Who are the el­derly women un­der the Canal Road Fly­over beat­ing stuff with their shoes?

– Lit­tle Man

HK Magazine - - HOME - Dear Mr. Know-It-All,

These ladies are do­ing what’s called da siu yan (打小人), “vil­lain hit­ting” or “beat­ing the petty per­son.” It’s a piece of folk magic that’s in­tended to curse its re­cip­i­ent.

See, we’re in the mid­dle of the ging zat pe­riod of the Chi­nese cal­en­dar, the “Awak­en­ing of In­sects.” This pe­riod, which started this year on March 5, doesn’t just sig­nify the be­gin­ning of Spring: It’s also the most pop­u­lar time of year for vil­lain hit­ting. How does it work? Well, every vil­lain hit­ter has a dif­fer­ent ritual, but here’s a rough idea.

You ap­proach your cho­sen vil­lain hit­ter and per­form the nec­es­sary prayers and obei­sances to the deities, most of­ten Guanyin and the Mon­key King. You write your own name on a red sheet of tal­is­manic fulu pa­per, then the name of your cursee on a white fulu. If you want to curse gen­eral vil­lains in your life—com­peti­tors, peo­ple who bitch about you, those who stand on the left on MTR es­ca­la­tors—leave it blank.

This is when the ven­er­a­ble old lady in front of you grasps a women’s shoe and goes to town on the white fulu, curs­ing the vil­lain as she thwacks the pa­per un­til it tears and breaks.

Next comes a sac­ri­fice to ap­pease Baak Fu, the white tiger de­ity who rep­re­sents peace and virtue. Baak Fu is rep­re­sented by a yel­low pa­per tiger, and the hit­ter will rub pork fat into the tiger’s mouth to gum up its jaws, so it won’t be able to hurt you. Mean­while the vil­lain­ous fulu is tucked in­side the tiger to fill it up, and then both are set alight.

Two cres­cent shaped div­ina­tion blocks are thrown onto the ground, to ver­ify that the curse has been cast. Lastly the vil­lain hit­ter scat­ters beans and rice grains on the ground, to sig­nify the dis­per­sal of the “lit­tle peo­ple” in your life.

Vis­it­ing a mys­tic fig­ure who will curse your en­e­mies smacks more of voodoo than of a Hong Kong street scene. But the el­derly vil­lain hit­ters of the city do roar­ing busi­ness— all the more so at a time like now, when the city’s em­broiled in un­cer­tainty and anger. Who doesn’t have some­one they’d like to see suf­fer a mishap or two?

But if you de­cide to go have your own vil­lain hit, per­haps don’t curse an in­di­vid­ual per­son. Fun as it may seem to watch a pa­per ef­figy of your ex be whacked into obliv­ion by a sur­pris­ingly spir­ited grandma, it’s worth bear­ing in mind: What goes around, comes around. To­mor­row it could be your ex tak­ing a seat in front of the self­same grandma, who will quite hap­pily beat your own vil­lain­ous name into the dust.

I shoes you (to be cursed)

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