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Selected Chinese Symbols

Various symbols from Chinese culture are used to decorate teawares. We have listed some here to help you get a better appreciation for them. These were sourced from a wide variety of sites online and reorganized here to make the list easier to refer to. We also joined together duplications across these various sites. If you think of something worth adding here, please let us know.

SYMBOL GROUPS

Group

Members

3 Abundances
3 Plenties
(sanduo
三多)

  • Pomegranate (shiliu 石榴) – descendants or progeny
  • Citron (foshou 佛手) or Buddha's Hand – happiness and longevity
  • Peach (tao ) – longevity

3 Chinese coins tied with red ribbon

Good Luck

  • Place in the Southeast sector of your home or carry with you for an abundance of wealth and money.

3 Friends in Winter

Because they all can flourish during the winter:

  • Plum (mei )
  • Bamboo (zhu )
  • Pine tree (song )

3 Many

  • Desire for more happiness, longevity, and children/grandchildren.

3 Officials
3 Immortals
(sanguan
三官)

  • God of Happiness (Fu)
  • God of Prosperity (Lu)
  • God of Longevity (Shou)

3 Rounds

  • Any grouping of three round objects.
  • Chinese word for "round" (yuan ) is pronounced the same as word for "first" (yuan ).

3 Star Gods

Popular gods whose duties are, respectively, to increase happiness, wealth, and length of life.

  • Originally "lucky star"(fuxing 福星), now Fu (God of Happiness)
  • Originally "prosperity star" (luxing 禄星), now Lu (God of Prosperity)
  • Originally "longevity star" (shouxing 寿星), now Shou (God of Longevity)

4 Beauties
4 Great Beauties

Four ancient Chinese women, renowned for their beauty. Few historical records exist so much of what is known today has been greatly embellished by legend. They exercised influence over kings and emperors and impacted Chinese history. Three brought kingdoms to their knees, and the lives of all four ended in tragedy or under mysterious circumstances. They lived in four different dynasties, hundreds of years apart.

  • Xi Shi (c. 7th to 6th century BC, Spring and Autumn Period), said to be so entrancingly beautiful that fish would forget how to swim and sink away from the surface when she walks by.
  • Wang Zhaojun (c. 1st century BC, Western Han Dynasty), said to be so beautiful that her appearance would entice birds in flight to fall from the sky.
  • Diaochan (c. 3rd century, Late Eastern Han/Three Kingdoms period), said to be so luminously lovely that the moon itself would shy away in embarrassment when compared to her face.
  • Yang Guifei (719–756, Tang Dynasty), said to have a face that puts all flowers to shame.

4 Blessings
(si fu
四福)

  • happiness (xi )
  • salary of a high official (lu )
  • longevity (shou 寿)
  • good luck (good fortune) (fu )

4 Directions

  • East – Azure Dragon (qinglong )
  • North – Tortoise, Turtle (gui )
  • West – Unicorn (qilin )
  • South – Phoenix (fenghuang )

4 Divine Creatures
4 Heraldic Animals
4 Directional Animals
4 Symbols
(si xiang
四象)

Symbolize the four directions and an associated season as follows:

  • Vermillion (Red) Bird (zhuque 朱雀) – south and summer.
  • White Tiger (baihu 白虎) – west and autumn.
  • Azure Dragon (qinglong ) – east and spring.
  • Black tortoise coiled around by a snake known as the Black Tortoise (Black Warrior) (xuanwu 玄武) – north and winter.

4 Gentlemen
4 Plants of Virtue
(sijunzi
四君子)

Each plant represents a seasons and together represent a year:

  • Orchid – spring
  • Bamboo (zhu ) – summer
  • Chrysanthemum (ju ) – autumn
  • Plum (mei ) – winter

Plum and bamboo together signify friendship.

4 Happinesses
(si fu
四蝠)

From a poem by Hong Mai ( 1123-1202) of the Song Dynasty:

  • "Sweet rain after a long drought" (jiu han feng gan yu 久旱逢甘雨)
  • "Meeting an old friend in a faraway place" (ta xiang yu gu zhi 乡遇故知)
  • "The wedding night" (literally: "the night of lighting a candle in the bridal chamber" (dong fang hua zhu ye 洞房花烛夜)
  • "Having one's name on the list of successful candidates of the imperial examination" (jin bang ti ming shi 金榜题名时)

4 Seasons

  • Spring – Azure Dragon (qinglong ), Orchid
  • Summer – Dragonfly (qingting 蜻蜓), Bamboo (zhu ), Phoenix (fenghuang ).
  • Autumn – Unicorn (qilin ), Chrysanthemum (ju ).
  • Winter – Tortoise, Turtle (gui ), Plum (mei )

5 Elegant Beauties

Each is a different motif that reflects natural beauty:

  • Pine Tree
  • Plum Blossom Bough
  • Orchids
  • Mudan (a woody Peony)
  • Bamboo

5 Elements

There are five universal elements in Chinese philosophy, associated with five planets in ancient times, also associated with colors.

  • Wood – Jupiter, Green
  • Fire – Mars, Red
  • Earth – Saturn, Brown
  • Metal – Venus, White
  • Water – Mercury, Black

The elements are further associated with the animal zodiac signs. Every twelve-year sequence, the animal takes on one of the elements, until all five have been used.

5 Poisons
5 Poisonous Creatures
(
五毒)

The Chinese believe the five poisons counteract pernicious influences by combating poison with poison.

  • Snake (she )
  • Spider (zhizhu 蜘蛛) or sometimes lizard
  • Scorpion
  • Centipede
  • Toad (or 3-legged toad)

8 Treasures
8 Precious Things
8 Auspicious Treasures
8 Buddhist Symbols of Good Fortune
(babao
八宝)

May consist of eight ordinary symbols, the eight precious organs of the Buddha's body, the eight auspicious signs, or the various emblems of the eight Taoist Immortals.

