Episode 215: Clipping Fortune

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As growing up, I often heard the words ”do like this” or “don’t do like that” because this is the tradition or because the old generations said so. I respect cultures and traditions not all though and for a culture lasted for thousands of years, I feel like asking the questions when and how this so-called tradition started and why we need to follow them. Everything is built on stories and you can decide what to believe or not.

Maybe it sounds a little serious to start with. Let’s talk about a tradition in Chinese folklore and you would told by the old generations that “don’t clip nails at night.” Today we will talk about where the saying is from.




In the book BeiHuLu 北户录 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝 from around the year 871, it says the kind of birds Xiu Liu (一声,二声) 鸺鹠, which is called pygmy owls in English never show up during the day while their sight is extremely well during the nights. If people clip nails and the nails fall on the ground, the pygmy owls would pick them up at nights. The pygmy owls could tell fortune by checking the nails. If it shows bad luck, the owls would howl.




In the book from the same dynasty, it says pygmy owls appear during nights and like to eat nails to tell fortune. If bad things would happen, they would haul on the roof. That’s why people buried the nails after clipping to avoid this.

Nowadays, only the saying that do not clip nails at nights stays and forget why.



北户录 BeiHuLu

岭表录异 LingBiaoLuYi

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