Bai Jia Yi: A Child-Rearing Custom

Bai Jia Yi: A Child-Rearing Custom

Bai Jia Yi, a traditional custom rich in cultural connotations and meanings, has been passed down through Chinese folklore for centuries. In the past, to ensure a newborn's healthy growth and longevity, every household would practice this custom. They would seek small pieces of cloth from neighbors, relatives, and friends. These cloth pieces, though varied in color and texture, were all imbued with heartfelt wishes for good fortune.


The collected pieces of cloth, carefully selected and sewn together, were skillfully assembled into vibrant garments known as "Bai Jia Yi." This garment is more than just a piece of clothing; it is a talisman carrying countless blessings and hopes. Wearing Bai Jia Yi signifies that the newborn has received the blessings of many households, capable of warding off illnesses and disasters, ensuring healthy growth.


The term "Bai Jia Yi" has various names, such as "Bai Na Yi" or "Bai Sui Yi." These names all express the wish for a newborn's bright future. Blue cloth is especially favored in making Bai Jia Yi because the word "blue" (lán) is homophonous with "block" (lán) in Chinese, implying that evil spirits cannot harm the child, ensuring their safety and health.


This custom is not only a method of child-rearing but also a cultural tradition. It reflects the spirit of mutual assistance among neighbors and highlights the value placed on collective strength and the pursuit of good fortune in Chinese culture. Each Bai Jia Yi is unique, bearing the good intentions and blessings of many, accompanying the newborn through every stage of growth.


Although the custom of Bai Jia Yi has gradually faded from the spotlight, it is still preserved and practiced in some regions. People now reinterpret this tradition in modern ways, offering the sincerest blessings to newborns. Bai Jia Yi, a custom rich in cultural significance and meaning, will continue to be passed down in people's hearts, becoming a shining jewel in the treasury of Chinese culture.


Origin of Bai Jia Yi


The custom of Bai Jia Yi is deeply rooted in parents' profound hopes and blessings for their children. It is believed that clothing a child in garments made from cloth donated by a hundred households can gather the blessings of many and create a protective barrier against illness and disaster. Parents believe that such garments provide warmth and the strength for healthy growth, helping children to thrive with fewer illnesses and troubles. Each Bai Jia Yi, imbued with the goodwill and blessings of many, embodies the spirit of mutual aid among neighbors and the wish for good fortune in Chinese traditional culture. This custom not only expresses the desire for a child's bright future but also reflects the boundless love of parents. It allows people to weave together hopes for a child's healthy growth through the process of sewing and giving, letting this unique cultural tradition shine brightly throughout history.


Method of Making Bai Jia Yi


When a baby is born, especially in families with only one child in many generations, the family will announce the good news to their neighbors and relatives and request pieces of cloth. The size and color of the cloth pieces are generally not important, but blue is considered the best, as "blue" (lán) sounds like "block" (lán), implying that evil spirits cannot take the child away.


The collected cloth pieces are carefully chosen, folded, and sewn together to create a colorful Bai Jia Yi. These garments usually have no collars and wide fronts, but there are also long coats, short jackets, and vest styles.


Bai Jia Yi, a traditional child-rearing custom, is popular nationwide. It is a type of clothing for praying for a baby's longevity, made by sewing together small pieces of cloth collected from many households. Before the firstborn child enters primary school, a piece of cloth (or silk) is requested from a hundred households and sewn together. Each piece is about 7 cm in diameter, octagonal in shape, and varies in color. Embroidered with flowers, birds, fish, insects, or figures, it is believed that wearing Bai Jia Yi will ensure the baby lives a long life.


Symbolism and Cultural Significance of Bai Jia Yi


Bai Jia Yi, a unique child-rearing custom, not only embodies parents' deep hopes and blessings for their children but also carries rich cultural connotations and profound meanings. Wearing Bai Jia Yi symbolizes that the child has received the blessings and protection of many households, surrounded by an invisible force that wards off illness and disaster, ensuring healthy growth and longevity. This custom reflects people's good wishes for the child's future and the boundless love of parents.


Additionally, Bai Jia Yi signifies that children raised in humble conditions are easier to rear. In folklore, it is widely believed that children from poor backgrounds are less likely to be pampered or picky and can adapt to various environments. Although this notion carries some biases, it also reflects a simple wish for the child's healthy growth. Wearing Bai Jia Yi symbolizes hope that the child, like those from humble beginnings, will be easy to rear and grow up healthy.


Beyond its rich symbolism, Bai Jia Yi also showcases the unique charm of traditional Chinese culture. It is an expression of parental love and a reflection of the value placed on collective strength and the pursuit of good fortune in Chinese tradition. During the making of Bai Jia Yi, neighbors, relatives, and friends contribute their cloth pieces, collectively praying for the child's health and growth. This spirit of mutual aid not only strengthens community bonds but also conveys warmth and care.


Moreover, the making of Bai Jia Yi demonstrates the charm of traditional craftsmanship. The selection, folding, and sewing of each cloth piece require meticulous design and careful operation. This process not only tests the maker's skills and patience but also brings joy and a sense of accomplishment. Each Bai Jia Yi is unique, carrying the blessings and hopes of many people, showcasing the distinct charm of traditional Chinese craftsmanship.


In some regions, it is believed that children wearing Bai Jia Yi are less likely to fall ill, as illness would avoid children dressed in humble clothing.


In summary, Bai Jia Yi, as a child-rearing custom, is rich in cultural connotations and symbolism, reflecting the value placed on collective strength and the pursuit of good fortune in Chinese traditional culture. Although the custom of Bai Jia Yi has gradually faded in modern society, its spiritual essence is still cherished and passed down by many.



  1. Douban - Bai Jia Yi, 2013-03-28
  2. Baidu - Henan Customs: What Do "Bai Jia Fan" and "Bai Jia Yi" Mean? 2022-01-07
  3. Baidu - Should Babies Wear "Bai Jia Yi"? Understanding the Advantages, 2020-06-20
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