Most common:

  • Coin (qian )
  • Ruyi or Scepter (如意)
  • Coral (shanhu 珊瑚)
  • Chime Stone (qing )
  • Lozenge (fang sheng )
  • Rhinoceros Horns (xijiao 犀角)
  • Silver Ingots (sycee)
  • Flaming pearl

In Buddhism:

  • Lotus (lianhua 莲花 or hehua 荷花) (purity/enlightenment)
  • Wheel of the Dharma (knowledge)
  • treasure vase (wealth),
  • conch shell (Buddha's thoughts),
  • victory banner (Buddha's teachings conquer all)
  • endless knot (harmony)
  • parasol (protection)
  • fish pair (; ; yú) (happiness in marriage)

8 Immortals
(
八仙)

Eight Taoists/Daoists who attained immortality:

  • Han Zhongli (汉钟离), or Zhongli Quan (锺离权) – a Han Dynasty general usually shown carrying a feather fan used to revive the dead.
  • Lu Dongbin ( ) – drinking and fighting abilities, carries a demon-slaying sword and a fly whisk used to walk on clouds, fly to heaven, and sweep away ignorance.
  • Zhang Guolao (张果老) – rides a donkey, sometimes seated backwards, and carries a tube-shaped bamboo musical instrument called a yugu (鱼鼓).
  • Li Tieguai ( 铁拐), or "Li with the iron crutch" – a crippled beggar who carries a gourd filled with a magic elixir.
  • He Xiangu (何仙姑) – female, usually carries a kitchen ladle, lotus, peach, or fly whisk. Known for her filial devotion, ability to resolve domestic disputes, and seen as the patron of household management.
  • Han Xiangzi (韩湘子) – carries a flute, predicts the future, makes fruits and flowers grow out of season, represents youth, and seen as the patron of fortune-tellers.
  • Cao Guojiu (曹国舅) – carries a ruyi sceptre or castanets.
  • Lan Caihe (蓝采和) – depicted as male, female, or hermaphrodite, usually holds fruit/flower basket, bowl, or flute.

9 Similitudes

A greeting or felicitous wish.

9 Dragon Sons

  • Baxia (Bixi) – Known as dragon tortoise (turtle dragon). Powerful, strong, capable of bearing life's burdens. Brings long life of prosperity and strength.
  • Bi An (Bian) A protector of the law and considered to fair.
  • Chi Wen (Chao Feng or Chiwen) Governs water, used on roofs to ensure protection against fire. Inside the home it protects against natural disasters such as floods.
  • Gongfu (Gong Fu) Known as the water dragon god, swims in bodies of water, brings wealth to home, protects from floods, often used on ships.
  • Pu Lao (Puloa) Roars and rules over sounds. Often used as a motif for temple bells. On your desk it commands authority.
  • Ch'iu niu (Quiniu) Loves music, the creative symbol often found carved onto musical instruments or as a relief motif.
  • Suan Ni (Suanni) The lion dragon of fire and smoke, watches over his kingdom, bestows wisdom and great wealth to those who use this symbol.
  • Taotie (Tootie) Food-loving dragon with bronze and other metal bowls, plates, and other serving pieces. Many china patterns include an image of this dragon god.
  • Ya Zi (Yazi) A protector and fierce warrior, always victorious in war, worn in the military as a way to imbue Yazi's energy.

10 Symbols of Longevity
10 Longevities
(shi shou
十寿)

Traditional Chinese symbols representing a long life. Also very popular in ancient Korea for charms and other works of art.

  • pine tree (song )
  • sun (ri )
  • crane (he )
  • water (shui )
  • mountains (shan )
  • clouds (yun )
  • deer (lu 鹿)
  • tortoise (gui )
  • fungus of immortality (lingzhi )
  • bamboo (zhu )

12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac

There are 12 animals that cycle through every 12 years:

  • Rat (laoshu 老鼠)
  • Water buffalo (Ox) (水牛 - shuǐniú)
  • Tiger (leopard) ( - hǔ)
  • Rabbit (Hare) ( - tù)
  • Dragon ( - lóng)
  • Snake (she )
  • Horse (ma )
  • Sheep, ram or goat (yang )
  • Monkey (hou )
  • Rooster, cock (gongji )
  • Dog (gou )
  • Pig (Boar) (Hog) (; zhū)

12 Symbols of Sovereignty
12 Imperial Symbols
12 Symbols of Imperial Authority

Per the ancient Book of Rites (liji ), 12 is the number of Heaven so these are associated with the Emperor, Son of Heaven.

  • Sun ( - rì) – Source of life; for sovereignty a symbol of enlightenment, sometimes depicted by a 3-legged bird (3-legged crow, 金烏 金 jīn wū) on a red disc.
  • Moon ( - yuè) – Heaven, depicted as a light blue or green disc enclosing the legendary hare (Jade Rabbit) pounding the elixir of immortality.
  • Constellation of 3 Stars (星辰 - xīngchén) – Unending source of pardon and love personified by the emperor.
  • Mountain ( - shān) – Rule over earth and water by the emperor, meant as a symbol of stability and of the Earth itself.
  • Dragon ( - lóng) – Adaptability (capable of transformations), power, good luck, and the natural world, rulers of the seas and the skies. The 5-clawed dragon is the emperor's sacred symbol of imperial power and dignity.
  • Pheasant ( - zhì) and pheasant-phoenix (華蟲 - huáchóng) – Literary refinement. Combined with dragons, they represent the animal and bird kingdoms and thus the whole natural world.
  • Two Bronze-colored Sacrificial Goblets (宗彝 - zōng yí) – Imperial loyalty and virtue of filial piety.
  • Seaweed ( - zǎo) – Purity (noble symbol of the emperor's leadership).
  • Grain (粉米 - fěn mǐ) – Prosperity and fertility and that the emperor is the mainstay for the people.
  • Fire ( - huǒ) – Intellectual brilliance of the emperor, and also symbol for summer solstice.
  • Axe head ( - fǔ), [axe shaped] – Emperor’s power to act decisively.
  • Fu symbol ( - fú) – Bow-shaped, represents collaboration and power of the emperor to distinguish evil from good, right from wrong.

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LUNAR CALENDAR

Month

Symbol

1

Plum (mei )

2

Peach (tao )

3

Tree Peonyor mudan (牡丹)

4

 

5

 

6

Pomegranate (shiliu 石榴)

7

Lotus (lianhua 莲花 or hehua 荷花)

8

 

9

 

10

Chrysanthemum (ju )

11

 

12

 

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NUMBERS WITH MEANINGS

Number

Meaning(s)

4

Associated with death

6
(liu
or )

Good luck – Chinese character for six (liu ) has similar pronunciation to "prosperity" (lu ). It is also similar to pronunciation of "to flow" (liu ), and so symbolizes "to go smoothly".

8
(ba
)

The most auspicious number because its pronunciation, particularly in southern dialects, is very similar to "prosper" or "wealth" (fa cai 发财).

9
(jiu
)

Considered lucky because the Chinese character for nine has the same pronunciation as the word "forever" (jiu ).

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COLORS WITH MEANINGS

Color

Meaning(s)

Black

One of the 4 colors of longevity. Used in daily wear but it also signifies mourning like white. A black ribbon is put at the top of deceased picture.
Element: Water
Planet: Mercury

Blue

One of the 4 colors of longevity.Also used on sadder occasions like death and mourning.

