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‘Sitting the Month’ – a Gift or Torture?

Following tradition, many new Chinese moms are confined to their beds for weeks after giving birth.

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After Mother’s Day, it is still a hot topic on China’s social media: how could Kate Middleton appear in public, high heels and all, only 10 hours after giving birth? In China, new moms are confined to their beds for weeks after giving birth. This tradition, called ‘sitting the month’, comes with many rules. Amongst them: no showering, no drinking cold water, no leaving the house.

Just like a lot of countries in the world, China celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend, on the second Sunday in May. While the whole nation was preoccupied with buying mum’s gifts, one online picture was still passionately discussed on   Sina Weibo: the photo of The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, leaving the hospital and showing up in public looking pretty and rested, only ten hour after giving birth to Princess Charlotte.

royal-baby

According to Chinese tradition, women are expected to rest indoors for a full month after giving birth, which is called “sitting the month” or “zuo yuezi” (坐月子) in Chinese.

Zuo yuezi” can be dated back to Western Han Dynasty (B.C. 202 – A.D.9) and was even mentioned in the 2,000-year-old Book of Changes, or I-Ching (易经). After giving birth, tradition keeps a new mother indoors for the month after the baby is born. The new mother is treated like a queen – waited on hand and foot. She doesn’t need to do anything; not taking care of the baby nor cooking for the family. Every year, millions of Chinese women submit to this practice. Women generally see it as a gift as well as a torture.

 

No taking showers, no brushing teeth.

 

During the traditional confinement period, new mothers sit around in pajamas for a month to recover from childbirth. There are a lot of rules, which many new moms are struggling with: no going outside, no stairs, no lifting, no cold drinks, no open windows, no air conditioning in summer or winter, and, inconveniently, no taking showers or brushing teeth. Even when breastfeeding, women lie on their sides instead of holding the baby.

From generation to generation, Chinese women are told if they do not undergo this confinement, they will suffer from health problems later in life. Therefore, Chinese netizens were shocked by Kate’s public appearance in her fancy high heels just ten hours after her delivery.

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One user called “Potty-mouthed Queen” posted on Sina Weibo: “I felt extremely weak and tired after I gave birth to my daughter. There’s no way I could stand and show up like Kate after 10 hours.”

Kate’s public display led to the reflection of Chinese tradition in modern society. Another user, “Lemon”, said: “I’ve been staying in bed for 10 days already and I really hate it. I can’t brush my teeth or take a shower. I’m not allowed to eat raw fruit or vegetables, or drink coffee, cold drinks or even cold water. I understand that these rules are aimed at restoring balance to the new mother’s body after childbirth, but I’ve had enough.”

 

“Comparing Western women with Chinese women is like comparing apples with oranges”.

 

Most Chinese still believe that women following the tradition of ‘sitting the month’ later will have less health problems than those who don’t. In addition, Chinese traditions still play an integral role in everyday life, as people tend to respect them and pass them on to their children: “It must make sense since the tradition has passed generation to generation,” said many users on Weibo.

Other netizens pointed out physical differences between Chinese and westerners. “It’s like comparing apples with oranges. We shouldn’t follow what western mothers do as the diet habits and geographical environments are different“, user Zhang Daidai commented on Weibo. According to her, Caucasian women eat a lot of beef and high protein food, making it unnecessary for them to ‘sit’ the month after delivering the baby. However, the user points out, they put on weight easier than most Chinese: “It’s all about the diet habits. Westerners already have more than enough calcium and protein in their body, thus, the loss of calcium and protein during labour doesn’t really affect them. On the contrary, Chinese women generally miss these nutriments in a great amount, so it’s better to endure it for a month and avoid serious health problems in the future.”

The practice of ‘sitting the month’ related to existing ideas about balancing yin and yang. If the yin and yang are balanced in the body, one will not get sick. If they are out of balance, people tend to get ill more easily.

