Hap­pi­ness &福

Special Focus - - Contents - Wang Xiaoke

What is hap­pi­ness? The an­swer to this ques­tion may vary depend­ing on whom you asks. As hap­pi­ness is one of the few things that is for­ever at­trac­tive, we have known dozens of recipes for it. One pop­u­lar recipe is: Two cups of love (which gen­er­ally in­volves a lovely spouse), a spoon­ful of a sense of ac­com­plish­ment, good­ness and right­eous­ness to taste, and a pretty penny, and then you can mix them into the Pot of Health and Long Life.

The struc­ture of the Chi­nese char­ac­ter 福 (fú), rep­re­sent­ing hap­pi­ness or good for­tune, means much in Chi­nese. The left part of福 is a vari­ant of 示 (shì), which in­di­cates the orig­i­nal form of 神 (god, or de­ity) ac­cord­ing to Shuowen­jiezi, the first Chi­nese Dic­tio­nary. The right part is 畐 (fú), on the top of which is a nu­meral “one” ( 一 , yī), in the mid­dle is a “mouth” ( 口 , kǒu),which in Chi­nese lan­guage stands for a per­son, and at the bot­tom is “rice­lands” or “field” ( 田 , tián). In an­cient Chi­nese peo­ple’s eyes, a per­son’s hap­pi­ness is based on a mix­ture of God’s bless­ings and earthly ma­te­rial abun­dance.

Many schol­ars as­sume that the char­ac­ter 福 was coined in 16th cen­tury BC (the Shang Dy­nasty). Many tales and le­gends have cen­tered around it since then. One tale be­gins when Jiang Ziya (the Sage) named his wife (a no­to­ri­ous shrew in Chi­nese folk­lore) the God­dess of Poverty, (also called the Lady of Broom) in his Taoist Pan­theon. As the name im­plies, the god­dess goes where poverty runs ram­pant. Luck­ily enough, she is fright­ened to en­ter house­holds when she sees the char­ac­ters 福 pasted on the door. This is why Chi­nese peo­ple paste 福 on the doors of their houses to refuse the un­wel­come de­mon. Later, the char­ac­ters are com­monly pasted on doors, win­dows, and walls of Chi­nese fam­i­lies. This has evolved into an art form of pa­per-cut­ting and is a tra­di­tional Chi­nese cus­tom last­ing to this day.

On De­cem­ber 24th of the Chi­nese lu­nar cal­en­dar, peo­ple of each house­hold are likely to write 福 in dif­fer­ent artis­tic styles with brush pens to cel­e­brate the up­com­ing Spring Festival. The renowned cal­lig­ra­phers of Chi­nese his­tory have left us a myr­iad of scrolls of cal­lig­ra­phy re­lated to the word “福 ,” among which the most fa­mous one was writ­ten by Em­peror Kangxi dur­ing the Qing Dy­nasty. Kangxi’s cal­li­graphic 福was said to be “the best cal­lig­ra­phy of China.” It in­cor­po­rated the shapes of four other Chi­nese char­ac­ters, re­spec­tively, son ( 子 , zǐ), tal­ent ( 才 , cái), Farm­land ( 田 , tián), and longevity ( 寿 , shòu). Mirac­u­lously, a cal­li­graphic 福en­tails the mean­ing of out­stand­ing de­scen­dants, good tal­ents, fer­tile fields, and longevity. In a sense, it also em­bod­ies all the best bless­ings an an­cient Chi­nese would wish to have.

Nowa­days, the char­ac­ter “福 ” is still one of the most com­monly used char­ac­ters in cer­e­mo­nial cel­e­bra­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.