I found these in an online book about Chinese superstitions. My favourite:
It is taboo for a pregnant woman to put an onion in her armpit 1 : If this taboo is broken, the child will be born with bad body odour. (From Zhengzhou, Henan province).
Why a pregnant woman would wander around with onions under her arms is not clear. Some of the superstitions were not all bad, such as the mother should be given whatever she wants to eat, the reason given that her craving is actually the baby’s craving, fulfilling the baby’s needs. However, the result of denying her that food was that the deprived child would be born with “red eyes” (红眼病), this means literally bloodshot eyes, but also the Chinese belief that red eyes is synonymous with jealousy / covetousness (corresponding to green eyes, green-eyed monster in the West).
Other pregnancy taboos about foods that are forbidden for the expectant mother to eat include:
Fish: (Also from Henan) If the pregnant mother eats fish, her child will be born with scales. In ancient times, it was believed that pregnant mothers who ate dried carp would give birth to a child suffering from bad skin.
Dog: Dog meat is believed to be a good food for warming the body, so is eaten in winter and is especially popular in northern China. However, in Heilongjiang, it is taboo for pregnant women to eat dog meat in case their children are born wanting to bite people, which will cause the mother trouble when feeding the baby (ow). Henan also has this taboo – in Yucheng county 2 in the east of the province it is black dog meat 3 (the finest dog flesh) should be avoided, as it can cause birth defects and miscarriage. In times past, Han Chinese also held the same taboo believing it would lead to a difficult labour.
Crab: (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Taiwan) Eating crab will cause a difficult labour in which the baby is born sideways, a belief said to have been recorded as far back as the Song Dynasty (食螃蟹，令子横生). It is also said that the child will drool, with bubbles coming out of its mouth just like a crab. In Taiwan they say the child will claw at peoples hands and feet (an ankle biter?)
Soft-shelled Turtle: An old superstition that says the child will be born short necked (短项), connected with the way the turtle withdraws its head back into its shell.
Plum 4 and pear: Another ancient superstition, that eating these fruit will make the child blind 5 . The pear is already a “cold” (寒) foodstuff according to traditional Chinese medicine, so the expecting mother shouldn’t eat it anyway.
Rabbit: The child will be born with a cleft lip (looking like a rabbit’s mouth).
Donkey: The child will be stubborn and misbehave, not listening to his parents (just like a donkey).
Cockerel: The baby will cry at night.
Ginger: To prevent the child having six fingers.
(Chinese) Soft-shelled turtle 鳖 bie1 Other official names: 甲鱼, 团鱼, in English it also known by its Japanese name, Suppon. Their most distinguishing feature is the long pointed snout that allows them to snorkel with just their nostrils above the water surface. Their soft shells are actually soft, being made up mostly of thickened skin. For more see www.answers.com/topic/chinese-softshell-turtle and a very detailed description www.anapsid.org The soft-shelled turtle is used in Chinese traditional medicine, and apart from being good for lowering fever, night sweats and “steaming bones”*, it is also valued for increasing male potency (壮阳 6 ). I’m guessing the phallic connection is why the colloquial name for the turtle – 王八 wang2 ba1 – is also a term of abuse, as 王八 or 王八蛋 (literally “turtle egg”) equivalent to bastard or son-of-a-bitch.
Here is a Soft-shelled Turtle with Cream Sauce, from the Suzhou Government Website
And a Common Soft-shelled Turtle from Blue Ridge Biological
And an (American) Eastern Spiny Soft-Shell from Kawartha Turtle Trauma Centre
Armpit 胳肢窝 ga1 zhi* wo1 This is the colloquial term, also popular in Yunnan. Another way to say it is 夹肢窝 (literally: 夹 = press from both sides + 肢 = limb + 窝 = hollow part of the human body). Finally, there is the medical term, where armpit is given its very own Chinese character: 腋ye4, or axillary fossa
- Yucheng county 虞城县 Yu2 cheng2 xian4 To describe the county’s location in the east of the province, the shorthand 豫东 Yu4 dong1 was used, 豫 being the single character symbolizing Henan, just as 滇 is used for Yunnan.
Black dog meat 黑狗肉 hei1 gou3 rou4 There is a widely accepted saying among connosieurs of dog meat: the best meat is black, the second best yellow, third varicoloured and fourth (the lowest quality) is white meat (一黑二黄三花四白). Black dog meat does have a second and worryingly contradictory meaning: black market dog meat. Many restaurants buy their dog meat from licensed farms, with health inspections. However, less scrupulous places are serving up strays or stolen animals. This Xinhua article [in Chinese] says that the inspection for dog meat is more complicated than for other animals, because diseases such as rabies cannot be detected after the animal has been killed. The problem is that as the law stands there is no requirement for inspection (only pigs, cows and goats fall under the law). This article was written after it was reported that all the dog meat sold in Zhuhai restaurants was black market dog meat
- Plum in Chinese is both 梅 mei2 and 李 li3 (both were mentioned in this taboo). The difference is that 梅 mei2 is more known for the flower and 李 li3 more known for the fruit.
李 is native to China, Prunus salicina (though in English it has the common name Japanese plum), as a surname 李 (Li or Lee) is the most common surname in China and the world.
梅 Prunus mume, also native to China, is actually more closely related to the apricot than the plum. The plum blossoms from this plant are the ones that you always see in Chinese paintings, and it is seen as a symbol of winter. In English it is often known by its Japanese name ume. From Wikipedia (on answers.com):
because they bloom most vibrantly amidst the winter snow while all other flowers have long since succumbed to the cold and died. Thus, they are seen as an example of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, and thus has also been used as a metaphor to symbolize revolutionary struggle. Because they blossom in winter, the ume, the pine, and the bamboo together have been called the “Three Friends of the Cold” (岁寒三友). Apart from that, the blossom is one of the “Four Junzi Flowers” (四君子) in China (the others being orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo) and symbolized nobleness. The blossom has long been a floral symbol of the ancient Chinese city of Nanjing; it is also the national flower of the Republic of China (Taiwan).
- Pear and plum will make the child blind > the expression used for blind was 目青失明, and 青光眼 (= 目青?) is Chinese for glaucoma, so again there could be a visual connection between the fruit and the malady.
- Strengthening male potency 壮阳 zhuang4 yang2 A traditional Chinese medicine term that is about strengthening the masculine (yang) qi. It applies to any of that endless list of bizarre ingredients that are supposed to act as the viagra of traditional Chinese medicine, such as rhino horn and ox penis. When you’re having a Chinese business dinner, and they break out the snake and scorpion liquour for the special foreign guest, you’ll hear this word used (it’s expensive stuff, so it’s best to drink it to be polite… Go on…. :) )