Society of Bioethics and Medicine
A Chinese Problem: Fear of Yeet Hay
Written by Christine Kuang
Edited by Jacquelyn Tang
It's known that parenting is a form of manipulation (Johari Talib & Marmat, 2011). However, have your elders concocted an abstractive term during your developmental period to have you behave in a certain way? Most Chinese children grew up hearing the words yeet hay. I hear left and right: yeet hay this, yeet hay that. Basically, they say everything is yeet hay.
If you did not grow up hearing the term, yeet hay roughly translates to "hot air" (in Mandarin, "huo qi da," meaning "fire air big," outside China "Qi," life force energy). Although it is used interchangeably as a medical diagnosis in Chinese culture, it is a philosophical terminology. To clarify, yeet hay refers not to temperature, but to energy levels.
Growing up Cantonese, the terminology, "yeet hay" manipulates Chinese children into knowing what food to eat and which to avoid. You get too hot ('yeet hay') when you come across a category of foods that sets off your body's internal heat and where the excessive heat dominates your body's cultivation. The symptoms are as stated, "our Chinese elders are to be believed, results in pimples, canker sores, sore throats, itchy or red eyes when eaten in excess" and in severe cases, nose bleeds (2008). Being yeet hay is also believed to make you more susceptible to other illnesses and infections, weakening your immune system. If I catch the flu, I can guarantee you my family would say that I'm yeet hay.
Is the term “yeet hay” coercion or rational persuasion?
Trying to understand “yeet hay” is confusing and has me dumbfounded as it isn't as simple as avoiding fried chicken wings because there are even some fruits listed. Who would have thought fresh fruits could be bad for you?! There are two categories of so-called yeet hay foods: hot and cold. An equilibrium of invisible life force energy helps avoid being too hot or too cold.
Here are some examples.
Hot: Fried and Greasy Food
Home brewed herbal soups
Not an exact science measurement; yeet hay is strictly personal. The severity of yeet hay depends on how much 'too hot' or 'too cold' food you eat. In addition, the tolerance of excessively hot or cold food varies with each body.
So here's the freaky part, on days I crave a nice bowl of spicy noodles and reach out for more hot sauce, my mom will stop and say, "Stop adding hot sauce, too yeet hay!" The morning after, I would wake up to newly grown pimples, and again my mom would say, "You are yeet hay." And when I have too much acne on my face, it isn’t because of puberty; my grandma blames it on my obsessive eating of that oh-so-yummy fried food. Either yeet hay exists, or it's pure coincidence. Luckily, there are home remedies to counteract the "too hot" damage; I would have to consume "cool" foods such as herbal soups or "Leung cha" (Chinese herbal "cool tea") to soothe the internal fire.
Is there any truth behind yeet hay? Does yeet hay bypass reason? Yeet hay is heavily believed in Chinese medicine, yet does not exist in other cultures. Sometimes, I think yeet hay is a phantom disease, exclusive to Chinese people's fear of eating chips, fries, and everything good. This reminds me of Murphy's Laws, "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong" eating too much hot food.
Since Westerners do not come across yeet hay, and, as a pre-med student, there are countless times where I pointed out that it does not exist in the medical encyclopedia. Somewhat equatable, medical professionals recommend food given medical concerns, such as canker sores, based on their acidity where abrasive, acidic, or spicy food can cause further irritation.
Whether the purpose of yeet hay is the implementation of goodwill or fear is still up to debate. When I finally obtain my medical degree, will my Asian mom believe yeet hay is not a disease? Instead, yeet hay is a reminder to be aware of your body's harmony to constantly check on your body's internal health.
Chinese medicine hot and cold foods list. (5 March 2008). I-See. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://www.i-see.co/hotandcoldfoods
Johari Talib, Z. M., & Mamat, M. (2011). Effects of parenting style on children development. World Journal of Social Sciences, 1(2), 14-35.
Noggle, R. (2020). The ethics of manipulation. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2020). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2020/entries/ethics-manipulation/
Why chinese people are afraid of “yeet hay.” (2017, December 12). NextShark. https://nextshark.com/what-is-yeet-hay/
Tse, A. (1 September 2018). Chinese herbal tea: History, health and how to make it. South China Morning Post. Retrieved February 8, 2022, from https://multimedia.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/2162156/herbal-tea/index.html
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