Saturday, May 8, 2021

How Displaying the Chinese Character ‘Fu’ Brings You Good Fortune

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Emma Lu
Emma Lu is an author who specializes in Cultural and Historical myths and stories.

As we celebrate the Chinese New Year of the Ox in 2021, we wish everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. We hope your new year is filled with good fortune and blessings.

As part of Chinese traditions, the Chinese people welcome the New Year by cleaning their homes thoroughly, hanging red couplets, and a red “fu” (the Chinese character for fortune or good luck) ideograph paper by the front entrance. The entire family dresses in new clothes, gathers together to worship God and their ancestors, and enjoys a festive feast. Firecrackers are lit, and lion dances are performed on the streets; children receive red envelopes filled with cash. Because of these customs and traditions, Chinese New Year is unique and different from any other festivals. If they are dropped, Chinese New Year will not feel like Chinese New Year. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is an extraordinary time that creates a challenge to observe all the traditions, but keeping one or two is still manageable. For example, displaying the ideograph “fu” brings the feel of a new year instantly, doesn’t it?

people walking over the beautifully decorated street in hong kong on chinese new year
As part of the Chinese traditions, the Chinese people welcome the New Year by cleaning their homes thoroughly, hanging red couplets, and a red “fu” (the Chinese character for fortune or good luck) ideograph paper by the front entrance. (Image: Mona / Vision Times)

There are many sayings on the proper way of displaying the “fu” ideograph, either right side up or upside down. While some prefer upside down because it is a homophone to the phrase “arrival of good luck,“ others argue that it sounds more like pouring good fortune out, so it should be displayed on right side up’p. Both viewpoints seem sensible, but which one is right? The stories and explanations below will give you the answer. 

Chinese characters are pictographs, so let us first look at the word “fu” in its oracle form. The left side is an altar. The right part is a wine pot and two hands. Together it represents a person holding a wine pot with two hands to pray and thank God. If hanging the character upside down, wouldn’t the wine be poured out? How can one pray with an empty wine pot?! That is to say, “fu” should be displayed in its proper form, not upside down. 

Nevertheless, can hanging “fu” truly bring blessings? Emperor Kangxi verified this myth. 

During the 12th year of his reign, right before Emperor Kangxi’s grandmother, Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang, was about to celebrate her 60th birthday, she fell seriously ill. Imperial physicians couldn’t cure her within a short time, which caused Kangxi to worry. He searched through ancient books hoping to find treatments. Finally, he uncovered an old saying: “Redeeming blessings for longevity.” As the emperor is considered the son of God, who enjoys endless fortune and longevity, therefore, he can share his blessing with his family in the form of lengthening their life span.

With a pious heart, Kangxi fasted and cleansed for three days. Then he purposefully selected a brush pen inscribed with “granting blessing to all common folks” to write the character of “fu” about a half-meter tall and stamped it with his royal seal on the center top to strengthen its power. Miraculously, the empress recovered. As a result, “fu” was known as “Godsend blessing” or “the best blessing on earth” among ordinary people.

The Chinese Fu character in various writing styles. (Image: Dreamstime.com © Xiaoyong)

Closely examining the character, you will notice five blessings incorporated in the “fu” character: longevity, land, offsprings, talents, and benediction.

When hung upside down, all these parts in “fu” will be misplaced and lose their meanings. Only correctly displaying it will have the significance of “the best blessing on earth.”

The main reason for the miracle to occur was that Emperor Kangxi was one of the virtuous and benevolent rulers in Chinese history. Such a ruler was enlightened and strengthened by Heaven, along with his heart of filial piety, grandmother’s life was prolonged.

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