Brown

Element: Earth (dirt, soil)
Planet: Saturn

Green

Prosperity, health, and harmony.
Green hats signifies cheating behavior.
Element: Wood
Planet: Jupiter

Red

Good luck and happiness – used in great abundance at the time of special occasions and festivals and also to drive off evil spirits. Also the element of fire and the planet Mars.

White or Silver

One of the 4 colors of longevity. Signifies death, mourning, sadness, but also longevity. Can also be interchanged with silver as a symbol of mourning.
Element: Metal
Planet: Venus

Yellow and Gold

One of the 4 colors of longevity. Also a good luck color -- sometimes paired with red if there is no gold color. Also the color of the robes and attire of the emperors. A mourning color for Chinese Buddhists, especially for mourning deceased monks.

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FRUITS, VEGETABLES, PLANTS

Item

Meaning(s)

Apple
(pingguo
苹果)

Peace – a visual pun, the Chinese word for apple and for peace (pingan 平安) are pronounced ping.

Apricot grove or field

Success – used in the imperial examination system since the very first celebration honoring successful candidates allegedly took place in an apricot grove.

Bamboo (zhu )

One of the 3 Friends in Winter

  • Being upright, strong, resilient yet gentle, graceful, refined (Confucian)
  • Bend to adversity yet not break (Taoists/Daoists)
  • To wish or congratulate – a pun when used on a charm, the Chinese word for bamboo and for "to wish or congratulate" (zhu ) are pronounced the same.
  • Modesty – the word for its hollow center (kongxu 空虚) is similar to the word for modesty (qianxu 谦虚) since the second character for both has the same pronunciation (xu).

Cabbage
(baicai
白菜 or qingcai 清菜)

Wealth – it has the same pronunciation as the word "money" or "wealth" (cai ).

Calamus
(aka Sweet Flag)
(chang pu
菖蒲)

Protection – the long, stiff leaves resemble swords, which provide protection, so hanging calamus above gates and doors is believed to help protect from evil spirits, disease and misfortune.

Cassia
(Cinnamon)
(gui
)

  • Evergreen plant with bright yellow flowers; often incorrectly referred to as Chinese cinnamon.
  • Closely associated with the myth of Chang'e ("Moon Goddess") and the "Moon Hare" ("Jade Rabbit").
  • Success in imperial examination system – Chinese word for cassia has same pronunciation as word for "high rank" (gui ).

Chestnut
(lizi
栗子)

  • Good luck symbol for creating a family – it sounds exactly like saying "establishing" (li ) "sons" or "children" (zi ) and therefore is.
  • Symbolizes "etiquette" or "manners" (li ) in women – first character in chestnut (li ) sounds the same as those qualities.

Chrysanthemum
(ju
)

One of the 4 Gentlemen
Signifies the 10th month of the lunar calendar.

  • Maintaining virtue despite adversity and temptation (blooms late and faces the winter).
  • "forever" (yongjiu 永久), and thus "longevity".
  • "nine" (jiu ) which can also stand for “forever”.

Citron
(foshou
佛手)
(also called Buddha's Hand)

One of the 3 Abundances (3 Plenties)

  • A bright yellow lemon-like fruit with a thick rind and long finger-like tendrils. Resembles the familiar hand position of the Buddha, who has the auspicious Chinese name of foshou (佛手) which literally means "Buddha's Hand".
  • The name foshou sounds very similar to the words fu ( happiness) and shou (寿 longevity) and therefore the citron is a symbol for "happiness and longevity".

Cypress
(bai
)

  • Paired with other symbols to express "many" or "everything" – the Chinese word for cypress is pronounced the same as the word for "one hundred" (bai ).

Date fruit or Chinese jujube
(zao
)

  • Something is going to happen soon – has the same pronunciation as the word for "early" or "soon" (zao ).

Fungus
Glossy Ganoderma
Fungus of Immortality
Sacred Fungus of Immortality
(Lingzhi
灵芝)

  • Longevity – grows on the trunks or roots of trees including the pine, but does not decay like other fungus. Becomes woody and survives a long time.
  • Was believed to grow on the "Three Islands of the Immortals" where immortals lived.

Gourd
(hulu
葫芦)

  • Ward off evil spirits and disease – its first character has the same pronunciation as the word to "protect" or "guard" (hu ) and also the word for "blessing" (hu ).
  • "happiness and rank (as in attaining a high government office)" –in some dialects, the Chinese word for gourd (hulu ) sounds the same as fulu ( ) which means success.
  • Have many children – the gourd contains many seeds, so the Chinese associate the gourd with "10,000 children".

Lotus
(lianhua
莲花 or hehua 荷花)

One of 8 Auspicious Symbols
Signifies the 7th month of the Lunar Calendar

  • Purity and detachment from worldly cares – based on images of the Buddha seated on a lotus.
  • Continuous harmony – a hidden meaning since the Chinese word for lotus is pronounced the same as the word for continuous () and he is pronounced the same as the word harmony ().

Money Tree
(yao qian shu
摇钱树)

  • A legendary tree from which coins fall down when shaken.

Mugwort
Artemisia Leaf
(ai
)

One of a larger group of objects that can be members of the 8 Treasures

  • Longevity – said to have medicinal properties.
  • Protection – in ancient times, mugwort leaves, resembling tiger paws, were attached to doors and gates to provide protection.
  • Insect repellant – its aroma is also believed to repel insects.

Narcissus
(shuixian
水仙)

  • Immortal – name means literally "water immortal".

Onion
(cong
)

  • A visual pun for intelligence – it has the same pronunciation as the word for "intelligent" or "clever" (congming 聪明).

Orange
(ju
)

  • Riches and good fortune – due to their gold color and because the Chinese character for orange is mu (), meaning "tree", and ji () meaning "lucky or auspicious".

Orchid

One of the 4 Gentlemen

  • Humility, modesty, beauty, and refinement.

Osmanthus
(gui
)

  • Can mean "honor" or "precious" because it has the same pronunciation as the word "valuable" or "precious" (gui ).

Peach
(tao
)

One of the 3 Abundances (3 Plenties)
Signifies the 2nd month of the lunar calendar.

  • Marriage, spring, justice and especially Daoist immortality (longevity).
  • Peach wood was also used to make swords, arrows, and amulets in ancient times because the Chinese word for peach (tao ) has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for "flee" or "run away" (tao ).

Peanut
  (huasheng
花生)

  • Wish for many children – its second character (sheng ) means to "give birth".

Tree Peony
  (mudan
牡丹)

Signifies the 3rd month of the lunar calendar.

  • Longevity, loyalty, happiness and eternal beauty.
  • Prosperity and wealth – sometimes grows as doubles so appears to the Chinese like strings of cash coins.
  • Another name is fuguihua (贵花) – "flower of wealth and honor".

