‘Sitting the month’: Post-partum Confinement Practices in China

Mother Presenting her Prayed-for Child to the Temple, 18th Century. Walters Art Museum

Mother Presenting her Prayed-for Child to the Temple, 18th Century. Walters Art Museum

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Georgine Leung reports on foods offered to new mothers in China and her experiences of the recent Wikithon at the British Library

There is a Chinese saying for everything. And when it comes to what one should eat before and after birth, the volume of anecdotal advice is paramount. A pregnant woman should only eat foods of balanced properties - Zing Zhi (正氣), avoiding anything too ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. I remember being frowned upon by my mother when I devoured scoops of ice-cream and watermelon slices during the scorching summer during which I was pregnant a few years ago. When my daughter was born however, the frowning became more serious. She would make sure everything that I ate and drank (and how I washed myself) adhered to traditional ‘post-partum confinement’ practices and would not take no for an answer, insisting that I would otherwise suffer when I grow old if I did not “do it well”.
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