. NO FAN..NO AIR CON..AND WINDOWS MUST BE CLOSED AT ALL TIMES..i called this MURDER.. Not only this - that auntie banned my friend from bathing for a month.. oh my god..a month !! stupid right

sabrina said...

I used to only cut my nails in the daytime but people still bitched about me. So now i cut them at night as well...the bitching seems to be the same but at least i don't have to care anymore about when i can or can not cut my nails :p

Myth

giddy tigress said...

The not-eating-rice-when-having-fever could be true, though I have no medical explanation for it.

As for the confinement practises, I believe those were put there from ancient times in China, where it is cold and wintry. I don't think it holds here, especially the showering portion. I showered every day after my delivery.

And as for the arthritis at old age, who's to say it is caused by the *confinement* month or just plain old age?

anomaly said...

spot on! there is some degree of truth in all these but doubt the younger generation would give any thought to it. im having a massive sore throat and i still insist on have two eggs every morning for breaky...infact im thinking of eating chili padi to fight the pain haha!

Jun said...

i used to think chinese medicine and watever traditional practices are a load of crap. however, in uni we were taught to have an open mind. chinese med is jt a school of thought diff to the western med school of thought. this does not mean that it is any less inferior, even though it may not be explainable by science. then again, isn't science another school of thought which current society holds superior over other schools of thought becos it uses empirical methods of searching and proving universal truths? wat if science never made it as the most popular school of thought? wat if there was no period of enlightenment in europe? whr would science be today? whr would western med be today?

zewt said...

Just Jasmine - so it's true?

pauline yap - hmmm... anything you wanna ask or tell me? :) you can send me a mail first.

day-dreamer - the rice explanation sorta made sense. confinement, it is still a mystery. so the westerners have got stronger genes? hmmm....

Terra Shield - yeah, i think it's mainly to ensure we dont hurt ourselves. old days practices i guess.

life for beginners - hahahah... eh, but some things you really have to avoid lah.

BossCat - if the sufferings are real... might regret later on leh.

zewt said...

mistipurple - so you stop eating eggs altogether now?

cc - yeah, i think that is a wise choice.

kyh - hampalang sapu hahahahahaha... eh, must have control ok! yeah, chinese medicine does have its uniqueness i must say. will sort it out soon if i need them.

iamthewitch - hello, welcome to AZAIG. technology changes everything eh?

u-jean - you're not the first who said that.

Aphrodite - eh, those are taboo and myths la i think... i am talking more about medical explanation.

zewt said...

Mcmercedez - i suppose your wife will be following strictly the confinement thingy eh? hehe...

sharlydia - as Christians, we should only practise medically proven stuff lah.

apap - the confinement period is important i think. better to be safe than sorry but i am sure modern mothers will not be happy about that. as for pointing the moon ...errr....

Kimmy - hahaha...i ate a lot when i was young, no kidding. i dont think i am slow though.

HuntressMoon - so your mom has converted?

the constantly dramatic one - hahahahahaha.... wanna be femes... that is not the way lah... hahaha... you ah...

anak merdeka - green vege and your mom didnt like it? why lah? as for my wife... wait... wait :P

zewt said...

pinknpurplelizard - yeah, most of the made beliefs are there to protect us. but we must grow out of it lah.

seok thong - wahhh... you really germanised already eh?

SuLee - oh... you're expecting... CONGRATS!!!

myop101 - hahaha... yeah, doctors will say eat anything except for chinese herbs. just like what my kidney specialist told me.

huei - ohhh... i didnt know about the timing of food reaching the appendics... that is new to me... thanks for the enlightenment. so i can jump around like a monkey after eating... yay!

missironic - hmmm... tuk in what sense? i know beef and seafood are also tuk and i can see why. but egg?

sooky - hahaha.... well, i guess you will only know when you're older. just like how we all will only know the reactions of our actions... but i think you're ok lah.

zewt said...

purple mushroom - i think you have a point there. with water heater and hair dryer, i guess things have changed. you are not the first nor second person mentioning about rice generating heat. i think it has to be right then.

mumsgather - hahaha... i think it takes a lot of discipline to follow all the rules. and now, with a lot of girls getting used to being comfortable, asking them not to use fan or air cond is quite impossible.

amanda - yeah... and you sweat like a pig and cannot shower. i wonder how ppl survive in such environment.

sabrina - hahahahahaha.... you really nail it big them there!!!

giddy tigress - well, since you shower everyday and you seem healthy, i guess ppl should do away with this confinement thingy :)

anomaly - this is what i call... fight fire with fire... which does work... sometimes.

