Tag Archives: house

Building a Farm – Cardinal Directions

Title: Building a Farm – Cardinal Directions

General Information About Item:

  • Oral folklore: Magic superstition
  • Language: Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Country of Origin: China
  • Informant: Guiming Yang
  • Date Collected: May 21st, 2019

Informant Data:

  • Guiming Yang (杨贵名) is 76 years old and was born near the city of Jiyuan in Henan Province, China, where he has lived there throughout his life. For generations, many members of the Yang family were farmers in Jiyuan. Guiming is the paternal grandfather of the collector.

Contextual Data:

  • Social Context
    • The Yang family has been farming for many generations around the Jiyuan area. As he became the patriarch of the Yang family, Guiming was responsible for overseeing the family and their farming.
    • In supervising and planning the expansion of the farm and constructing new buildings, Guiming had to consider a variety of factors, such as location and orientation.
  • Cultural Context
    • Feng shui (风水) is a form of Chinese pseudoscience that allows individuals to harmonize with their environment. Many who adhere to this aspect of Chinese folk religion believe that, for example, by arranging their property and certain objects in their immediate surroundings in a certain way, they can harness the invisible forces that bind the universe together.
    • In a historical context, facing the north symbolizes uncertainty and danger. China was plagued by Mongol attacks in the 13th and 14th centuries, and these invaders came from the north.
    • On the other hand, the sun (which is obviously a critical element in farming) always rises in the east, making it preferable to orient buildings in that direction.


  • In the process of building a house or farm, it is important to consider which direction it is facing. The front of the building should optimally face the east, and not the north.

Associated Files: 

A Chinese Farmer

Collector’s Name: Richard Yang

House Entrance Facing East

Title: House entrance facing east

General Information about Item:

  • Customary Lore, Superstition
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: India
  • Informant: Priya Shukla
  • Date Collected: 11/12/18

Informant Data:

  • Priya Shukla is a ‘21 attending Dartmouth College. She is pre-med, majoring in English. She was born in London but currently lives in Boston, MA. Her parents are both Hindu. Her mother is from Jaipur and her father is from Agra. Both of her parents speak Hindi, and Priya and her younger brother, Chetan can both read and write Hindi.

Contextual Data:

  • Cultural Context: According to the Indian Vastu Shastra (the science of architecture per ancient Hindu knowledge systems), the main entrance is one of the most important areas, and the direction the entrance faces dictates a lot about the luck of the owners of the household. A house with its entrance facing east is considered very auspicious, and a house with its entrance facing South West brings in struggles and misfortunes because it is the entry of the devil energy.
  • Social Context: Priya learned this superstition from her parents when she was growing up. This is a fairly common indian superstition, and it ties in with other superstitions relating to the household. Priya and another one of our informants told a superstition that says you can not sleep with your feet pointing south, so you have to make sure your bed is facing the right direction.


  • This superstition relies on the belief of the Indian Vastu Shastra.

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

Transcript: “So, when you’re building a house, you always have to make sure the front entrance points to the east for good luck. I think its because the sun rises in the east.”

Collector’s Comments:

  • This is an example of a sign superstition: If you have your door facing a certain direction, then you will have good/bad luck.

Collector’s Name: Marlee Montella


  • Customary Lore
  • Superstition
  • House

“Shotgun House”

Shotgun House

Infromant: Brian Flint, age 23, Metairie, LA, collected on May 22, 2016 and recorded on an iphone.

Verbal Lore: folk speach, slang- associated: urban legend, Material


United States of America

Context: a long narrow house with no hallway and interconnecting rooms found in many neighborhood in New Orleans.


“ The next is a ‘shotgun house.’ That means it is a very long, narrow, house in which there is no  hallway and all the rooms are connected by a doorway. It’s thought of that you could shot a- shoot a shotgun all the way through from one end to the other. There is a lot of myths surrounding the etymology of that one but, that story definitely is what most people will jump to.”


Infromant: Erin Fell, age 21, New Orleans, LA, collected on May 22, 2016 and recorded on an iphone.

Transcript: “Next is “Shotgun”, as in not the arm, not the fire weapon but a shotgun house. A shotgun house is a long, narrow house where there are generally no hallways, just a big line of rooms in the house. Shotgun houses are super common in certain neighborhoods in New Orleans.”

Collectors Commentary: This item is associated with material lore of the houses in certain N.O. neighborhoods being built a certain way. There is probably an interesting reason why these houses were designed this way that would be good to explore next.

Keywords: New Orleans, Shotgun House, long, narrow, house, no hallways