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Mastercard® Spotlights Peace-Of-Mind Protection, A Human Need That Remains Constant Over Time In South East Asia

Working with a renowned anthropologist, Mastercard traced the evolution of South Asians’ need for peace-of-mind protection

Photo by Samuel Silitonga from Pexels

Together with anthropologist Dr Indira Arumugam, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore, Mastercard® set out to understand the motivations behind peoples’ search for peace-of-mind that manifest into actions and behaviours. 

The need for humans to seek peace-of-mind protection is an ideal analogy to describe Mastercard’s commitment to continuously deliver greater protection for Mastercard cardholders in the digital world. This study helps Mastercard better understand deep-seated fears and concerns pertaining to peace-of-mind protection – ultimately helping Mastercard develop safety & security practices that feel innately familiar.

The study shows four key motivations behind almost every form of peace-of-mind protection. They are:

  • The need for increased or better sense of control;
  • To reduce uncertainty in tasks ahead;
  • To be able to locate the source of a threat if it arises; and
  • To limit or manage risk.

According to Dr Indira Arumugam, “Ultimately all forms of protection were done or used to reassure and motivate humans to carry out tasks and most were to protect either life or financial investments like livestock, businesses, savings and property giving the user a sense of peace of mind”. 

Protecting what matters with Mastercard Safety and Security Solutions 

Mastercard cardholders can pay online with full peace of mind with Mastercard® SecureCode™, an additional layer of online protection. Mastercard SecureCode helps verify that the cardholder is making the purchase when cardholders transact online at a participating merchant. It is usually offered as a one-time-password (OTP) generated by the issuing bank. Transaction Alerts reduces the chances of fraudulent purchases being made without your knowledge – with messages that notify you whenever your card is used. E-commerce protection helps limit risk by providing worldwide coverage when purchased items don’t come the way they are supposed to, if at all. Liability protection further instills confidence in Mastercard users when they shop online knowing they only need to pay for purchases they’ve made.

The report has shown that Mastercard® is on the right track when it comes to providing solutions for consumers to feel more secure and protected in the world of online payments. Mastercard has solutions that feel innately familiar and therefore easily adopted by cardholders. The need for peace-of-mind protection is only going to grow stronger in this digital age. Mastercard is committed to helping cardholders stay safe online.

To understand how South East Asians have been satisfying their need for peace-of-mind protection over time, a showcase of rituals and amulets can be found in the infographic here and the table below.


Time PeriodFormDescription
UnknownTumpengOriginating from Javanese Cuisine, the Tumpeng is rice stuffed into a cone shaped bamboo container with coconut milk or turmeric. It was originally used to show gratitude for harvests. It then evolved to a form of protection against negative forces and is eaten at big festivals.
1st Century CESeren Taun FestivalSeren Taun was a ritual to show gratitude for a bountiful harvest and take the form of a procession to present rice to the community leader. In some villages spring water is collected, blessed and sprinkled on the village folk. This ritual was a form of protection to ensure future harvests were bountiful too.
6th Century CEGarudaThe Garuda is a mythological Golden Eagle featured in many ancient Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts. The Garuda is said to devour those that are evil and as such became a form of protection against danger and catastrophe. This protector status saw the Garuda becoming part of Indonesia’s coat of arms.
19th Century CESpekkoekSpekkoek or Lapis Legit is served at auspicious ceremonies and during Chinese New Year or given as gifts. It is said to bring in joy, harmony in relationships and positivity.
21st Century CEGemstonesWith the numerous gemstones available, finding the right one is important. Wearing the wrong gemstones is believed to bring ill-fortune. As such looking into horoscope or zodiac signs, the selected gemstone is then set into jewelry and worn by both men and women to protect them from different forms of illness and misfortune.


Time PeriodFormDescription
11th Century BCEMen ShenWarriors of Chinese legend, the Men Shen were fierce guards immortalized into doors and used to prevent negative energy from entering the household or property.
16th Century CELucky BambooA symbol of beauty, the bamboo plant represents the elements of earth and good character traits. Bunching different number of stalks together changes the protection purpose.
17th Century CEDhristi MarkingsAlso known as ‘Evil Eye’, the Dhristi markings, is placed on babies or people involved in important moments to negate the negative energy that may befall them from very jealous individuals.
17th Century CEMango Leaf GarlandsDerived from Hinduism, mango leaf adorned with sandalwood and saffron dots are hung on doorways or inside vehicles to prevent misfortune and ease anxieties.
18th Century CEDragon DanceDating back to the Han Dynasty, Dragon Dances were initially popular forms of entertainment and good fortune blessings for foreign dignitaries. In Chinese culture, the dragon is a highly auspicious creature and are closely associated with bringing strength, prosperity, fertility and wisdom.
19th Century CEManeki NekoManeki Neko, or beckoning cat, originated in Japan. Used mainly by business owners, the raised left paw of the cat is believed to welcome wealth and fortune. Today it can also be found it homes, with the left paw moveable via solar power.
20th Century CEArowana FishArowanas closely resemble dragons and are believed to carry their traits, hence, they gained popularity to be kept as pets. Kept particularly by businessmen, the arowana is known to bring good outcomes. It is said to protect people against danger and bad accidents.


