CNY Day 10: The Birthday of Stones 石头节 (shí tou jié)
In Chinese, 十 (shí meaning 10) and 石 (shí meaning stone) have the same pronunciation. Thus the tenth day of the Chinese New Year is conveniently considered the birthday of the stones, in the hope of 十(石)全十(石)美 (shí quán shí měi, everything is perfect.) In ancient China, stones were regarded as the foundation of the earth, thus the birthday of stones is synonymous with celebrating the earth's birthday. If celebrating the birthdays of Heaven and the Jade Emperor reveals the people’s wish to seek for protection, celebrating the stone's birthday unveils people’s reverence for the earth on which they depend on for survival.
The earth has always held a special spot in the hearts of the Chinese. This is not only because China has primarily been an agricultural country for the last 5000 years ago, but also because land represents the origin and roots of the Chinese culture. A Chinese lover must know 落叶归根 (luò yè guī gēn) – a leaf goes back to the soil that breeds it, and入土为安 (rù tǔ wéi ān) – a person goes back to the earth that raises him. Even as a life philosophy, Chinese people believe in 脚踏实地 (jiǎo tā shi dì, to be down-to-earth and practical), telling us it is the earth you step on that leads you to a secure and successful future.
As the folksong goes,
nián chū shí ，dì shēng rì 。
rén chù fáng wū dōu yī dì ；mǐ mài bǎi gǔ dōu shēng dì 。
rén shēng zhōng xiào yǔ jié yì ，dì wéi lài yǐ lì ；
zuò shì xū qiú jiǎo jiǎo tā shi dì 。
The tenth of the New Year is the earth’s birthday,
Our livelihood depends on it,
Our virtue and spirits grow with it,
And our successes ask for it.
On this birthday day, people try to respect the stones of the earth. Thus on this day, the following are all forbidden: the use of any tools made of stones, extracting stones from open mines, or building stone houses. In some northern parts of China, it is also the day to worship the stone spirit 石敢当 (shí gǎn dāng, the Brave Stone.) Seen mostly in front of the house doors, it is said to repel evil spirits and bad luck at the thresholds.