Tag Archives: Chinese symbols

Happy New Year! Gong Hei Fat Choi!

 This greeting is in Cantonese, not Mandarin, because that’s what you’re most likely to hear in the US.

picture by Lyndon Barnett

picture by Lyndon Barnett

Can you believe we are already one week into the Chinese and Vietnamese New Year?  Traditionally, New Year celebrations went on for a couple of weeks, although today that time has often been limited to as little as one week.

While the Chinese and Vietnamese have many differences in their cultures, they both share a lot of similarities for this major holiday, which the Vietnamese call Tet.

Vietnamese Tet

Vietnamese Tet .   Image from wikipedia

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Spider, zhī zhū, zhi zhu (蜘 蛛)

Last week we introduced the butterfly as an auspicious Chinese insect, which is purely good and positive in its symbolism.  Another animal, which is not an insect but is often confused with being one, is the spider.  The spider (zhī zhū 蜘 蛛) in traditional China was considered to be one of the 5 poisonous animals, commonly referred to as the 5 poisons.  We would immediately believe that such an animal would be considered bad and to be avoided, however, in the traditional medical theory of fighting poison with poison, the spider is considered auspicious—a good thing.  People used spiders (and their images) to ward off disease.

One spider, a little red spider, is called xizi, xii zii (喜 子) and is particularly auspicious.  The xi (喜) character may be written with the chong in front of the xi 喜, but apparently is often written exactly the same as the character for happiness xi (喜).  Thus, its image predicts a happy event and, therefore, symbolizes joy.  Plus, the spider web is a circle with a hole in the middle, which looks like an ancient Chinese coin.  This spider is often portrayed as dropping from a spider web. Put all of this together and the spider dropping from the web becomes another auspicious sign representing good things dropping from the sky.   spider descending fr web Dec 27 2013 Eberhard

May blessings fall upon you in our New Year of 2014!

Pam

References:

Bartholomew; Eberhard (+ image); http://primaltrek.com/impliedmeaning.html#spider; http://books.google.com/books?id=QNSJSA0GUFoC&pg=PA186&lpg=PA186&dq=xizi,+spider&source=bl&ots=xc9WopnBdf&sig=be5p8mupaGyeBGZkOu5AoehaXI8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eOy8UtKSEKaO2AWpsIGADg&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=xizi%2C%20spider&f=false

Butterflies: hú dié, hur dier (蝴 蝶)

Although we are in the depths of December and cold, cold, cold, I am thinking of my wildflower garden and Spring.  Naturally, butterflies come to mind and butterflies [hú dié, hur dier (蝴 蝶)]are another auspicious symbol in traditional China.

Butterflies are beautiful and because they simply flit around from place to place, flower to flower, they appear to be carefree.  Perhaps as a result, they are considered a sign of joy, happiness, and blessings.  The longstanding place the butterfly has had in Chinese tradition is highlighted by the story about Zhuāngzǐ (莊子), a 4th Century philosopher, having a dream where he was the butterfly and the joy it gave him.Butterfly Paper Cuts fr Florence Temko Dec 2013

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5 Bats (Fú 蝠)) and 8 Peaches (Táo 桃)

5 bats & 8 peaches

5 bats & 8 peaches

According to Bartholomew combining 5 bats with 8 peaches is an auspicious design and was commonly used as a good luck symbol going back to the early 1700s in the Ching Dynasty.  We clearly see this design in the picture of our Chinese vase [Okay, some of the peaches are around the sides of the pottery and not in the picture, but believe me, they are on the piece.]  Continue reading

Bats (Fú 蝠)

bats

Bat ( 蝠)

Bats our Western tradition are associated with Halloween, vampires, and scary or evil things. In traditional China, however, bats are good, wonderful symbols.

In the Chinese language many words that have different meanings sound alike (they are homophones).  The Chinese word for bat () sounds exactly like the word for blessing (fú).  So, bats are associated with receiving blessings or good fortune and are an important symbol of happiness and joy. Continue reading