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To know about jade or to possess a piece of jade, you cannot avoid knowing more about Chinese culture. For example, many features crafted on jade stones might reflect thousands of years of Chinese culture. We might see carvings of a gourd, a scepter or even some Chinese characters or Chinese mythical animals on jade jewelry but what do they actually mean?

Even if I cannot answer all of your questions, I hope you will be able to find some answers from the definitions or interpretations published by Five-Fold Happiness below, a book on Chinese concepts of luck, prosperity, longevity, happiness and wealth written by Ms Vivien Sung. Ms Sung has kindly authorized Orient Concepts reprinting some of her nice work in order to let our visitors better understand the cultural features and hidden meanings of jade jewelry and accessories.



Good Fortune and auspicious thought are central to all aspects of Chinese life and culture. The Chinese believe that by layering their lives with lucky objects and images, they increase their chances of a happy and prosperous existence. Over the centuries, a symbolic language has evolved that expresses these ideas in art, craft, architecture, language, and everyday objects. Lucky words and phrases were used to create an environment protected from misfortune, bad omens, and disaster. – From Five-Fold Happiness

   
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The character fu represents ‘good fortune,’ ‘blessing,’ or ‘luck.’ Since ancient times, the desire for fu has been widespread, and its popularity is reflected in many applications of decorative arts, architecture, and clothing. Beginning in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), a large fu character would often be found at entranceways of buildings to bring a continuous flow of good fortune through the door. Phrases and pictures express this thought, such as ‘the God of Luck brings fortune,’ fu xing gao zhao, and ‘an abundance of luck and long life,’ duo fu duo shou. Symbols for luck include the bat, the ru yi scepter, the fruit known as Buddha’s hand and the God of Luck. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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The three concepts fu lu shou are frequently grouped together and represented by their corresponding deities – the God of Luck, the God of Prosperity, and the God of Longevity. These three figures are highly revered, and many Chinese throughout the world display their status or images in their homes. A multitude of rebuses have been created to represent the three values in combination. Their importance is embodied in the saying ‘In Heaven there are three lucky stars, on Earth there are fu, lu, shou.’ – From Five-Fold Happiness

The three colours in jade representing fu lu shou are green, brownish red/yellow and purple. Yellow jade always symbolizes money luck or prosperity.

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Double happiness is synonymous with one of life’s most important celebrations – marriage. Consequently, it is related to the wish for fertility, and is often seen at wedding banquets. The good luck that surrounds this character has made it ubiquitous, and it commonly appears on bowls, glasses, vases, product packaging, and other everyday objects. The character for double happiness is traditionally displayed as a cutout or inscription on red paper, red being a lucky colour. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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The dragon, long, is a benevolent and mystical creature that was once widely worshipped by the common people to bring rain and good harvests. Thus, the dragon is an auspicious symbol of protection and fortune. The dragon has power to be either visible or invisible and inhabits the skies, seas, rivers, mist, and rain. Consequently, the dragon is often depicted flying among clouds. The character long is inscribed on oracle bones dating back to the Shang dynasty (ca.1600-ca.1027 B.C.). From the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – A.D. 220) onward, the dragon was adopted as a symbol for the emperor and became a potent emblem of imperial power….The appearance of the dragon was seen as an omen of good fortune and often marked the birth of a great man or dynasty. The dragon is said to have shown itself just prior to the birth of Confucius in 551 B.C. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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The ru yi scepter is a short sword that symbolizes ‘everything as you wish.’ It is the first of the eight Buddhist treasures, and its shape is said to have been derived from the magic fungus of immortality, ling zhi. When given as a present, the scepter conveys wishes for good fortune and prosperity. The earliest scepters, made of iron, were used as weapons. Later versions were in gold, silver, jade, amber, porcelain, bone or wood. An image of the ru yi combined with a vase, ping, represents peace, forms the rebus ping an ru yi, meaning ‘may you have peace and everything as you wish.’ When the Gods of Peace and Harmony, he he er xian, are shown holding a ru yi, it symbolizes ‘harmony and everything as you wish.’ he he ru yi. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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Cloud / Because of the word for ‘cloud,’ yun and the word for ‘good luck,’, sounds similar, this symbol is often referred to as the ‘auspicious cloud,’ xiang yun. A typical auspicious cloud is give coloured, wu se yun, and represents five layers of fortune and happiness. The cloud has become a popular motif in architecture, textile designs, and everyday objects. When it is repeated in a pattern, it symbolizes never-ending fortune. The stylized rendering of the cloud motif is similar in form to the fungus of immortality, ling zhi, and the ru yi, scepter, Numerous gods and immortals used the cloud as a vehicle on which they traveled. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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Buddha’s hand / The finger-shaped citron known as Buddha’s hand (Citrus medica), fo shou, stands for luck and happiness. The first character, fo, meaning ‘Buddha,’ sounds much like fu, the word for ‘luck.’ An image of a Buddha’s hand together with a peach and a pomegranate signifies ‘may you have an abundance of luck, longevity, and children.’ The peach symbolizes longevity, the pomegranate fertility. The fruit is also a symbol of Buddhism because of upturned fingers resemble the classic position of a Buddha’s hand. – From Five-Fold Happiness

