Twentieth Century Impressions of Hongkong, Shanghai, and other Treaty Ports of China/Ceremonies/From the Cradle Onwards
FROM the cradle onwards the Chinese are surrounded by social customs and religious observances so interwoven as to be almost indistinguishable. When a child is born the ceremony of bathing the baby lakes place on the third day. According to Chinese reckoning, this may be after a lapse of anything from twenty-five to forty-nine hours, for any portion of a day counts as a day which the child has seen. Age is reckoned in the same way. Thus, a child born on December 31st would be two years of age on the following day, for he would have lived in two years. The method of calculation is similar to that followed in regard to English race-horses.
The bathing is followed on the twelfth day by another ceremony, but the most important of these early functions is that which takes place one Chinese moon, or lunar month, from the date of birth. The infant is then considered to have attained a position in the family, and becomes recognised as a permanent member; a child dying before that age is scarcely given a name. The full-moon festival is one of great rejoicing, especially in the case of an eldest male child. Friends send presents to the parents for the child, and the parents, in return, invite their friends to a feast or dinner, and introduce to them the new member of the family. It must be borne in mind that this remark applies more especially to male children, for, although nowadays in Hongkong and some of the larger coast ports a female child usually receives some recognition, in the interior of China little notice is taken of girls, except occasionally when the firstborn is a female. It may here be mentioned that the practice of binding the feet of girls, in accordance with a distorted notion of beauty, is gradually dying out, the Empress of China having expressed her strong disapproval of the custom.