Jun - wow... so phylosophical.... i think europe is blessed by God... but that is a whole different story altogether.

suituapui said...

The stork has arrived????

Yvonne Foong said...

Hello Zewt. A woman's fragility during the postpartum period is real. In olden times, there was little known about physiological changes and psychological changes after. Less was understood, but people saw a connection between a woman's weakening body and child birth. And thus, they created the one-month confinement period. But I believe the one month is just a gauge Depending on a woman's pre-prenancy health, her rate of recovery may differ. If she has been exercising regularly, then her hormone would not fluctuate so much, the placenta and the uterus will return to it's normal size sooner. But there is for postpartum depression that last from one month to a year if not careful. That's why we need people like me! Kekeke...

ngy said...

Difference in culture and belief..

missironic said...

ok, this is from personal experience la...i like eggs..scrambled, half boiled and salted eggs! yum! so last time i have really bad acne problem la..my mum's fren told my mum to ask me to stop eating eggs as she said eggs are "tuk", probably they leave scars? not too sure abt the logic to it..my mum has this look that says, "would you please do it and dun ask questions. It's for your own gud". so, yea, i was silenced and TRY to stop eating eggs...once awhile ok la..

eventually it work? not much acne problem..however, my desire for eating eggs overcome me tat i eventually consume eggs all together..haahahaha...but at tat period of time, it did work la...so tat's my experience... =)

Huei said...

no wait..dun try that! hahahahha
it's not proven! it was my form 4 bio knowledge!! =P

nikz said...

the aussies even started drinking after days they gave birth. life is still as usual for them. and they still look fine to me.

as for me, there is no way that i'm gonna go into confinement.

xin said...

hmmm my mom always asks me to eat cold stuff if i cough. lol. to counter the toxic. my family never really has any pantang tho

HuntressMoon said...

yeah she converted to christianity. that is why she gets so paranoid that i never to enter a temple.

tulipspeaks said...

Interesting points to share, zewt.
Now I am thinking about things Indians consider as taboo.. Must ask my grandma for more info :P


ammu.

zewt said...

suituapui - hahahaha... not yet lah.

yvonne foong - i understand. but then again, how come those in the western world doesnt seemed to be affected by it?

ngy - but still...

missironic - well, interesting. i guess all food if tuk to a certain extent.

huei - aiyooooo.....

nikz - hahaha... why ah?

xin - hello there... welcome! well, if it works for u ... then good!

huntressmoon - dont worry... greater is He who is in she.

tulipspeaks - ask ask... and let me know :)

missironic said...

yea..but to wat level is the "tuk-ness". hahahaha...

zewt said...

missironic - i also dunno... need to learn more... hehe.

Jacss said...

aiyo....these sounds so common!!

yes, i'm with d myth that rice is forbidden during fever...mom said wan!!

no soup if flu = never heard before leh!!

no egg when sore throat = also not heard before...strange!!

no ice-cream/cold drinks during cough episode....certainly believe by me!! not suppose to eat chicken too when coughing...mom said wan!!

as for confinement=just followed & better believe it than sorry!!

Anonymous said...

u seriously wrong wrong wrong, most of dis shxt exist for a reason k! its no no a myth

nails = so tat u dun hurt urself
fever = refer earlier comments above
flu = actly not oni soup, anything oily irritate ur throat
egg = oni ur family myth lar..nobody heard of it oso, BUT in TCM, egg is 1 of those toxic stuff u shudnt touch though
colddrinks = go visit TCM on ur next MC instead, cold stuff is NEVER a recommendated shxt to put in mouth
confinement = dis wind thing is NO funny shxt coz i have it even im not yet a mother, both TCM n clinic Dr oso said my stomach got too much wind...mayb western ppl punya structure is diffferent from us in some way. the month after giving birth is a very crucial period, juz like the 1st n 2nd transition of human life cycle, it decides our body strength at the later life.

how come ur TCM knowledge so poor 1

zewt said...

jacss - so it's a matter of mom-said-one-so-it's-true kinda thing. well, guess it's true then. mom cant be wrong :)

anon @ 13/8 @ 5.38pm - err... what is TCM ah?

muebles en zamora said...

I consider every person should read this.