Buddha’s hand is also known in the jade trade as an item especially selected for the protection of female.

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Three ingots / A popular symbol of prosperity, yuan bao are hat-shaped gold and silver ingots used as money in ancient China. Scholars who passed the imperial examinations with the highest marks were referred to as jie yuan, hui yuan, and zhuang yuan, collectively referred to as the ‘three yuans.’ Because the word for ingots also contains yuan, a picture of three ingots creates a rebus for the ‘three yuans’, san yuan, making it a symbol of status and hour. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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Bamboo / Known for its durability and resilience through all the seasons, bamboo, which never loses its leaves, is a symbol for longevity and for courage in the midst of adversity. In ancient times, it was described as ‘not stiff, no soft, not grass, and not wood.’ Bamboo, pine and plum form a group known as ‘the three friends,’ since the pine and bamboo flourish year-round and the plum tree blossoms in winter. – From Five-Fold Happiness

   
 


Peach / Use of the peach as a symbol of longevity originated over two thousand years ago. ‘Longevity peaches’ are steamed buns made a dough shaped like a peach and filled with red bean, date or lotus-seed paste….Not only the fruit but also the wood and blossoms of the peach tree are symbolic. Bad spirits feared peachwood and so peachwood charms were often hung outside doors or gates to keep them away….Peach pits were carved into little amulets and given to children to protect them and ensure long life. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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The gourd is said to embody heaven and earth, and to contain spiritual energy that wards of evil spirits. It is often hung for protection above door or window, at the head of a bed, or in a vehicle. One of the Taoist treasures, the gourd, hu lu, is also a vessel for magic elixirs. Li Tie Guai, one of the Eight Immortals and a master magician, carries the gourd as his treasure. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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This is the Chinese year of Monkey, which is always marked as the most soulful animal on earth.

Monkey / The word for ‘monkey,’ hou, is pronounced the same as the word for ‘high’ ranking official,’ hou, and therefore represents a wish for advancement and prosperity. The well-known image of a monkey riding a horse is a massage for ‘quick advancement to high position,’ ma shang feng hou. The horse, ma, is a rebus for the word ‘immediately’ or ‘quickly’, ma shang. A picture of a monkey reaching for a royal seal hanging from the branch of a tree expresses the wish that one will attain a high position in the royal court, feng hou gua yin. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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Rooster / A picture of rooster and a cockscomb flower conveys a wish for advancement. This is because the rooster’s crest, guan, is a pun on a word meaning both an ‘official’ and an ‘official’s hat,’ guan. Combined with the cockscomb flower, ji guan hua, it forms a double pun, creating the phrase ‘promotion upon promotion,’ guan shang jia guan. The rooster is also seen as an auspicious creature that can ward off evil spirits. – From Five-Fold Happiness

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Spider / Considered a good omen for happiness, the spider, xi zi, sounds identical to ‘happiness,’ xi. It has come to be known as the ‘happy insect,’ and a picture of a spider dropping from the center of its web is a rebus for ‘happiness dropping from the sky,’ xing cong tian jiang. The web resembles ancient money, because it is round on the outside and square on the inside. The square hole in the web is considered an eye and therefore expresses ‘happiness before one’s eyes.’ xi zai yan qian. - From Five-Fold Happiness

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Goldfish / The characters for goldfish, jin yu, sounds identical to those meaning ‘abundance of gold,’ making the goldfish a frequent symbol of wealth and abundance. One of the most popular New Year’s image is a child holding large goldfish and a lotus flower, he, which brings both wealth and harmony, he….A bowl full of goldfish, jin yu man tang, means ‘may gold and jade fill your house,’ because the pronunciation of ‘fish,’ yu is the same except for tone to ‘jade’, yu. - From Five-Fold Happiness

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