In spite of all the arguments online, the benefits of ‘sitting the month’ are evident for many Chinese women. As one of the new mothers shared: “I was totally against the idea of confinement in childbirth. But after 30 days, I did feel like it helped me recover and the constant headache which always bothered me before delivery is now gone.

Despite the rapid speed of China’s modernization, the long-history practice of ‘sitting the month’ remains popular and treasured. Although the radiant post delivery Kate Middleton fascinated Chinese netizens, it is unlikely that Chinese new mums will step out in their high heels after giving birth any time soon.

By Yiying Fan
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Image sources:
The World of Chinese
Huffington Post
Baidu

 

©2014 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

About the author: Yiying Fan is a world traveler and Chinese freelance writer from Shanghai.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. onon

    September 9, 2015 at 7:42 am

    torture for the husband

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China Memes & Viral

Prohibited to Promote Top Students, Chinese Schools Are Praising their Excellent ‘Fruit’ Instead

Who knew Chinese schools were so good at harvesting fruit?

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It is that time of the year again: China’s gaokao results are in. Chinese schools that are proud of their top-scoring students would like to scream it from the rooftops, but they are banned from doing so. So they are now posting about their very successful fruit production instead.

This week, the scores came out for China’s gaokao (高考), the National Higher Education Entrance Examinations that took place earlier this months.

The exams are a prerequisite for entering China’s higher education institutions and are taken by students in their last year of senior high school. Scoring high grades for this exam can give high school students access to a better college, which enlarges their chances of obtaining a good job after graduation.

Those who succeed in becoming top scorers in their field and area are known as the gāokǎo zhuàngyuán (高考状元, ‘gaokao champions’). Gaokao champions are usually widely praised, not just by families and friends, but also by their hometowns and schools for which the top-scoring students are their pride and unique selling point.

But since 2018, as explained in this article, it is prohibited for Chinese media and schools to give publicity to gaokao top scorers. The Chinese Ministry of Education banned the promotion of top achievers in line with Xi Jinping Thought, emphasizing the value of equality and sociability instead.

This year, local authorities again reiterated the message that in order to set the right example and “establish the correct orientation of education,” the hyping up of school exam results and publishing top score rankings are strictly prohibited.

Because of the Ministry of Education guidelines, schools can not openly flaunt the successes of their top scorers, but some have found creative ways to do so anyway.

“Of a batch of 1320 ripe mango’s, there are over hundred weighing more than 600 grams,” one school in Guangxi’s Nanning wrote. The ‘weight’ refers to the score, with 600 being a very high score (the maximum score is usually 750, depending on the field and area). “”[We] picked a mango weighing as much as 696 grams, the king of Qinzhou fruit. Two fruit dealers in the capital have already heard of it and are eager to take it.”

Besides mango’s, there were also other schools mentioning their successful production of ‘plums or peaches.’

One blog by Jiangchacha (姜茶茶) listed various examples of schools boasting about their ‘fruit harvest’ in social media posts.

The blog explained that some schools in Guangxi used the mango metaphor because Guangxi has some of the country’s largest mango-producing regions. Meanwhile, the word for ‘peaches and plums’ in Chinese (桃李) also refers to one’s pupils or disciples.

Another school’s post said: “It is harvest season (..), and the campus is fragrant with peaches and plums, and fruitful results!”, adding that “a total of 2400 high quality peaches and plums have been harvested, and over 93% are of high quality!”

There was also one school that mentioned other schools were below them in scores, writing that its “excellence rate” was “clearly ahead of the three other big gardens on the east coast.”

“Our king peach weighs no less than 689 grams,” another school announced. There were also schools that did not discuss fruit but were making references to fish, trees, and high-speed trains instead.

The issue of schools reporting their ‘harvest’ became a trending topic on Weibo, where some found it very funny. But others also voiced criticism that schools cannot publish about some of their students being gāokǎo zhuàngyuán, top scorers.