Persimmon
  (shi
)

  • Visual pun (rebus) – has the same pronunciation as the word for "matters, affairs or events" (shi ) and also the word for an "official" or "gentleman" (shi ).

Pine tree
  (song
)

A member of the 3 Friends in Winter

  • Longevity – it is an evergreen and can endure severe winters.
  • Solitude.
  • Protection for nearby graves – the mythical creature Wang Xiang (罔象), who devours the brains of the dead, is afraid of the pine.

Plum
  (mei
)

A member of the 3 Friends in Winter
Signifies the 1st month of the lunar calendar.

  • Courage and hope – blossoms first and bravely stands against the dangers of winter.
  • The five petals of the plum blossom symbolize the "five blessings" (wufu 五福), also known as the "five happinesses" or "five good fortunes": longevity (寿), wealth (), health and composure (康宁), virtue (修好德), and the desire to die a natural death in old age ( 终命).

Pomegranate
  (shiliu
石榴)

A member of the 3 Abundances (3 Plenties)
Signifies the 6th month of the lunar calendar.

  • Represents fertility, offspring and descendants because of its many seeds.
  • Generations of descendants – first character (shi ) has the same pronunciation as the word for "generations" (shi ).

Pumpkin 
  (nangua
)

  • A wish for sons – name sounds like "boy" (nan ).

Wheat Bran
  (fu zi
麸子)

  • Fertility – pronunciation sounds the same as "rich son" (fu zi 富子).

Willow
  (liu
)

  • Inspiration for scholars and poets while strolling among them.
  • Magical and useful for "sweeping tombs" during the Qingming Festival (清明).
  • Prevent young men from being changed into a brown dog in a future existence.
  • Parting and sorrow – pronunciation similar to the Chinese word "to part" (li ).

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ANIMALS

Animal

Meaning(s)

Badger
  (huān
)

  • great happiness

Bat
  (biānfú
蝙蝠)

  • Singly – longevity, happiness, good luck
  • A pair – double good fortune.
  • Five together – long life, riches, health, love of virtue, a natural death.
  • Canbe a visual pun for “good fortune” or happiness (fu ) since both characters are pronounced fu.

Bear
  (xióng
)
  panda
  (xióngmāo
熊猫)

  • Man
  • A powerful animal that the Chinese believe can invoke fear in evil spirits just as well as humans.

Bee
  (mì fēng
蜜蜂)

  • industry, industrious

Birds
  (niǎo
or )

  • associated with the sun (金烏; ; jīn wū)
  • served as family emblem in ancient China
  • associated with allegorical folk tales

Bixie
  (bìxié
避邪)

  • Mythological winged lion with two horns, that keeps evil at bay (see also Tianlu).

Boar

See “pig”.

Butterfly
  (húdié
蝴蝶)

  • Long life – the second character in butterfly has exactly the same pronunciation as the character (die) which means “70 or 80 years of age.”
  • Joy and warmth.
  • Beauty and elegance.
  • Pair of butterflies – love, specifically young love, happy social life for the young, undying bond between lovers, represents yang energy of yin-yang, embroidered on clothing it strengthens the energy of love.
  • Butterfly and cat – wish for long live up to old age.
  • Butterfly on hand – live to happy old age.
  • Butterfly sipping nectar from peony – lover tasting joys of passion.
  • Butterfly with plum blossoms – long life, beauty.

Carp (koi) and goldfish
  (li
)

Good Luck

  • Visual pun – the Chinese character for carp is pronounced the same as both the character (li ) for “profit” and the character (li ) for “strength” or “power”.
  • Many children – it produces many eggs.
  • A pair of carp – harmonious marriage.
  • Use eight red and one black fish in an aquarium or koi pond. Place aquarium just inside front door, on north wall, or in southeast sector of home to stimulate wealth.

Cat
  (mao
)

  • Wishes for a long life – same pronunciation as the word for an 80-year-old or "octogenarian" (mao ).
  • Protector of silkworms – can ward off and kill mice and rats which attack these producers of silk thread.
  • Disperses evil spirits – keen eyesight, even at night.

Cicada
  (chán
or )

  • Eternal youth and happiness, rebirth, immortality, life after death – survives underground for a long period of time and then emerges and flies into the sky.

Cock
  (
公雞 or )

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Reliability, epitome of fidelity and punctuality
  • Advancement – the Chinese name for its crest is the same as that for an official (guān)
  • Red cock – protecting ones house from fire
  • White cock – protecting ones house from fire and chasing away demons
  • Five cocks – reminding parents to educate their sons (and hopefully daughters as well)

Crab
  (
)
  (
螃蟹 - pángxiè)

  • Advantage or benefit in business, prosperity, social status.
  • Sometimes used on charms which express a desire for peace – Chinese word for crab and word for harmony () are both pronounced xie.
  • Success in the imperial examination system – Chinese word for crab's shell (jia ) has the additional meaning of "first" as in achieving the highest score in the examination to become a government official.

Crane
  (he
or )

  • Longevity – the crane is believed by the Chinese to live to a very old age.
  • Old age – represented by the crane's white feathers.
  • Success in becoming a high government official – represented by one crane standing alone.
  • In myth – spirits, souls of the dead, and immortals ride on cranes, carried to the heavens.
  • A good and harmonious marriage – the pronunciation (he) is the same as that for the word "harmony" (he ).
  • Also referred to as the “national bird of China.”
  • Crane among clouds – wisdom, nobility .
  • Crane in black – longest longevity.
  • A pair of cranes – long marriage, ultimate longevity.
  • Crane and pine trees – determination, power, wealth.

Cricket
  (xīshuài
蟋蟀)

  • Fighting spirit

Crow, three legged
  (jīn wū
金烏 or )

One of the 12 Symbols of Sovereignty

  • Often thought to inhabit and represent the sun (sometimes depicted by the three legged bird (crow) on a red disc.

Deer
  (
鹿)

  • Wealth – the Chinese character for deer is pronounced lu while the Chinese character , referring to the salary of a government official, is also pronounced lu.
  • Long life – what the animal has, if not hunted down, and often seen by the side of Shou, the God of Longevity.
  • Traditionally believed to be the only animal able to find the magical lingzhi fungus of immortality.

Dog
  (gou
)

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Can understand the human's spirit and obey its master, whether he is wealthy or not, and so is an auspicious animal.
  • If a dog happens to come to a house, usually the host will be very glad to adopt it, for it symbolizes the coming of fortune.
  • Poodles, especially black poodles, bring more luck.
  • The masters of dogs are not only humans, but immortal in legends as well. The invincible God Erlang used a wolf-dog mix to help him capture monsters.

