Chinese Lucky things

Dragon and Phoenix

The dragon and the phoenix are the principle motifs for decorative designs on the buildings, clothing and articles of daily use in the imperial palace. The throne hall is supported by columns entwined by gilded dragons, the central ramps on marble steps were paved with huge slabs carved in relief with the dragon and phoenix, and the screen walls display dragons in brilliant colors. The names in the Chinese language for nearly al the things connected with the emperor or the empress ere preceded by the epithet ¡°dragon¡± or ¡°phoenix¡±; thus, ¡°dragon seat¡± for the throne, ¡°dragon robe¡± for the emperor's ceremonial dress, ¡°dragon bed¡± for him to sleep on, and ¡°phoenix carriage¡±, ¡°phoenix canopies¡± and so on for the imperial processions. The national flag of China under the Qing Dynasty was emblazoned with a big dragon. The earliest postage stamps up out by China were called ¡°dragon-heads¡± because they showed a dragon in their designs. Even today the dragon is sometimes adopted as the symbol of Chinese exhibition held abroad or the cover designs of books on China printed by foreign publishers. ¡°The Giant Dragon of the East¡± is becoming a sobriquet for the country.

Belief in the dragon, and drawings of the imaginary animal, can be traced back to primitive society when certain prehistoric tribes in China adopted the dragon among other totems as their symbol and guardian god. Some of the recently unearthed bronze vessels of the Yin Dynasty, which existed more than 3,000 years ago, are decorated with sketches of dragons of a crude form. Earliest legends in China described the dragon as a miraculous animal with fish scales and long beards. As time went on, it became more and more embellished in the minds of the people, acquiring the antlers of the deer, the mane of the horse and the claws of the eagle¡ªin short, appropriating the distinctive features of other creatures until it became what we see today everywhere in the palace.

The Chinese phoenix, likewise, exists only in legends and fairy tales. Sovereign of all birds, it has the head of the golden pheasant, the beak of the parrot, the body of the mandarin duck, the wings of the roc, the feathers of the peacock and the legs of the crane; gloriously beautiful, it reigns over the feathered world. An early design of phoenix can be seen on the silk painting discovered in tomb of the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.) near Changsha in Hunan Province .

The dragon and the phoenix often served in classical art and literature as metaphors for people of high virtue and rare talent or, in certain combinations, for matrimonial harmony of happy marriage. As an important part of folk arts, dragon lanterns, dragon boats, dragon and phoenix dances are still highly popular on festivals among the people of all localities.

Wind-Riding streamers

Travelers to Tibet often espy strings of tiny flags hanging down from trees or the eaves of buildings, or fluttering on mountaintops. Made of paper or cloth and inscribed with religions incantations, they are known as ¡°prayers streamers¡± or ¡°wind and horse streamers¡± because they also bear horse patterns.

A wind and horse streamer is about 10 cm square and inscribed with patterns with a strapping stud in the center. The stud has auspicious symbols inscribed on its back and is surrounded with the likenesses of its four divine protectors: the roc, dragon, tiger and lion. These five animals are portrayed in different gestures, but they look heroic and awe inspiring. On some of the streamers patterns of roc, dragon, tiger and lion are replaced with their names in the Tibetan language. The flags come in while, yellow, red and green colors to symbolize the four direction of universe. In the Tibetan language, ¡°wind¡± means ¡°dragon¡±, and ¡°horse¡± means ¡°smooth sailing¡±; thus the connotation of the flag of wind-riding horse is very much akin to the Han people's wish for good luck.

According to ancient Tibetan history books, the wind-riding horse flag was invented by Kongze Chiyai Jambo. ¡°Kongze¡± is the Tibetan transliteration of ¡°Confucius¡±, and ¡°Chiyai Jambo¡±, meaning ¡°Master of Wisdom¡±, is a title the Tibetans bestowed on Confucius. Legend has it that in his lifetime, Confucian had served in a variety of position such as Shaman, historian, master of ceremony, and fortune teller; it was provably he who had drawn the likeness of horses and cattle on paper and burned them as sacrifices to the deceased, a practice which found its way to Tibet. In the beginning the Tibetan, too, burned the horse-patterned streamers as sacrifices to the dead; later they learned to let the streamers flutter in the wind so that the wind-riding horse could fly into the sky freely¡ªa habit which has something to do with the Tibetan tradition of celestial burial, by which bodies are cut up and fed to birds of prey.

