Forum: 富, 福, and 福

Wine, Gods, and Morning Dew

by Chen Jingjing and Mark Strange

IN ORACLE BONE inscriptions from the second millennium BC, we find the graph . Modern scholars identify it as fu 畐. They understand it to represent a wine vessel, which had an important role in ancient sacrificial rituals. In these inscriptions, fu 畐 is usually associated with the figure of the king in his role as chief mediator between the human and spirit worlds.

Toppling Liu Xiaobo

by Christopher Rea

AS THE LUNAR NEW YEAR approaches, Chinese households might paste onto their front doors a diamond of red paper with the character for ‘prosperity’ or ‘good fortune’, fu 福, upside down as 福. This folk custom is based on an aural pun: the verb dao 倒 — meaning to turn upside down, invert, or topple — is a homophone of dao 到, to arrive. To turn prosperity upside down is to express the wish that the New Year will bring prosperity to one’s door. Dao fu 倒福 leads to fu dao 福到.