Dove
  (
鴿 or )

  • Fidelity or fecundity

Dragon
  (see also Phoenix)
  (lóng
or )

One of the 12 Symbols of Sovereignty.
  One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac.

  • Enjoys a very high reputation in Chinese culture.
  • Considered the Supreme Being of all creatures.
  • Token of: authority, dignity, honor, success, male vigor, fertility, ultimate abundance, rain, good harvests, prosperity, good fortune, benevolence, longevity, renewal of life.
  • Symbol of the natural world, adaptability, transformation, believed to live in the mountains or in the seas and can fly into the heavens.
  • Dragons with 5 claws – a symbol of the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, and imperial family.
  • Dragons with fewer claws – adorn hanging fabrics, decorative textiles, etc.
  • Dragon paired with phoenix – husband and wife, also symbol for Emperor and Empress, animal and bird kingdoms, entire natural world (Taoism).
  • A pair of dragons – when placed together and turned away symbolizes eternity, yin-yang (dragon is yang and associated with the east and spring).
  • Azure Dragon – one of the four spiritual creatures, guards the East.

Dragons Son Baxia (Bixi)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • Dragon tortoise (turtle dragon), most commonly recognized symbol.
  • Powerful, strong, capable of bearing life's burdens.
  • Brings long life of prosperity and strength.

Dragons Son Bi An (Bian)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • A protector of the law and considered to be a fair judge.
  • Use this auspicious symbol for any legal issues you may face.

Dragons Son Chi Wen (Chao Feng or Chiwen)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • Governs water, used on roofs to ensure protection against fire.
  • Place one inside your home to protect against natural disasters such as floods.

Dragons Son Gongfu (Gong Fu)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • Enjoys swimming in lakes and other bodies of water.
  • Brings wealth to home, protects from floods, often used on ships.

Dragons Son Pu Lao (Puloa)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • Roars and rules over sounds, often used as a motif for temple bells, commands authority.

Dragons Son Ch'iu niu (Quiniu)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • Loves music, the creative symbol often found carved onto musical instruments or as a relief motif.

Dragons Son Suan Ni (Suanni)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • Sits and watches over his kingdom.
  • Bestows wisdom and great wealth.

Dragons Son Taotie (Tootie)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • Food-loving dragon decorates bronze and other metal bowls, plates, and other serving pieces.
  • Many china patterns include an image of this dragon god.

Dragons Son Ya Zi (Yazi)

One of the 9 Dragon Sons

  • A protector and fierce warrior, always victorious in war.
  • Worn by military as a median to imbue Yazi's energy

Dragonfly
  (qingting
蜻蜓)

  • Confucian ideal of pureness of character – its pronunciation is similar to the word for "pure" or "clear" (qing ).
  • Symbolizes the season of summer.

Ducks
  (Mandarin Ducks)
  (yuanyang
鸳鸯 or xi )

  • Married bliss – mandarin ducks are believed to mate for life so a pair symbolize fidelity, conjugal affection, peace, prosperity.
  • Duck in reed – wishing for positive examination results.

Eagle (Hawk)
  (yīng
or )

  • strength
  • "hero" (yingxiong 英雄) – the pronunciation is the same.
  • See “bear”.

Egret

  • See “heron”.

Elephant
  (xiang
)
  (dàxiàng
大象)

  • Auspicious animal – the Chinese character for "elephant" has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for "auspicious" or "lucky" (xiang ).
  • Sometimes shown carrying a "treasure" vase (bao ping 宝瓶) on its back. The word "vase" (ping ) has the same pronunciation as the word for "peace" (pingan ), so the implied meaning is "may you have 'good luck' (elephant) and 'peace' (vase)".
  • strength, astuteness
  • elephant, being ridden – happiness

Fenghuang
  (
鳳凰; 凤凰; Fèng Huáng)

  • mythological Chinese birds, often translated as ‘Chinese phoenix’, also called the "August Rooster", the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac, see phoenix and rooster

Fish
  (
or )

One of the "8 Buddhist symbols of good fortune"

  • More (good luck, good fortune, long life, children) – the Chinese character for fish (yu ) is pronounced the same as the Chinese character for "abundance" or "surplus" (yu ).
  • Pair of golden carp – love, domestic felicity, partnership, tenacity, fertility, renewal, abundance.
  • Eel – fertility, illusiveness.
  • Koi fish, red or black – success, wealth.
  • Fertility in marriage – due to its reproductive abilities.
  • Pair of fish (shuang yu ) – happiness in marriage.
  • See “carp.”

Frog (wa )

  • Fertility – has the same pronunciation as the word for baby (wa ).
  • See “toad.”

Goat

  • A reference to an ancient myth concerning a great famine in Guangzhou (Canton), Guangdong Province.
  • See “sheep.”

Goldfish
  (jinyu
)

  • Wealth – its first character (jin ) means "gold" and its second character (yu) sounds like jade (yu ).
  • See “fish”.

Goose
  (
; ; é)

  • Delivery of matrimonial messages, married bliss, resourcefulness

Grasshopper
  (
- zhàměng)

  • nobility, wisdom

Heron (Egret)
  (
苍鹭 - cānglù)

  • A "path" or "way" – the Chinese word lu () has the same pronunciation as road or path (lu ).
  • With lotus flowers: wishing for positive future, success
  • Wealth – the pronunciation is the same as an "official's salary" (lu ).

Horse (ma )

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Speed, power and perseverance.
  • The bearer of good things.
  • A symbol for the Mongols (Yuan Dynasty) because their culture is strongly associated with the horse.

Kingfisher
  (
- fěi)

  • peace, prosperity

Leopard
  (
- bào)

  • bravery, martial ferocity

Lion
  (shi
)

  • Power and majesty – the lion is considered to be a brave and intelligent animal.
  • A visual pun or rebus for "teacher", "master", "tutor" or "preceptor" (shi ), can symbolize a high government official because in ancient times there existed a "Senior Grand Tutor" (tai shi ) and a "Junior Preceptor" (shao shi ).
  • In general, a stone or bronze lion outside a residence or official building protects occupants from harm. Usually, a male is playing with a ball and a female is protecting her cub. A pair of lions is considered to be auspicious and symbolizes happiness and the wish for a successful and prosperous career.
  • The lion dance (shiziwu 狮子舞) is an ancient and popular custom. It is believed that if a lion can be enticed to enter one's gate, the household will enjoy wealth and treasures.
  • A guardian of the faith and symbol of royal power (Buddhism). Buddhist deities, such as Guanyin, are sometimes shown riding a lion as a mount. Buddha was born 10 times as a lion.