“There is nothing to hide, the exam scores are the result of hard work by both the teachers and students,” one popular comment said, with others replying: “Why wouldn’t you announce the scores? It might inspire other students!”

“This entire guideline is just nonsense,” another typical comment said.

Meanwhile, some netizens suggested that Sichuan schools could use pandas as a metaphor for their top scorers, while Chongqing could use chili peppers next year, with others suggesting other types of fruit that could be used in these ‘covered-up’ gaokao score publications. It’s bound to be another fruitful year in 2023.

Want to read more about gaokao? Check out more related articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

Confusion over Official Media Report on China’s “Next Five Years” of Zero Covid Policy

Netizens interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years.

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‘The next five years’: four words that flooded Chinese social media today and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as written proof that China’s current Covid strategy would continue for at least five more years. But the Beijing Daily editor-in-chief has since responded to the issue, blaming reporters for getting it all mixed up.

On June 27th, after the start of the 13th Beijing Municipal Party Congress, Chinese state media outlet Beijing Daily (北京日报) published an online news article about a report delivered by Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi (蔡奇).

The article zoomed in on what the report said about Beijing’s ongoing efforts in light of China’s zero-Covid policy, and introduced Beijing’s epidemic prevention strategy as relating to “the coming five years” (“未来五年”).

Those four words then flooded social media and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years. Many people wrote that the idea of living with the current measures for so many years shocked and scared them.

Soon after, the article suddenly changed, and the controversial “coming five years” was left out, which also led to speculation.

Beijing Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jingyun (赵靖云) then clarified the situation in a social media post, claiming that it was basically an error made due to the carelessness of reporters who already filled in information before actually receiving the report:

I can explain this with some authority: the four-word phrase “the next five years” was indeed not included in the report, but was added by our reporter[s] by mistake. Why did they add this by mistake? It’s funny, because in order to win some time, they dismantled the report’s key points and made a template in advance that “in the next five years” such and such will be done, putting it in paragraph by paragraph, and also putting in “insist on normalized epidemic prevention and control” without even thinking about it. This is indeed an operational error at the media level, and if you say that our people lack professionalism, I get it, but I just hope that people will stop magnifying this mistake by passing on the wrong information.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, also weighed in on the incident in a social media post on Monday. He started his post by saying that the reporter who initially made the phrase ‘next five year’ go viral had a “lack of professionalism” which caused the overall misunderstanding.

Hu also added a photo of the relevant page within the original report that was delivered at the Congress, showing that the phrase ‘the coming five years’ was indeed not written before the segment on China’s battle against Covid, which detailed Beijing’s commitment to its strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

But Hu also added some nuance to the confusion and how it came about. The original report indeed generally focuses on Beijing developments of the past five years and the next five years, but adding the “in the next five years” phrase right before the segment was a confusing emphasis only added by the reporter, changing the meaning of the text.

Hu noted that the right way to interpret the report’s segment about China’s Covid battle is that it clarifies that the battle against the virus is not over and that China will continue to fight Covid – but that does not mean that Beijing will stick to its current zero Covid policy for the next five years to come, including its local lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

Hu Xijin wrote:

I really do not believe that the city of Beijing would allow the situation as it has been for the past two months or so go on for another five years. That would be unbearable for the people of Beijing, it would be too much for the city’s economy, and it would have a negative impact on the whole country. So it’s unlikely that Beijing would come up with such a negative plan now, and I’m convinced that those in charge of managing the city will plan and strive to achieve a more morale-boosting five years ahead.”

After the apparent error was set straight, netizens reflected on the online panic and confusion that had erupted over just four words. Some said that the general panic showed how sensitive and nervous people had become in times of Covid. Others were certain that the term “next five years” would be banned from Weibo. Many just said that they still needed time to recover from the shock they felt.

“The peoples’ reactions today really show how fed up everyone is with the ‘disease prevention’ – if you want to know what the people think, this is what they think,” one Weibo user from Beijing wrote.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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