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Chinese character "Fu"

Updated: 2014-01-27 10:12:29

Photo taken on May 23, 2002 shows a stele with the Chinese character "fu" on it in a scenery spot in south China's Hainan province. The Chinese Character "fu", which means "good luck", is common everywhere across China during the Spring Festival. It is popular for its propitious meaning, also can be interpreted as "happiness", which the Chinese people believe will give them blessing in the comingnew year. [Xinhua/Wang Song]

Fu, one of the Chinese characters that best epitomize China's time-honored culture, is a necessity in Spring Festival celebrations. Nowadays, fu, literally meaning auspiciousness, blessing or happiness, usually appears as a cultural symbol to express people's wishes for the coming new year. Yet, in the past, the character mainly meant luck and fortune, which also represented the unanimous hope of the society.

The tradition of pasting the character fu on walls, doors and doorposts has existed among the people for a long time. According to Menglianglu , a book recording the folk customs in the Song Dynasty (960-1127), people at that time had already been practicing the tradition.

The character can either be written or printed. The accompanying patterns usually include a variety of themes like the god of longevity, a birthday peach, a carp, a dragon and a phoenix as well as other themes. The character written on paper can be pasted both normally and upside down, because in Chinese the "reversed fu" is homophonic with "fu comes", both being pronounced as "fudaole ."

There is a legend among the people about the origin of the pasting the "reversed fu ". Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), once planned to kill a family and marked them with the Chinese character fu, because the family has insulted his wife, Empress Ma. In order to avoid bloodshed, the Empress Ma ordered every family in the capital to paste the character fu in front of their doors.

All the people followed the empress's order, but one illiterate family had pasted the character upside down. On the second day when the emperor's soldiers went to the streets, they found the character everywhere, including the upside down one.

When the emperor heard this, he was very angry, and immediately ordered his palace guards to kill the family who had pasted the character in the wrong way.

Empress Ma found the situation very serious and came up with her quick-wittedness, "That family had known that you would come to visit them today, so they pasted the character upside down intentionally. Doesn't that mean 'Fu comes' today?"

The emperor agreed with his wife and released the family, thus avoiding spilling innocent blood. From that time on, people began to paste fu upside down to express the good wills for fortune and luck and to commemorate Empress Ma.

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