Liu Hai (刘海)

  • Prosperity and wealth – one of the most popular members of the Chinese pantheon of charm Taoist (Daoist) figures.

Lobster
  (lóng xiā
龍蝦; 龙虾)

  • regeneration, resoluteness (similar to crab)

Magpie/ bird
  (xi que
)

  • Happiness – the first character is same word as happy (xi ).
  • Happiness has "arrived" – when shown upside down, the Chinese words for "upside down" () and "arrived" () are both pronounced dao.
  • Two magpies facing each other – "double happiness" (shuang xi 喜喜) or marriage.

Mantis
  (
螳螂 - tángláng)

  • Mystery

Money Frog
  (
蟾蜍 - chánchú)

  • Mythical, one of the Chinese holy creatures that protects against misfortune and brings to household bigger enrichment in wealth.

Monkey (hou )

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Driving away evil spirits
  • Pictures are pasted on walls and doors to bring good fortune in officialdom.
  • A visual pun for the Chinese inscription ma shang feng hou (马上风猴) where a monkey is shown riding on a horse. The first two characters of the inscription (ma shang) mean "on the horse" but also mean "at once". The third character (feng ) means "wind" (breeze) but the Chinese for "to grant a title" is also pronounced feng (). The fourth character (hou) means "monkey" but another character with the same pronunciation (hou ) means "a marquis (i.e. a high official)".

Owl
  (māotóuyīng
头鹰 )

  • harbinger of death, bad luck

Ox ( - niú)

See entry for water buffalo.

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Springtime is near
  • Indicates something big in size or large in number. 
  • Persistent, simple, honest, and straightforward.

Panda
  (
熊猫 - xióngmāo)

  • Man

Parrot
  (
鹦鹉 - yīngwǔ)

  • Warning to stay faithful in relationship

Peacock
  (
孔雀 - kǒng què)

  • Dignity, beauty, activate luck, fame, ‘the heavenly phoenix on earth’, desire for peace and prosperity.
  • Xi Wang Mu (西王母), the Queen Mother of the West, sometimes rode a peacock instead of a stork.

Pheasant
  (
- zhì)
  (
華蟲 - huáchóng)

One of the 12 Imperial Symbols of Sovereignty

  • Literary refinement
  • Beauty and good fortune

Phoenix
  (fènghuánɡ
鳳凰 or 凤凰)
  (see also Dragon)

  • In ancient China, the phoenix means the queen.
  • Virtue, duty, correct behavior, humanity, reliability (the Five Human Qualities), strength, resilience, good fortune, opportunity, luck, considered to be the most important of the winged animals, yin energy of yin-yang.

Phoenix and Dragon

  • Wife and husband, wedded bliss, also symbol for Empress and Emperor, bird and animal kingdoms, entire natural world (Taoism).
  • Phoenix, pair of, placed together and facing each other - eternity, yin-yang.

Phoenix, the Red Bird of the South
  pheasant-phoenix (
華蟲)

  • One of the four spiritual creatures, it is guarding the South. The pheasant-phoenix (華蟲) is one of the Twelve Symbols of Sovereignty.
  • See also: Five Elements Chart

Phoenix
  (fenghuang
)

  • Joy and peace – A mythical bird (does not have the connotation of a bird rising from ashes).
  • Only makes an appearance during periods of prosperity, peace and good government.
  • A dragon and phoenix shown together symbolize a happy and harmonious union.
  • The phoenix is the yin equivalent of the dragon and is associated with the south and summer.
  • The phoenix is also the symbol of the empress.

Pig, Boar, Hog
  (zhu
)

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Tolerance, optimism, laziness, clumsiness, behaves, has no calculation to harm others, can bring affluence to people.
  • Prosperity and good fortune of a family that could afford such a quality food source.

Qilin
  (
麒麟 - qílín)

  • Mystical hoofed Chinese chimerical creature, with a physical appearance of various animals like deer, horse, ox, dragon - guardian of home, protection, wisdom, good will (the qilin guards the gates of heaven)
  • At times Li Tie Guai of the Eight Immortals is riding the Qilin.

Quail
  (anchun
鹌鹑)

  • Courage because of its fighting spirit.
  • Poverty.
  • A visual pun (rebus) – it is pronounced the same as the word for "peace" (an ).

Rabbit (Hare)
  (tuzi
兔子)

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Hope, a peaceful and happy life, longevity (from the Taoist legend of the "moon hare" that lives on the moon making the elixir of immortality).

Ram

  • See “sheep.”

Rat
  (laoshu
老鼠)

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Fertility, abundance, wealth, spirit, wit, alertness, delicacy, flexibility, and vitality.

Rhinoceros Horns
  (xijiao
犀角)

One of the 8 Treasures

  • Happiness – the first character (xi ) is pronounced the same as the character for happiness (xi ).

Rooster
  Cock
  (gongji
)

 

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Almost the epitome of fidelity and punctuality.
  • Exorcising evil spirits, scare away demons.
  • Pronounced the same as "lucky" or "auspicious" (ji ).
  • A crowing rooster (gong ming ) sounds like saying "merit and fame" (gong ming 功名).

Sheep
  Ram
  Goat
  (yang
)

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • The sheep (yang) has the same pronunciation and therefore symbolizes the male principle yang in Yin Yang ( ) and also the "sun" (yang ).
  • Sheep kneel when they nurse which to Confucians symbolize "filial piety" as bowing to the mother.
  • See “goat.”

Shrimp
  (
; ; xiā)

  • Long life
  • Auspicious – the pronunciation in Mandarin (xia) and Cantonese (ha) is very similar to the sound of people laughing (ha ha ha).

Snake
  (she
)

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac
One of the 5 Poisonous Animals

  • Woman, supernatural power, cunning.
  • Multiple snakes: bad luck.
  • In the Chinese zodiac, the Snake is listed after the Dragon, but it carries the meanings of malevolence, cattiness and mystery, as well as acumen, divination and the ability to distinguish herbs.

Spider
  (zhizhu
蜘蛛)

One of the 5 Poisonous Animals

  • Believed to counteract pernicious influences by combating poison with poison.
  • Auspicious symbol on its own – another word for spider in Chinese is xizi (虫喜 ) where the first character has the same pronunciation as the word for "happy" (xi ).
  • A wish to have a son or child – zi () means "son" and xizi thus sounds like "happy son".

Stork
  (guan
)

  • Longevity – believed to live 1,000 years.
  • Frequently shown together with pine trees, another symbol of longevity.
  • Transportation for both the Queen Mother of the West (xiwangmu 西王母) and the "longevity star" (shouxing 寿).
  • Promotion to a government office – the word for stork sounds the same as the words for an "official" (guan ), a "hat" (guan ), and "first place" (guan ).

