Friday, February 13, 2009

Washing Feet Washing Face (Seh ka seh min)

Years ago when we were young and water was stored in huge cement tanks in our homes we had the ritual of washing our face and feet before we went to bed. We did not have showers or long baths then. Mum would use one towel for all of us so we had our faces wiped and then we soaked our feet in the Chinese enamal basin finally. It was sharing of a warm foot bath.

It was a great bonding time for mother and children. We would be scrubbed red and then we changed into our pajamas and went upstairs. We were even told that if we did not wash our face and feet we would have nightmares.

Later I had some memorable times with my daughters who loved to give me manicures and pedicures. They thought that I should have something nice at least. They thought that being a teacher I was standing far too long and far too much. They were right. Very often my feet were killing me!

Little would they realise how therapeutic their actions had been. The warm foot bath and the long soaking (to get rid of the dead cells they said) would lull me to sleep and when I woke up from the short relaxing sleep my toe nails were all painted and my feet were refreshingly cool. I did not need to go to a pedicurist to have my feet and toes pampered. These girls were learning a great skill.

Christians learned to wash feet from the example set by Jesus more than 2000 years ago. The Muslims also practise ablution rituals of washing their feet and other parts every day before they read their Koran and say their prayers.

And many Chinese who were not brought up by these two religions actually also had some kind of foot and face washing in the evenings.

I have enjoyed watching several Chinese movies which showed the loving husband giving his wife a treat by sending a warm basin of water up to their small room for her to soak her feet in. And I have forgotten the title of another movie in which the wife washed the husband's feet lovingly. These are awesome memories.

Today with all the utilities we have (hot water showers and long baths and perhaps even jaccuzis) the idea of washing feet has indeed become very archaic.

But the other night I gave myself a warm foot bath as I was so tired....and took these photos. It was not easy to take an artistic photo of feet soaking in warm water! I will try again.

May be tomorrow (Valentine's Day) you can plan to give your loved ones a foot bath !! And I can assure you that you do not have to spend a fortune to give your loved ones this special treat!!

And I would like to thank my daughters who practise foot bathing (hopefully they have bought their Chinese enamal basins) for giving me my first ever foot bath and a pedicure many years ago when they were still secondary school girls!!

5 memories:

A.H.AWANG MOIS said...

Dear Chang Yi,

Very interesting article indeed. Actually among the Malays in Sarawak and the Peninsular children are also encouraged to wash their feet before they retire to beds to prevent bad dreams.

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Hi Prof
It is nice to have you visit. May be to be integration to greater heights we should do comparative social studies!! Just a thought.
We can always find similar threads like Christian washing of feet/ablution before Koran Reading/Traditional Chinese washing of hands and face during Ching Dynasty....etc. the list is quite long...
Do visit again. thanks.

The Observer said...

Seh Kah very important. Seh Min also important. If not Kah eh chau. Min eh lacha and sang ni tiu...

How is my foochow pinyin?

I Am Sarawakiana said...

Ok. But I think there should be a Foochow pinyin dictionary we can refer to. In that way we can understand each other better!!

The Kutiens for example must not understand our Min Ching pinyin.

Must ask Meng Lei when he is around.

I Am Sarawakiana said...


The Kutiens might not (not must not) understand our pinyin...and there are ten YI or different dialects of Foochow people with different pinyin...

That's a lot of differences!


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