Religion versus superstition in China

All over the world you will find a vast variety of mainstream religion, cults and superstition. Where religion plays a massively important role in most civilizations, superstition has become a big part in everyday day life for the people of China. So much so that is difficult to determine between these supernatural beliefs and popular religion.

For many, superstition has become less of a belief and more of a custom. People look to superstition as complacency, solving their problems, rather than facing them directly. However, the likely hood of these beliefs being 100% genuine is rather low. It could be possible that these ‘rules’ are followed simply out of fear that in the risk of ignoring them, something bad could potentially happen.

Despite the rapid incline in modernization throughout the past three years in China, they have clung onto these traditional customs and beliefs. If examined close enough it is clear that these superstitious beliefs can apply to pretty much anything in life, ranging from weddings, funerals, festivals and religion. A traditional Chinese house will have many concealed superstitious secrets that at first glance seem to be decorative ornaments, or even standard architectural designs. A common similarity in traditional Chinese homes is that the houses are built facing the south, to avoid ruin being brought upon the family who live there. It is also not a coincidence that Chinese homes will customarily have a step leading up into them. This is a superstitious practice involving the belief that spirits cant walk up steps. Many other methods are used to avoid the presence of unwanted spirits. As well as being unable to walk up steps, spirits also cannot turn corners, so some homes even have large screens behind their gates to stop them from entering.

Other Feng Shui examples:

*All staircases must have an even number of stairs

*A mirror must not be positioned so that it shows the reflection of a window

*A bathroom must not be positioned above a dining room

*A master bedroom should not be positioned above a garage

The only places in China that you are less likely to stumble upon traditional superstitious practices are in the more communist run areas. In 1999 the government even launched a campaign against superstition and unauthorized spiritual groups.

Aside from the large number of strong believers, those who are skeptical frequently find themselves inflicted and even enriched by superstitious practices. Feng Shui is a form of Chinese art and design, which balances the negative and positive and applies to pretty much everything. Because the beliefs that shape the foundations of Feng Shui cannot be supported with scientific proof, it is technically a form of superstition, and one of the most popular at that. Although China based, Feng Shui has become an important part of many cultures, especially when designing a home. It can vary from such things as minimal clutter and good quality air and lighting, to more complicated affairs involving the alignment of furniture and the design of buildings.


In the western world you would associate superstitious practices with the more eccentric person. In China it is common for even the most established businessmen to frequently visit fortunetellers, seeking guidance for future business plans. Fortunetellers and monks are much more valuable in China than psychiatrists or counselors.

Chinese New Year plays a massive role and incorporates many different forms of superstition and requires the use of many superstitious practices so as to ensure good luck for the New Year ahead. Perhaps this is why fortunetellers are so popular in china as they use astrology rather than science and psychiatry. I get the impression that this fascination in superstition is rooted in the fact that people in China find comfort in the idea that there are stronger forces beyond what we know, guiding us and keeping us safe.


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