Swallow
  (yan
)

  • Associated with springtime and the coming of good fortune and prosperous change.
  • Bringing "new" to "old" because they, in effect, make "repairs" by building their mud nests in the cracks of walls and graves.

3-legged toad

Good Luck

  • Depicted with a coin in its mouth and the Chinese character side facing up.
  • Place in southeast corner facing into home or room.

Tiger (leopard)
  (hu
)

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Courageous, brave, strong, cruel, forceful, terrifying, power, lordliness, struggling against evil, see well in the dark so protect children from malignant spirits.
  • The white tiger is one of the four spiritual creatures and guards the West.
  • Ruler of the beasts on Earth.
  • A pun – it has the same pronunciation as the word "protect" (hu ).
  • In ancient China, the Guardian Spirit of Agriculture, could devour the Drought Demon.
  • Longevity – the ancient Chinese believed tigers turned white after 500 years and could live for 1,000 years. Upon death, their spirits entered the earth and became amber.

Toad(chan )

  • The Chinese for "toad" is pronounced chanchu (蟾蜍), sometimes shortened to just chan ().
  • In some Chinese dialects the pronunciation of "toad" (chan) is very similar to that for "coin" (qian ).
  • See “frog.”

Tortoise
  Turtle
  (gui
)

  • Longevity (long life-span), immortality, strength and endurance.
  • Associated with the north and winter.
  • Physical appearance resembles the Chinese view of the universe: a round domed outer shell like the vault of heaven and a lower body that is flat like the earth.

Unicorn
  (Chinese Unicorn)
  (qilin
)

  • Good luck, prosperity, goodwill, and benevolence.
  • It is described as having a deer's body, an ox's tail, fish scales, five-toed hoofed feet and a horn on its head.
  • Associated with sages and excellent rulers, believed to appear when a new sage is born.
  • It is associated with the west and autumn.

Water buffalo
  (Ox)

  (niu )

One of the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac

  • Springtime, harvest and fertility – important to agriculture.
  • A simple and idyllic life – to city dwellers and government officials.

Wolves

  • Bad luck.

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FESTIVALS

Name

Description

Double Seven
  Sisters Festival
  Qixi
(七夕)

A pair of magpies symbolizes marriage based on an ancient legend concerning two heavenly lovers, the Oxherd and the Weaver Girl (Weaving Maiden). The two are separated for eternity except for one day each year (this festival) when they are allowed to meet each other by crossing a celestial river on a bridge made of magpies.

Qingming Festival (清明)

Tomb sweeping day – honoring one’s ancestors by sweeping away debris with willow (liu ) which is considered magical.

Spring Festival

People like to paste onto their doors and windows the paper-cut 'Fu' character (happiness), combined with a snake twisting around a rabbit onto their doors and windows as a popular pattern indicating wealth.

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OBJECTS

Item

Meaning(s)

Axe (axe head)

One of the 12 Imperial Symbols

  • Power, especially the ability to punish
  • Destruction of evil (Buddhism)
  • A marriage matchmaker
  • Lu Ban (鲁班), God of Carpenters – a visual pun since axe (fu ) has the same pronunciation as “happiness” (fu ).

Calligraphy

  • Chinese characters are often complex and can even be simplified pictures. Calligraphy is a matter of writing out these characters in a more artistic manner, using a brush and ink. These are used to decorate many things, such as teawares and paper wrappers of pu-erh cakes.

Castanets
  yin yang ban

  (
阴阳板)

  • Associated with Cao Guojiu ( 国舅), one of the 8 Immortals.
  • Resembles an "X" but is actually a pair of wooden clappers or castanets crossed one over the other.

Cha Qu Characters

  • “Cha Qu” means “tea fun.”

Chime Stone
  (qing
)

One of the 8 Treasures

  • A percussion musical instrument in ancient China. Each chime stone was flat and shaped similar to a chevron with a small hole at the top center. They were hung from a frame. There were 8 to 24 stones, each tuned to a different pitch. They were struck with a mallet to produce a musical sound.
  • wealth and riches – many were made of jade
  • congratulations – has the same pronunciation and hidden meaning of to "congratulate" (qing )

Chinese Knot

More about the red knot history and symbology:

The Chinese knot (中国) is a decorative craft begun as a folk art during the Tang and Song Dynasties (960-1279 AD) and later became popular in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911 AD).

The knot ('jie') means vigor, harmony, and unification, making this a popular gift for thousands of years as an embodiment best wishes. It started as a decorative addition to clothing (often coupled with wearing jade jewelry). Later, the knot design was used to decorate people's houses. A Chinese knot will be symmetrical in design and be embellished with colorful jade or porcelain beads.

History: The art of tying knots dates back to prehistoric times, as much as 100,000 years. Old bone needles used for sewing and bodkins, which were used to untie knots, have been found dating that far back. Few examples of the actual knotting exist today, since the material tended to rot away. Images of knots on bronze vessels of the Warring States period (481-221 BCE), Buddhist carvings of the Northern Dynasties period (317-581 BCE), and silk paintings during the Western Han period (206 BCE–CE6) do still exist and confirm how long this craft has been around.

During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) knotting finally became an acceptable art form in Chinese society, appearing as designs on a variety of items such as this item. Knotting continued to flourish up until about the end of Imperial China. It declined during the wars (1911-1950) and revived after the 1980s.

Chopsticks
  (kuai zi
筷子)

Hope for newlyweds to have children quickly – the pronunciation is the same as "fast" (kuai ) "sons" (zi ).

Clouds

  • Heavens and "good luck" – cloud (yun ) is pronounced the same as yun () meaning "luck" or "fortune".
  • Sometimes called "auspicious clouds" (xiangyun 祥云) – form often resembles the shape of the lingzhi "fungus of immortality".
  • When repeated in a pattern symbolizes never-ending fortune.

Coin
  (qian
)

One of the 8 Treasures

  • Wealth and prosperity.
  • Ancient coins (round with square hole in middle) reflect Chinese view of earth as square and heavens as circle.
  • A visual pun for "before your eyes" – hole in center is called "eye" and coin (qian) has same pronunciation as "before" (qian ).

Coral
  (shanhu
珊瑚)

One of the 8 Treasures

  • Longevity – resembles antlers of deer which are symbols of longevity.
  • "iron tree" (tieshu 铁树) that grew under the sea and blossomed only once every 100 years.
  • Official promotion – a coral button on the hat identified one of the nine grades of government officials.

Crystals

Good Luck

  • Place in southwest, northeast, or center of your home.

Dumplings
  (jiaozi
饺子)

  • Meat or vegetable filling – Wealth or riches and a wish for a year of abundance.
  • Date filling – hope for the "early" birth of sons.