Big-Mouthed Celestial Animal

Travelers to Ynnan and Sichuan in southwest China are impressed by the colorfully painted wood ladies in the shape of a strange animal hanging on the front doors of the dwellings of local Miao, Yi and Han residents. The animal looks grotesque with a wide-open mouth as if ready anytime to swallow the demons and goblins that dare to invade. Obviously the wood ladle is a talisman designed to ward the dwellings of evil and disaster.

A variation of masks worn by exorcising dancers in south China , this image of big-mouthed animal was born of totemism and primitive culture. It is found in different places¡ªglazed on eaves tiles for decorating a temple, or carved on a stone pillar that stands by the road to guarantee good luck and rich harvest fro local people.

Maling, a remote mountainous county of Sichuan, is best known for its renditions of this legendary animal, which features a bizarre look and a striking contrast between bright red and green colors that is somewhat neutralized with black and white. The Eight Diagrams is painted on its forehead to render a mysterious Taoist touch to the animal. The Maling style of big-mouthed animal is one of the major rural handicrafts of Sichuan .


Hada, a long piece of silk used by the Tibetan and some Mongols as a gift when greeting people, worshipping celestial beings, and in daily person-to-person contacts.

According to the book Tibetan Customs and Habits by the Tibetan scholar Chilai Qoizhag, hada was invented by the Han People before it found its way to Tibet . During the Yuan Dynasty, when the Tibetan Sakya King, Phags-pa, returned to Tibet after meeting Hublai, the founding emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, he brought a piece of hada that was inscribed with patterns of the Great Wall on both ends and the four Chinese characters that mean ¡°good luck¡±.

Hada is of different lengths, but generally it is 2 meters long and 30cm wide. Most of it is fashioned out of white silk, because white means purity. There are also ones made from homespun. Red, yellow and light blue hada are made of fine silk fabrics and embroidered with Buddhist statues, Sanskirt messages, lotus flower and auspicious clouds, to be used for occasions of the highest grades.

When worshiping Buddhist statues, greeting or bidding farewell to friends, or holding weddings or funerals, the Tibetans show their respects and affection to their friends or beloved ones with hada. Whenever they are on a trip they make it a point to bring along several pieces of hada to be given to friends or relatives. Tiny pieces of hada are attached to letters as a way of good will.

The Tibetan are very etiquette conscious when presenting hada. When the recipient is an elderly, they would bend their body and hold hada above their head before presenting it to the recipient's seat of feet. The ritual is much simper between peers¡ªyou simply thrust the hada to the recipient's hand. When a hada is presented to a member of the younger generation, it is often tied to the youngster's neck, and the youngster is supposed to bend his body to show gratitude.

Spring Festival Couplets

By tradition the Chinese love to paste couplet on their gateposts or door panels when celebrating Spring Festival. The couplets are generally written on red paper and the sentences contain auspicious meanings. In the region south of the Yangtze River , couplets are inscribed on yellow paper during funerals.

The Spring Festival couplets originated in the peachwood charms against evil (hung on the gate on New Year's Eve) in ancient China . Legend has it that the names of two celestial beings who were conquerors of demons and goblins are written down on pieces of peachwood to be hung on the gate to protect a family from evil and disaster and greet the coming of an auspicious year. Later, people simply drew the images of these two celestial beings on their doors. Looking ferocious with glaring eyes and sharp weapons, they were enough to scare demons of all descriptions from intruding. Even today, pictures of the two gods can still be seen in ancient buildings. Later, people simplified the ritual by writing couplets on the peachwood to give expression to their best wishes.

