Scholar Tree & Willow Tree

Title: Scholar Tree & Willow Tree

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Bad Luck Superstion
  • Language: English/Chinese
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Informant: Hesheng Zhang
  • Date Collected: 10-31-2018

Informant Data:

  • Hesheng Zhang is a man from Western China that has recently moved to the United States. He teaches within the Chinese department at Dartmouth.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: Taoism is an ancient Chinese ideology that focuses on balance in life. Balance can be achieved through the principle of Yin and Yang. Yin represents the negative and darkness, whereas Yang represents the positive and lightness. Taoism is also concerned with the presence and effects of ghosts. So, superstitions in Chinese culture have often been influenced by Taoism, in particular the Yin and Yang concept as well as the supernatural aspect. It is important to note that scholartrees and willow trees are used in China as grave markers and are often associated with this purpose.
  • Social Context: This is a superstition that Mr. Zhang learnt through his parents. This superstition is often taught within the household, because it pertains to the house.


  • In Chinese culture, it is considered bad luck to plant Chinese Scholartrees or Willow trees within the house. Scholartrees and willow trees are often used in China as grave markers, and thus they are often associated with death. As a result, these two trees are examples of Yin, and must not be planted within homes, or else evil spirits may arise in one’s house.

Associated file (a video, audio, or image file):


  • “Scholartree often makes Chinese people imagine ghosts. Do you know Yin and Yang? We think scholartrees represent Yin and willow trees represent Yin as well. We think death is Yin, so we do not plant scholartrees around the house or else a ghost may come.”

Informant’s Comments:

  • Hesheng Zhang believes in this superstition and considers it very bad luck to plant these types of trees in his house.

Collector’s Comments:

  • I found it very interesting how ancient Chinese philosophies, like Taoism, have been able to influence Chinese superstitions to this day. This bad luck superstition is believed entirely by Chinese people due to how ingrained Taoism is in their culture. I am also interested in how the use of these trees has impacted the culture’s perception of them. Being used as grave markers has translated into an association with death and ghosts.

Collector’s Name: Sebastian Carter


  • Customary Lore
  • Bad Luck Superstitions
  • Scholartrees and Willow trees

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