Singapore might be one of S.E. Asia’s wealthiest and most well educated society, but bizarre superstitions are still part of daily life in our predominantly ethnic Chinese city-state.
Chinese Singaporean in every strata of society and faiths and at some points in their life, believes that “invisible spirits” are breathing down their shoulders and it’s best to appease these “spirits” than to provoke them. To treat superstition as irrelevant or benign could be a terrible mistake and to temp faith with obstinacy is precarious.
Even those of you who say “I’m not superstitious!” have probably at some points cross your fingers to make a cross-sign of Christian faith to fend-off evil spirits from destroying their good fortune or make a silent prayer for help from above.
In Singapore, many participates in superstitious activities, which seemingly look irrational but perceived as rational, just to get a few steps ahead of others. Even well educated Singaporean embraces superstitious practices because of the cut-throat environment here. Hence, the prevalent “kiasi” and “kiasu” mentality permeates into every Singaporean daily struggles for a better life.
A Chinese taxi driver, before he kicks off his shift, places some fresh coins on his dashboard for good business and stroke the armlets high on his arm or the amulets hanging at the rear mirror for a prosperous, safe and accident free shift ahead.
Jack Neo does an elaborate offering of a roasted pig with other goodies to someone above, before embarking on a new movie project. And Sembawang’s CEO cracks a bottle of champagne at the launch of a new oil rig.
The original design of the three MBS hotel towers, without the ship-like-structures, looks like three Chinese ancestral tablets at an alter. And that was considered a bad omen as it’s related to death. So the additional structure, costing extra millions was placed.
And also, the spinning direction of “Singapore Flyer” was reversed to revolve towards the land instead of outwards towards the sea. This was done with the hope that good fortune would flow inward to the business enterprise and not letting revenue flow outward to the sea.
Many aspects of Chinese Singaporean life and even national icons are not immune to superstition and feng shui practices, which is a Chinese system of geomancy to improve luck in general.
Like many cultures, Chinese superstition here are related to good and bad luck and spirits of the unknown.
But here are some uncommon superstitious beliefs from kopitiam uncles and my taxi buddies.
1. For good luck at casinos, do not walk into the entrance of the casino at the center of the walkway. Instead, go through the entrance at the extreme ends of either sides with your head bowed. In this way, the casino’s spiritual guards would not notice you nor mark you for misfortune. Also, do not touch the rails of an escalators or lean against the walls in a lift. Your lucky “qi” or energies will be drawn away through these contacts.
2. At the casino tables, do not sit right infront of the croupier as he/she would suck away your good energies with combined help and strength from his managers and supervisors around. It’s better to stand at a corner of the table to avoid their attack and move about to rejuvenate and recoup your strength when luck is down.
3. Gamblers are the most superstitious of the lot. In action, no gamblers like to be touched on the shoulders or head and likes to wear red underpants to attract lady luck. Many carry lucky charms or carry out some sort of a ritual before or while gambling, like silent praying, never counting money, crossing legs or accepting $50 notes as payout. They will try a variety of things to influence lady luck to smile at them.
4. When urinating onto the ground near a tree or bushes in the open, ask permission and forgiveness with a praying palms before performing the call of nature or you might die from sickness for urinating at the “God-of-Earth” or some “Wandering Spirits”.
5. Upon entering a hotel room for the night, ask the “good-brother” spirit’s permission to let you sleep peacefully till day break.
6. For the not so fertile couple who want to have a child, the wife should lay down on the bed of a mother who had just given birth to absorb the fertility “qi” or goodness.
7. To get good results in any exam, the candidate should wash his face with holy water from his place of worship and drink the contents too.
8. After visiting a funeral or wake and before entering a home, the person must wash his hand and face with fresh water mixed with “shiah lui” leaves to remove all evil spirit.
9. To increase sexual vitality, man must not wear underpants in bed and drinks horse urine. Similarly, woman must immerse in goat’s milk and eat raw goose’s egg yolk.
10. To strike 4D frequently, one must donate generously to the God of Fortune on the 9th of Sept. of the Chinese lunar calender.
11. Do not sit at the front row of a Hungry Ghost Festival’s “getai”, as those seats are reserved for the “unseen guests” or they will haunt till your death when offended.
12. The incremental ninth year of a person age (example: 29, 39, 49, 59, 69 etc) is besieges with ill fortune, sickness and tragedy. Avoid revealing your age at those time of your life, if you want to live longer and have a more blissful life.
The list of superstitious beliefs and practices goes on and on, in spite of the fact that we’re living in a new millennium with the most advance scientific technologies in a First World country. My philosophy on this matter is in mandarin “Ke Sin Pu Ke Mee” i.e.” Can Believe, But Don’t Be Blinded”.
Many Chinese Singaporean are followers of Buddhism, which do not practice superstitious beliefs, whereas Taoism followers, on the other hand, are regular practitioners. But both religion itself does not have such practices. A lot of them will just try because to them there is no harm in trying. As long as we don’t let superstition control our life, believing in something that will bring us good luck is actually beneficial.
As Singapore is a cosmopolitan city-state, the local Indians and Malays have their own unique sets of peculiar superstitious beliefs and practices but it revolves around the same basic belief in luck and spirits like the Chinese.