In the beginning putting Spring Festival Couplets on the doors was a privilege for aristocratic families by which to sing praise of their ancestors' meritorious deeds and show off their wealth. Later they became popular among commoners. By the Song Dynasty the couplets had become part of local life.

It is no easy job to compose a good couplet because it requires symmetry in every field: sentence for sentence, noun for noun, verb for verb, and statistics for statistics. And it should sound poetic and reflect the actual situation of a family.

Today, Spring Festival couplets have acquired a new meaning¡ªthey have become a folk for to eulogize social development and people's better life.

¡°Fu¡± and ¡°Fu¡± Upside Down

The Chinese character ¡°Fu¡± means good fortune and happiness, and during Spring Festival virtually every family would paste it upside down on their doors in the hope that the word would bring bless to their families. As to why ¡°fu¡± should be placed upside down there are three interpretations.

The first interpretation has the practice of pasting ¡°fu¡± during Spring Festival originate in Jiang Ziya of the Zhou Dynasty (11 th Century¡ª256 B.C.). When Jiang Ziya was made a god, his wife demanded to be made a goddess. ¡°After I married you I was always in poverty in my life,¡± Lord Jiang said. ¡°Seems you are destined to be poor. So let me appoint you as the Goddess or Poverty.¡±. No knowing what being the Goddess of Poverty held in store for her, his wife was nevertheless happy about becoming a goddess. Cheerfully, she asked, ¡°Now that I'm the Goddess of Poverty, where shall be my domain?¡± Jiang replied, ¡°You are off limits where there is good fortune.¡± When the residents got word of Jiang's instruction, they wrote the character ¡°fu¡± on paper and pasted it on the doors and windows of their houses to keep the Goddess of Poverty away. Thus pasting ¡°fu¡± during the Spring Festival became a Chinese tradition.

The second interpretation attributes the practice to Fu Jin the princes of Gong of the Qing Dynasty. Once, on the lunar New Year's Eve, the butler of the mansion of the Prince of Gong wanted to curry favor with his master. He followed past practice and had several large ¡°fu¡± written and pasted on the front gates of the warehouse and the mansion. One of the men sent to do the pasting was illiterate and put the character upside down on the front gate of the mansion. Enraged, the prince wanted to punish the perpetrator by whipping him. The butler, who had the gift of the gab, hastened to go down on his knees and pleaded: ¡°Your humble servant often heard people say that Your Excellency is a man of longevity and great fortune. Indeed, great fortune did arrive today; it is a good sign.¡± The prince was convinced. ¡°This is why the passers-by were saying that great fortune had arrived in the mansion of the Princess of Gong,¡± he thought. ¡°Once an auspicious saying is repeated for a thousand times, my wealth could increase by 10,000 tales of gold and silver.¡± He then awarded the butler and the servant who pasted the paper upside down fifty taels of silver. Since then the practice of pasting ¡°fu¡± upside down during Spring Festival has become a tradition followed by both imperial aristocrats and commoners.


Gourd is the fruit of a kind of liana. When fresh and tender, it could be eaten as vegetable; when dried, it makes an ideal container of water or wine. Northern Chinese farmers have the habits of cutting a gourd in two to be used wine containers or ladles. Our ancestors fashioned the gourd into a wind instrument known as sheng, and the way farers loved to carry drugs in a gourd. This gave rise to the old platitude: ¡°I don't know what he has got in his gourd¡±. Meaning somebody is wondering what's up somebody else's sleeves.

Because the gourd liana is prolific in fruits and seeds, families have regarded it as a symbol of prosperity since ancient times. Life-like green-glazed ceramic gourds were unearthed along with such burial objects as earthen kettles, ovens and bronze mirrors from a Han tomb dating back to 3,000 years ago. This is a rate case in which gourds were used a burial objects.

In some areas, men and women in love are still observing the Mid-Autumn Festival traditions to steal gourds from the fields with the desire to have as many children as possible after they get married.


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