Time PeriodFormDescription
UnknownSarimanokThe Sarimanok is a legendary bird hailing from Mindanao island with many origin accounts. It is a symbol of love, courage, freedom and fortune. Sarimanoks are displayed in houses or workplaces to bring in good fortune and dispel negative energies.
16th Century CEEating PancitPancit is one of the most popular good luck dishes in the Philippines. It is eaten at auspicious events and is believed to bring good luck, health and wealth. This tradition is said to have been brought in by Chinese traders during the Spanish colonial era. Pancit helps protect against bad luck and inauspiciousness.
20th Century CESprinkling Salt, Sugar and RiceBefore moving into a new home, salt, sugar and rice is sprinkled on all doorways and windowsills to protect the home from misfortunes that may befall the home dwellers.
21st Century CEWearing Polka DotsBelieved to have Chinese influences, the polka dot, which shares the same shape as a coin, became a sign of good fortune. The repetitive circle pattern was then commonly worn on the New Year as a symbol of good fortune and to drive away bad luck. It is not a common belief but wearing polka dot on the new year has sneaked its way into ‘Start the year fresh’ fashion.


Time PeriodFormDescription
4th Century BCEFeng Shui CoinsInitially used as currency, Feng Shui coins come from China and have a distinct square center where a red string binds them together to be hung in homes or on a person in the hopes that good fortune will follow.
17th Century CELime Chili DangleOriginating in South Asia and used mainly by Indians, one lime and seven green chilies are threaded and hung on doorways. The yellow of lime is highly regarded as auspicious while the heat from chili is said to repel bad fortune.
17th Century CERolling PineapplesDerived from Hokkien and Teochew groups, the act of throwing a pineapple sounds like ‘Ong’ or prosper in Hokkien. This custom was then adopted by several other Chinese dialect groups to cleanse the energy and environment of a new home or property.
18th Century CEGolden ToadPlaced facing the main door, the Golden Toad rests on a pile of cash with a Chinese coin in its mouth and serves as a symbol of wealth. It is based on a Chinese legend where the wife of a God stole an immortality elixir only to be turned into a toad when she drank it.
19th Century CEManeki NekoManeki Neko, or beckoning cat, originated in Japan. Used mainly by business owners, the raised left paw of the cat is believed to welcome wealth and fortune. Today it can also be found it homes, with the left paw is moveable via solar power.
19th Century CEBreaking CoconutsA traditional Hindu custom, breaking of a coconut symbolises breaking through the many layers of one’s past to embrace a better future. This is typically done at the start of a huge milestone or as thanksgiving. The key is that the coconut must be completely smashed with the water inside drained out.


Time PeriodFormDescription
3rd Century BCESai SinSai Sin is a thread that can either be white, yellow, saffron or red, and is tied by a monk onto a person’s right wrist. Blessed by the monk through sacred incantations, it protects the wearer from untimely deaths and dangers.
1st Century CESpirit HouseSpirit House or San Phra Phum is a dedicated structure that houses images or reminders of ancestors, statues of Indian Gods and auspicious animals. It honours the ancestors of the land and protects the current guardians from any wayward spirits.
14th Century CETakrut AmuletThe Takrut is a popular amulet containing a scroll with sacred verses written by monks. The scroll can be made from a variety of materials including animal skin, among others. The Takrut is sealed with metal so the wearer cannot open it and read the verses. It is typically worn around the neck by soldiers, police and Muay Thai fighters to protect them from harm.
17th Century CEPhra SomdejPhra Somdej is an amulet with Buddha on a three-level throne. The throne signifies the philosophy of the three worlds according to Buddhist cosmology. It used to be made by combining soil and dust from the temples with pollen and even the hair of monks. Known also as the King of amulets, it protects against misfortune and negative energies.
20th Century CEJatukam RammathepThailand’s most modern amulet is the Jatukam Rammathep. Most are decorated with a Hindu God on one side and a Demon-God eating the moon on the other or a mandala. It is usually worn around the neck or wrists when making important business decisions, as the amulet is said to bring forth wealth and success.


Time PeriodFormDescription
UnknownLuck MoneyLuck Money or Li Xi has its roots in Vietnamese folklore about the ogre, Tuy. The ogre is said to attack children in their sleep, but deities disguised themselves as gold coins wrapped in a red envelope to drive the ogre away. The tradition of giving children with money in a red envelope thus continued to protect them against bad health and misfortune.
UnknownVisiting the PagodaVisiting the pagoda at the start of the New Year is essential if seeking health, happiness and luck. Many would bring offerings of fruit, incense and flowers too. After prayers, the buds from the trees in the pagoda are plucked and brought home to protect the user from misfortune, bad health and evil.
7th Century BCECalligraphyBelieved to have been part of Vietnamese culture for over 1000 years, calligraphy was a highly revered form of art and during Tet. Calligraphers were often asked to write messages of good fortune for the people to place in their homes as a form of protection against evil forces.
6th Century BCERituals during TetMany rituals take place during Tet, from cooking and eating auspicious dishes to visiting graves of ancestors, to laying out sweets for the ‘Kitchen God’, Ong Tao. While these serve as a form of protection against misfortune and calamities, sometimes a decorated bamboo or kumquat tree is used too.
1st Century BCEXoi GacXoi Gac is one of the most popular dishes in Vietnamese cuisine. It is sticky rice flavored by jackfruit and is a symbol for good luck and fortune. It is mainly eaten at auspicious festivals and seen as a form of protection against misfortune.
11th Century CEDong Ho PaintingA type of Vietnamese folk painting, the Dong Ho paintings tell the stories of popular legends and folklore. Initially drawn only in black and white, colour soon followed. Paintings are bought during the New Year to bring good luck and energy into the household.
15th Century CEHung King WorshipThe Hung King was a sacred title bestowed upon Vietnamese rulers during the Hong Bang period. Many claim them to be the founders of the Vietnamese civilization. In 2012, worship of the Hung Kings was recognized by UNESCO, leading to an annual festival to commemorate them with offerings to protect believers from bad weather, misfortune and ill-health.

For more information on the various forms of protection throughout time in South East Asia, or to find out more about Mastercard’s safety and security features please visit sea.mastercard.com/onlineprotection.

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