Sunday, July 07, 2013

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Don't shake hands with Taiwan's President Ma

7/07/2013 Taiwan Explorer
Big news in Taiwan today: Hsieh Su-wei 謝淑薇, a 27 years old professional tennis player from Kaohsiung became the first Taiwanese to ever win a Grand Slam. She won the ladies' double championship together with Peng Shuai 彭帅, who is 26 and originally from Tianjin, China. That these two great athletes joined forces is remarkable considering the complicated political situation between China and Taiwan (China claims Taiwan as part of their territory). But in their case friendship and sportsmanship was much more important than any bilateral tensions between these two countries. As interesting as this topic may be, today I'm gonna talk about something a little bit lighter: Why Taiwanese believe shaking hands with their president brings bad luck.

The handshake curse

While Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou enjoys a certain popularity in China (where he's just considered a head of a province), he's fairly unpopular in Taiwan, and everything he does will be put under a magnifying glass and dissected by the press and netizens. He's often a great source of jokes. One of the popular beliefs is that if you shake his hand, it will bring bad luck to you. So when Hsieh wrote on her Facebook post following words "總統賀電我心領了!謝謝大家的關心與支持!!這一刻 屬於台灣的每一個人" ("President sent me the congratulatory message, I appreciate the kindness. Thank you everybody for your concern and support. This moment belongs to everybody in Taiwan."), this caused some commentators to warn her about shaking hands with President Ma, fearing that it will bring bad luck to her, and she will never win again. On the screen cap on the left you can see the most popular comment on that thread which says "請記得不要跟馬英九握手" ("Please remember not to shake hands with President Ma Ying-jeou"). There are even lists of examples on several Taiwanese blogs, that "prove" how President Ma caused bad luck, often when shaking hands with someone. Of course this is just superstition, but in Taiwan they tend to be taken very seriously.