Why Do Chinese People Keep Throwing Coins into Plane Engines?

By Naomi Lounsbury, March 15, 2019

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There have been at least four incidents of passengers throwing coins into or towards plane engines since 2017, with the most recent occurring on March 10.

The bizarre, reoccurring episodes have sparked a discussion online as to what exactly is going through someone’s head when they decide to toss a piece of metal into a highly complex machine, especially a machine that people’s lives depend on.

There have been several Weibo blogs and articles published that discuss this topic and the most common word to appear in relation to the phenomenon of throwing coins at plane engines is ‘luck’ (祈福). 

The first major incident of engine-targeted coin throwing (that we’ve come across, anyway) occurred back in June of 2017, when an 80-year-old Buddhist woman tossed nine coins at the engine of China Southern Airlines flight CZ380. In the wake of this debacle, numerous media outlets, including the Telegraph and the Independent, noted the woman’s Buddhist faith and that the passenger was superstitious.

But with an estimated 488 million Buddhists worldwide, according to the Pew Research Center, shouldn’t these episodes be occurring more frequently? Well, it turns out that throwing coins in general is not a Buddhist tradition. According to a prominent WeChat blog (国家人文历史), the coin-tossing superstition has been borrowed from the Western tradition of throwing coins into fountains to bring good luck. 

How exactly the jump was made from coins in ponds to coins in aircraft engines is not exactly clear, but what is apparent is that a small percentage of misguided Chinese air travelers (we found zero evidence of this phenomenon occuring in other countries) believe throwing a circular piece of metal into a jet engine will bring good luck. And that, we reckon, is rather silly.

If you are superstitious and are craving a little extra luck before a long flight, do not throw coins into an aircraft engine. Instead, carry a lucky charm, say a prayer, or just rely on good ol’ positive thinking!

READ MORE: 2 Women Detained After Throwing Coins at Plane in China

[Cover image via @祥鹏航空/Weibo]

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