倒贴的“福”字
Story of Reversed Fu


During Spring Festival, Reversed Fu (福) can be seen everywhere. It is a special convention. Many people who don’t know the story of Reversed Fu often feel confused. Why do the Chinese put a reversed Chinese character on the door? Fu means blessings. Originally, Fu was not reversed. The story of Reversed Fu has two versions. One goes that the convention dates from the Qing Dynasty. One year, on Chinese New Year Eve, the butler of Prince Gong wrote plentiful Fu characters in pieces of red paper, which were to be pasted on the doors. And an illiterate servant made a mistake. He pasted a reversed Fu on the main door. The wife of Prince Gong was annoyed when she found that. To protect the servant, the witty butler said to his mistress: “Madam, please forgive the servant. I often hear people saying that the gods bless Prince Gong. And now Fu is reversed which means the blessings are arriving. It is an auspicious omen.” The word reverse (倒) in Chinese pronounces the same with arrive (到). At his flattering words, the mistress thought: “Then that’s why all the passersby say Fu (blessings) is arriving (reversed) in the mansion of Prince Gong.” She felt pleased and rewarded both the servant and the butler. Later, people deliberately reversed Fu for auspiciousness, and gradually it became a convention. 

Reversed FuThe other story goes that the convention came into being due to the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty: Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu intended to kill people who didn’t obey him. And Fu was taken as the secret mark. Those who had Fu on their doors wouldn’t be killed. Zhu Yuanzhang’s wife, Empress Ma, was kind-hearted. She informed people of the news and made them stick Fu on their doors before the dawn. An illiterate family pasted a reversed Fu by mistake. The next day, when the emperor sent his imperial troop to carry out the killing, it turned out that every family had Fu except one who had a reversed Fu. The emperor was so angry that he immediately ordered the imperial troop to kill the family who had a reversed Fu. Empress Ma stopped him and said: “The family knew you would come to their house. They pasted a reversed Fu to please you. It means blessings are arriving.” The emperor thought it was reasonable and canceled his previous order. From then on, people reversed Fu for blessings and in memory of Empress Ma.

 

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