10 Chinese Travel Superstitions

In the immortal words of Hans Christian Andersen, “to travel is to live.” But the question then becomes, where do you live when you travel? A hotel? A hostel?? A yurt???

Accommodations are a huge part of traveling, and it’s not surprising that the Chinese have developed some very unusual superstitions over time about them. Today, we will talk about 10 Chinese travel superstitions that most Asian people either know or actively practice!

Chinese Superstition Background Knowledge

You can’t start talking about Chinese superstitions without first understanding the concept of “Yin” and “Yang.”

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Many of you might have heard of the Chinese taijitu symbol which represents the balance of the entire universe. “Yin” is the dark, shady side, while “Yang” is the bright, positive side. Chinese people believe that according to the time and date of your birth, everyone has a different balance of yin and yang energy. Men tend to have more yang energy and women with more yin energy. Humans are also considered as yang while ghosts as yin. That is why people with less yang energy are more likely to run into spirits.

With that out of the way — are you ready to walk through these 10 Chinese travel superstitions with us? Tread carefully, it’s about to get spooky!

1.  Knock on the door before you enter

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The first superstition of Chinese travelers is to knock on the door of any hotel to inform the person (or spirit!) inside that they are about to enter. In the view of traditional Chinese superstitions, knocking on the door before entering is a polite way to announce to the spirit of the room that they’re about to go in.  While knocking, some might even go as far to say “So sorry for disturbing…. we’re only staying for ____ nights!” Some Chinese also choose to stand sideways while opening the door to give the spirit a chance to leave the room before you enter.

2.  Flush the toilet right away

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Some Chinese travelers believe that flushing the toilet also flushes away negative energy. Plus, the flush is another kind way to tell the resident spirit that, “Hey! Someone is here!” This superstition may have persisted because it is also just a hygienic way to make your toilet is properly clean from the get-go! For whatever reason you choose, flush your toilet and ensure that your hotel room is ‘clean’.

3.  Pat the pillow before going to bed

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Patting the pillow (and blanket!) before going to sleep is third way to tell the spirit that you’re going to use it. Again, this shows your politeness to the spirits (if they haven’t already left the room after all the knocking and flushing!). The thinking is that if you just lie on the bed as soon as you enter, you might land on top of the spirit and they might get angry. By patting the pillow, you gently announce your presence and pat away the bad spirits and energy.

4.  Place your shoes in opposite direction

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Chinese tourists are known to place their shoes in opposite directions after they enter their hotel room. This custom is to stop spirits from wearing the shoes and knowing where you are. The logic goes like this — placing the shoes in the opposite directions of the bed helps confuse the spirit about whether or not you’re in bed. As a bonus, it also makes it harder for the spirits to put on your shoes.

5.  Don’t touch the Bible/Koran

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In Chinese superstition, it is said that you should not open the Bible or even touch it because you shouldn’t disturb the very thing that is keeping you safe. In many hotel and hostels it is common to see a Bible in the drawer or on the table next to the bed. Chinese superstition says that it is better not to move it or open it.

Chinese superstition pro-tip: If you book a room and find that the Bible has already been opened, it is best to request a changing of logic — because if it has been opened, it’s probably for a reason!

6.  Don’t hang up your clothes

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Chinese may also believe that if you hang up your clothes, ghosts can easily slip into them and start wearing them around! At the same time, there’s a practical reason as well for this superstition. Closet are sometimes musty and considered either “bad energy” or “not clean.” When a place is musty, it’s more likely to attract spirits to gather or you’ll can easily get sick.

Chinese superstition pro-tip: Fold your clothes or simply put them on a chair or table to avoid wearing a new friend back home.

7.  Avoid rooms at the “extreme end”

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Rooms at the very end of a floor lack a “public presence.”. When less people pass by your doorway you get less yang energy. With less yang energy, ghosts tend to gather around those area — making them much more dangerous to live in. If you’re living alone, definitely try to avoid rooms at the very ends of hallways.

8.  Occupy all beds

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If you are traveling alone and have been given a room with two beds, put your suitcase, clothes, books and more on top of the bed you’re not sleeping on. Some believe that empty beds attract ghosts to sleep on (since nobody is using it). Remember what we’ve mentioned in point 3? Pat the pillow and blanket to warn the spirits that you’re going to use the bed. Do the same for the empty bed to add even more yang energy.

9.  Close the toilet door at night

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In Chinese culture, the toilet is viewed as a very yin place. It is believed that evil spirits frequently like to stay in the toilet and/or restroom. Remember to turn on the light and close the toilet door before you go to sleep.

Chinese superstition pro-tip: Leave the bathroom lights on to add more yang energy.

10.  Don’t sleep facing mirrors

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Sleeping while facing a mirror is said to decrease your yang energy. Mirrors are not only full of yin energy but are also considered portals for ghosts all over the world. To some, mirrors might even be used to steal your soul! This is said to be especially dangerous when you’re tired and only half awake.
Chinese superstition pro-tip: Don’t even take pictures with mirrors in them, you never know what might come out of the background!

Overall

Superstitions are still quite common in our day to day life. In Western culture, it may be the number thirteen, walking under a ladder, or spotting a black ca.t. In Chinese culture, it manifests into many different way — confused bits of wisdom from the past that have been mixed and matched over time. So believe it or not, it’s up to you! Of course whether you believe it or not, it’s still an interesting thing to know about!
Seriously, though, don’t forget to pat your bed down.

Sam Silverman

Sam works as CMO of TutorMandarin - an online Chinese tutor service that focuses on teaching students how to speak Chinese using an innovative learning Chinese app and PC Software. The APP is free to download and comes with a free 1-on-1 class, 2 unlocked courses, a full language evaluation, and daily Chinese articles. Sam has lived in China for 5-6 years in Beijing and Suzhou as well as Taipei for over a year. He has been studying the Chinese language and Chinese culture even longer