Fly Whisk

  • Used to swat or sweep away flies.
  • Associated with certain Daoist (Taoist) immortals and Buddhist deities who used it to "sweep away" ignorance.

Four Happiness Boys

  • A picture of two boys joined in a clever way to give the illusion that there are four boys.
  • A "good luck" picture frequently given to newlyweds with the wish that they will have many children.

gold (the color)

  • Power, wealth, long life.

Longevity Stones

  • "Long life" because of their age.
  • Strange-shaped rocks often shown next to the fungus of immortality at the bottom of charms.

Lozenge
  (fang sheng
)

One of the 8 Treasures

  • Good luck – origin is unclear, diamond shaped.
  • Two lozenges interlocked represent the form of an ancient musical instrument or two hearts joined together and acting with one mind.
  • Victory – supposedly used as a head ornament in ancient times by the Queen Mother of the West (xiwangmu 西王母) to exorcise evil spirits.

Mirror

One of the 8 Treasures

  • Good fortune and protection against evil spirits.

Moon

  • Full moon – good, coming full circle, family gathering together.
  • Crescent sometimes found on old Chinese coins.
  • See “pearl.”

Mountain
  (shan
)

  • The places closest to the gods.
  • Their expanse and heights convey the meaning of limitless.

Mystic knots

Good Luck

  • The eternity symbol of the figure eight.
  • Used to hang wind chimes and coins.

Pearl
  Flaming pearl

One of the 8 Treasures

  • A metaphor for perfection and enlightenment, particularly if the dragon represents the emperor.
  • Dragons are often depicted as chasing a pearl-like jewel object.
  • Resembles the moon and endless cycle of transformation – dragon devours the pearl, less and less is seen and so appears as waning; dragon disgorges the pearl, more and more seen and so appears as waxing.
  • With flames symbolizes magical powers and may represent the wish-granting pearl of Buddhism.
  • Can also refer to riches, pure intentions and genius in obscurity.

Red envelopes

Good Luck

  • Contain one coin (from a positive dynasty), given as house warming gifts or carried with you for abundant wealth.

Reed Pipe
  (sheng
)

  • Give birth – the same pronunciation as "to give birth" (sheng ).
  • Be promoted continually one rank after another – same pronunciation as "to rise" (sheng ).

Ribbons
  aka fillets
  dai (
)

  • Miraculous powers or added importance – thought of as rays or auras emanating from the object.
  • "to carry along (good luck, good fortune, etc.) for generations" – connecting two or more auspicious objects, since the word also means "to carry" and another Chinese character with the same pronunciation (dai ) means "generations".

Ruyi or Scepter (如意)

One of the 8 Treasures

  • Good wishes and prosperity (current meaning)
  • Power and authority (old meaning) – was originally a short sword with a sword-guard used for self-defense or gesturing, may have evolved from a back scratcher.

Saddle (horse)
  (an
)

  • Peace – the pronunciations of the words for saddle and peace (an ) are the same.

Shoes
  (xie
)

  • Wealth – their shape is similar to silver ingots (sycee).
  • "in harmony with" – because of identical pronunciation, used in combination with other objects to express (xie ) or "together with" (xie ).

Silver Ingots
  (sycee
)

One of the 8 Treasures

  • Brightness and purity.
  • Wealth – a measure of value during Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368AD).
  • Official office or rank – a visual pun or rebus, showing three (3) silver ingots or sycee has the hidden meaning of coming in first in all three of the imperial examinations.

Swastika
  (wan )

  • A very old Asian symbol, represents the Chinese character meaning "ten-thousand" and "all" such as "the myriad things".

Sword

  • Used by immortals and gods to cut through ignorance and evil.
  • The symbol of Lu Dongbin ( ), one of the Eight Immortals, meaning victory over evil.

Teapot
  (hu
)

  • "to protect" (hu ) or "blessing" (hu ) – the characters share the same pronunciation.

Treasure Bowl
  (ju bao pen
聚宝盆)
  "treasure basin"

  • A magical container which can create unlimited riches. Place a gold coin inside the "treasure bowl" and it will suddenly be filled with gold coins.

Vase or Bottle
  (ping
)

  • "peace" or "safety" – both the character for vase and for peace (pingan 平安) are pronounced ping.
  • A vase with flowers from all four seasons (siji 四季) conveys the hidden meaning of peace for all the year (sijipingan 季平 ).

Wealth pots

Good Luck

  • Fill with money, especially from wealthy people, and with other symbols of great wealth, then place inside your house in the wealth corner (southeast).

white (the color)

  • Associated with death.

Writing Brush and Silver Ingot

  • Express the hope that "things will certainly go according to your wishes" – the characters for "brush" (bi ) and "ingot" (ding ) said together are "bi ding" which is the same pronunciation as the characters 必定 (bi ding) for "certainly".

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PHILOSOPHIES, RELIGIONS, MYTHOLOGIES, ETC.

Item

Meaning(s)

Buddha

  • Statues are available in many styles and designs.
  • Good luck, abundance, and prosperity – Laughing Buddha/Happy Buddha with round belly and big smile.

Buddha's Hand

  • See citron.

Door Gods
  (Shen Tu & Yu Lei)

  • Images of two warriors, Shen Tu and Yu Lei, that are hung on gates or doors to protect against evil spirits and misfortune.

Fu Lu Shou

Fu Lu Shou refers to the three Chinese deities:

  • God of Happiness (Fu)
  • God of Prosperity (Lu)
  • God of Longevity (Shou)

Halberd
  (ji
)

  • An ancient Chinese infantry weapon consisting of a shaft with a spear and/or crescent-shaped blade on one end. A visual pun or rebus for "lucky" – pronounced ji, the same as the Chinese word for "lucky" or "auspicious" ().

Iron Goddess of Mercy
 
Guanyin (觀音)
  Guanshiyin (
觀世音)
  also Quan Yin, Kwan Yin, Kuanyin

  • "Observing the Sounds (or Cries) of the World".
  • associated with compassion as venerated by Mahayana Buddhists.
  • revered by Chinese Taoists as an immortal.

Kitchen God
  Stove God
  (Zaojun
)
  (Zaowang
灶王)

  • In charge of the household – image is found in almost all traditional Chinese homes.

Tianlu
  "heavenly blessing"
  (
天禄 tiānlù)

  • Mythological winged lion with one horn, deployed in pairs to guard a tomb.

Yinyang ( )

  • Basic polarities of the universe (male/female, light/dark, strong/weak, etc.).

Zhenwu (真武)
  the Perfected Warrior
  Daoist god

  • Healing and protection.

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