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.
Interestingly enough (because their lives are, in fact, short), they are also a symbol of longevity. This tradition comes from the second part of the word for butterfly, dié (蝶), which is homophonous with the word for “octogenarian” dié (耋). What a great example of the power of symbolism over empirical reality–something we all share with the Chinese.
Butterflies are popular images for paper cuts to put in windows, on doors, or hang on the wall. You can find patterns to make your own on various Internet sites which will allow you to bring joy and Spring into your home as you move through the cold Winter months.
References: Bartholomew; Florence Temko Chinese Paper Cuts; Characters from http://www.mandarintools.com/cgi-bin/wordlook.pl?word=%E8%9D%B4&searchtype=trad&where=start