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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 16:53, January 25, 2006
What is "fu"?
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Photo:A big decoration bearing Chinese character
A big decoration bearing Chinese character "Fu", meaning blessing or good fortune, is suspended in a shopping center in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, Jan. 15, 2006.
When it comes to the Chinese lunar New Year big, red Chinese characters of fu (which means happiness and blessings) are posted outside each house whether in the bustling cities or remote villages. So what is fu? Several interpretations can be given.

Fu is being affluent

People look forward to being affluent and loathe being poor and this has been the case from of old. Liu Xi of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) explained in the book Shiming (explanation of terms) that fu is being rich.

The character fu was once regarded as a family's amulet to keep clear of the god of poverty in folklore. It is said Jiang Taigong (Lu Wang) who had the power to apotheosize people had been snubbed and abandoned by his wife for being poor. She then came back to him after Jiang ascended to power not for reunion but for a place among the deities. Jiang made her the god of poverty and forbade her from visiting houses posted with the character fu. Learning this on the eve of New Year people posted fu outside each house to keep her from entering the house.

In more recent times people tried to derive the meaning of affluence from the structure of the character. A breakdown of the character into several parts can mean well clothed, well housed, employed, not worried by clothing and food, which together make for affluence or happiness. In this sense, the standard of fu (happiness) is that those wishing for shelter have the house, those wishing to cultivate have the field; that people have enough clothing and food, living a well-off life. Now that people have basically reached or surpassed the well-off level and can be said to have fu.

Fu is being able to avoid misfortunes

Another intention of posting the character fu is to ward off misfortunes. This custom can be traced back to the first emperor of Ming Dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang.

When traveling incognito in plain clothes one day Zhu spotted a crowd surrounding a painting. Looking at the painting closely he saw a bare-feet woman holding a big watermelon. For some reason he suspected people in the town were mocking his empress Ma and ordered a town-wide investigation on returning to his palace.

The painter as well as those watching the painting must be registered and were to be arrested for execution. To distinguish them he ordered "fu" be posted on the houses of those who did not watch and laugh at the painting.

The kind-hearted empress Ma learned of this and let all households in the town post fu on the door. A massacre was thus avoided. From then on people began to post fu when it is the lunar New Year not only on the door but also on the windows, trees and barns for luck.

Fu is health

The custom of posting "fu" has much to do with wishing for the arrival of "wu fu" (five kinds of fu). According to the Book of History fu means longevity, wealth, health and safety, belief in virtue and good end of life. So the so-called "wu fu", in the final analysis, is health.

The saying that health is not all, but the loss of health is the loss of all is absolutely right. Without health anything else, no matter how many one has them, is meaningless. Only those with a healthy body and mind can have a good start and good end of life.

Fu is having wine

According to some textual research the character fu is an associative compound. The oracle inscription form of the character fu is that of a man holding a vessel of wine with two hands. It is perhaps hard nowadays for people to understand why fu is having wine. However, in ancient times wine was very precious that only the high officials could afford to drink it.

Moreover, wine is closely related to festivals and celebrations, something festive. So when was the wine invented? Archeologists discovered 4,000-year-old raw material and vessels for brewing beer in the Egyptian pyramid. China's Book of Songs records the ancestors brewing rice wine and drinking in celebration of harvest and longevity. Therefore, wine has taken a very important place in people's life and it makes sense that having wine is regarded as happiness.

By People's Daily Online

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