An Inverted Fu

by Pastor Allen Tan (Yew Fook)
Chinese put up red posters with auspicious words (Chun Lian) during Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) at their door posts. They also hang red cloth over the lintel. What they practiced resembles the practice of the Israelites. Israelites posted scriptures all over their door posts. In fact if you visit Christian homes in China, you will see that many homes used scriptures for their Chun Lian.

To the Chinese, red cloth symbolizes salvation and deliverance.
For the Israelites, the blood of the lamb symbolizes these too. Remember the story of the Passover in the book of Exodus? The blood of the lamb was put on the lintel and door posts. When the angel of death sees the blood, he will spare the household from death. Could that be coincident?

Not at all, because God loves the Chinese. There are over 200 Chinese characters which matched the stories in the book of Genesis. It proved that the descendants of Noah who migrated to China did pass down their ancestors’ stories.

Fu is the Chinese character for Luck.
Chinese often put up a poster with the character Fu upside down on walls and doors during Spring Festival without knowing why. It is the only time when a Chinese character is posted upside down intentionally. Not too long ago I dined at a Chinese restaurant. The owner had posted three posters with the word Man (Full), two of which were posted upside down. I laughed because if you do so, you are in fact draining out everything you have! People inverted other Chinese characters has to do with ignorance about an inverted Fu.

In the past the word Fu mainly meant “luck and fortune”.
But today it means “happiness, auspiciousness and blessing”. The legend goes like this: Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644), planned to kill a family whose man insulted Empress Ma his wife. Zhu marked the family with the character Fu on their door. The Empress was worried. In order to avoid bloodshed, without the knowledge of Zhu she asked all families to post the character of Fu on their doors too. Unfortunately an illiterate family had posted the character upside down.

When Zhu’s palace guards were sent out to do the execution, they were confused by the deluge characters of Fu, and they lost track with the targeted family. They reported to the emperor about what they saw, including about a family who posted an inverted Fu. Zhu was angry. He then ordered the family who posted Fu in the wrong way to be executed instead. Empress Ma quickly made a petition with him. She reasoned with the emperor, “The family knew that you would come and visit them today. That is why they posted the Fu upside down intentionally. You are the Fu(luck) who comes to town today.” The words “come” and “invert” have the same pronunciation as Dao. Playing around with words of similar pronunciation, Fu Dao would mean “Luck has come”.

The explanations of Empress Ma had pacified the emperor, and thus bloodshed was avoided. From then on, Chinese families would post the Fu upside down.

There are two reasons for the practice:

Firstly, it serves to attract blessings into the family.

Secondly, it serves to commemorate the wisdom of Empress Ma.

Personally I feel that blessings would not come just by the way we post the Fu upside down.
I am sure you do not want to repeat that person’s mistake whose ignorance had almost cost him his life, do you?

Chinese characters should be written and posted in their proper manner. Otherwise they are meaningless at all!

On this auspicious festive occasion, I would like to convey a message that all blessings come from God the Creator of the universe. And also God wants us to work hard in order to achieve them. No matter how many inverted characters of Fu we have posted all over our household compound, if we are lazy, we would reap nothing.

I wish you a Blessed Chinese New Year!

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Allen Tan

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