"Fu", one of the Chinese characters that best epitomize China's time-honored culture, is a must in Spring Festival celebrations. Fu is also one of the most popular Chinese characters used in Jade ornaments.
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, through the ages, the understanding of the word has varied.
In Li Ji (literally, Records of Rites), fu stands for success and also has the hidden meaning of business being smooth and everything going well. In the episode of Shang Shu (Book of Historical Records), fu was interpreted in five ways ranging from longevity, wealth, and peace to virtue, and death without illnesses.
Master Han Fei in his writings of Han Feizi in the late third century BC regarded fu as both longevity and wealth. Ouyang Xiu, a well-known poet in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), expressed his understanding of fu in a poem: "Serve my country wholehearted till the end, retire home to enjoy health and longevity." The core of the five fu in his mind was longevity and health.
People of various classes and social statuses also held different view of fu. For peasants, fu meant land, pleasant weather, good harvests, ample food, and enough clothing for one's family. People in ancient cities would think they had fu if they could survive cruel rulers, wars, and famines. To merchants and businessmen, gold and swelling wealth were fu. For elder people, nothing would bring about more happiness than health, longevity, and grandchildren playing around them.
Over time, fu has gained newer and richer meanings. As the main ingredient of a propitious culture, fu represents the common people's greatest expectations from life and reflects their dreams and desires from different angles and levels. Praying for fu (or desires to reach fu) has slowly and subtly influenced the folk culture and become a kind of worship.
The tradition of pasting the character "Fu" on walls, doors and doorposts has existed among the people for a long time. According to 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 “Fu" put on paper can be pasted normally or upside down, for in Chinese the "reversed fu" is homophonic with "fu comes", both being pronounced as "Fu dao le". But the word "dao" can also imply to fall down or turn upside-down. So, literally turning the character, fu, upside-down is a play on words implying fortune has arrived.
The character “Fu", usually written in gold on a big red background, hung on both sides of the front door across the country by Chinese hoping for good fortune for the New Year.
Fu is also the God of blessings, one of the three "gods" — legendary gods of blessings, prosperity, and longevity — that have been popular among Chinese people for centuries. The God of Fu is generally shown as a court official with a characteristically "winged" hat, and often with a scepter in his hand.
Learn more about Jade & Chinese characters:
Chinese Character: Fu (Blessing)
Chinese Character: Lu (Prosperity)
Chinese Character: Shou (Longevity)
Chinese Character: Xi & Shuangxi (Happiness & Double Happiness)
Chinese Character: Cai (wealth)
Chinese Character: Ji (auspiciousness)
Chinese Character: Ai (Love)
Chinese Character: De (Virtue)
Chinese Character: Ning (Peace)