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Lucky Symbols in Chinese: A Lesson Plan for Teachers

written by: davidmakofsky • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 8/2/2012

Learning how a culture expresses "luck" offers a good insight into the culture itself. One way the Chinese express luck is through the character system. This artcle explains how Chinese calligraphy enters into holiday celebrations, weddings, and other ceremonies by representing good luck.

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    Ideas for Teaching About Chinese Culture

    For a lesson plan, teachers may find that a unit on China can be enhanced by discussing the way that Chinese express “luck." In nearly every society in the world, “luck" offers an insight on the unique quality of a civilization, and it provides an opportunity to teach and learn the language as well. The symbolism associated with “luck" also can explain why the Chinese people are so protective of their character system, a feature which makes Chinese among the most difficult languages in the world for a foreigner to learn

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    “Good Luck," in Chinese

    • 祝您好运 zhù (as in judge, dgeoo) nín (as in yield, nien) hǎo (how) yùn (yoon)
    • 好运 hǎo yùn means fortune, luck, and luckiness
    • 祝 zhù means to express good wishes
    • 您 Nín is a polite form of saying “you"
    • 祝您好运 zhù nín hǎo yùn: good luck to you
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    Expressing Good Luck Through Character Symbols

    One of the most popular ways to express luck is through the use of pictograph symbols. These symbols are themselves both art and words

    富 fù (foo) While Westerners would not necessarily see the beauty of putting the word “wealth" on their door, the symbol 富 is one of the most popular Chinese characters used in the celebration of the New Year. It may be posted upside down on the front door of a house or an apartment, since the character for “upside down" sounds the same as the character for “come." Also a 富豪 fùhǎo is a rich man, a financial magnate.

    喜 xǐ (as in short, shi) happiness. is posted as well 喜闻乐见 xǐ wén lè jiàn means “to love to see and hear" and喜 xǐ double happiness is posted everywhere on Chinese weddings

    财 cái (as in dots/as in kite tsi ) is wealth, money. 财富 cáifù: fortune mammoth money moneybag riches silver spoon treasure wealth. Chinese often say money can make a ghost turn a millstone. Money can accomplish what seems to be impossible

    和 Hé (as in earn, hea) means many things: it means “harmony" and “peace" and it also means “and" “summation" and “together." 和蔼Héǎǎi. 蔼 ǎi (as in kite, i) means “kind" and all together the term means “affability" “clemency" or “kindness." 和缓的 Héhuǎn (as in waft, hwan) Héhuǎn means “meek"

    爱Aì (as in kite, i) means “love". With 情 qíng (as in chicken, ching) 爱情 aìqíng can also mean comradely love

    美Měi (may) beauty 美国 With gúo (as in wall, gwa) meaning “country Měigúo is the United States of America, the beautiful country.

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    Sources of Luck in Nature

    As an endnote I would add that “luck" is found in nature as well as character art. To the Chinese, the "Bird of Joy" is also good fortune. A chattering magpie signifies good news, and the arrival of guests. Under the Manchu dynasty it also represented imperial rule.