Monday, August 08, 2011


A friend kindly alerts me to a yearly cultural event of no mean significance. Which, if it were adopted universally, might lead to world peace.
OR social discord on a monumental scale.
Either way, I'm open for experimentation, and I hope you are too.


This, precisely and approximately, is a Chinese regional festival oddly reminiscent of Sadie Hawkins Day, celebrated by members of the Yi ethnic group (彝族) in Ejia village (鄂嘉鎮), located in Yunnan province (雲南), Cho-hung county (楚雄).
The orthodox version of the origin tale of this observance is that so many young men perished during wars fourteen centuries ago that their ghosts threatened to come back and claim brides among the living, by taking ten "untouched" girls to the underworld during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

[Hungry Ghost Festival: 盂蘭盆 (Yu Lan Pun), or 盂蘭節 (Yu Lan Jit). The fourteenth day of the seventh lunar month, which this year falls on August 13th. In Northern China, for some obscure reason, it is one day later. This is when the departed can return to the world, revisiting their old haunts and disturbing the living. Food, drink, and incense are offered to the spirits to appease them, and lucky rituals are performed.]

In order to avoid that fate, local maidens invited men touch their breasts.

Since then, unmarried women from fifteen years of age on up do likewise during the three days of the festival (7/14 - 7/16).
No doubt this is a potent ice-breaker that leads to deep friendship in a number of cases.

"And, now that I have your complete attention....."

Bosom-touching, it happily turns out, invites good luck.

There may be other meanings in the custom that have been obscured over time. Possibly a mass courtship festival, such as some other ethnic groups in Southern China still celebrate, but just as likely a ritual to prevent unmarried women coming back from the dead to claim a man.
According to popular superstition, a woman who commits suicide at night while wearing bridal red can return to the world as a dangerous spirit, wreaking vengeance on those who drove her to desperation. Folk-belief holds that female energies are dangerous, especially if unchecked. And unmarried women are considered both a liability and a socially destructive force in much of East-Asian society.
Whether or not such elements played a part in the origin of this local festival is not really important, however.
What matters is that it prevents ill-fortune, and honours the deceased.
Unattached breasts are being felt for the very best of motives.

In the interests of both scientific inquiry and social harmony I propose that this festival be adopted for a trial period here in the Bay Area.
Let's see how it works out.
It might promote peace.
Worth trying, at least.

* * * * *

摸 MO: Touch gently, stroke, feel the pulse, fondle.
摹 MO: Copy, imitate. Sometimes also 摸.
奶 NAI: Milk. Dairy product. Breast, mammary gland.
節 JIT: Node in bamboo. Section. Festival.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sign me up - I'm always ready to do my part for the good of mankind

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