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Why Is the Chinese Tradition Upside Down? It’s a Good Omen

Feb. 8, 2019

HSK 3 quiz (The picture source:

贴福字 (Tiē fú zì) Pasting "Fu" Upside Down



Challenge a Chinese Mini-test: 福气 (Fúqì)


Key Learning Points (Preview): 春节 (Chūnjié): n. Spring Festival / Chinese New Year


爷爷 (Yéye): n. grandpa


说 (Shuō): v. to say



Culture Note: It is a Chinese custom to paste "Fu" upside down on the doors or walls in the Spring Festival. Yes, the right way to paste "Fu" is to paste it upside down. Why? Because we describe this action as "福倒了 (fú dào le) the Fu character is upside down." In Chinese, "福倒了 (fú dào le) " has the same pronunciation as "福到了 (fú dào le), " which means "happiness comes."


The Origin Story: It is said that the custom of pasting "Fu" can date back to the Qing Dynasty. On the eve of the Spring Festival, a servant wanted to please the owner by pasting "Fu" characters on the gate. However, because he was illiterate, he mistakenly posted the word "Fu" on the door upside down. His owner was very annoyed, and the servant explained to him: "I often hear people say that you’re very blessed, my lord! And now “福倒(到)了 (fú dào le) happiness comes.” It’s definitely a good omen." The owner was very happy after hearing his words, so he rewarded the servant. Since then, the custom of pasting the word "Fu" upside down has spread, and the passers-by seeing the word "Fu" on the door will say: "福倒(到)了 (fú dào le)! Happiness comes!"


Listen to the Nursery Rhyme Chūnjié láidào, 春节来到, Spring Festival arrives,


Yéye kěxiào. 爷爷可笑. Grandpa is ridiculous.


Fú zì tiēdào, 福字贴倒, He pasted "Fu" upside down,


Wǒ bǎ cuò tiāo. 我把错挑. I point out the mistake.


Yéye bù nǎo, 爷爷不恼, Grandpa does not get mad,


Liězuǐ shuō hǎo. 咧嘴说好. He grins and says it is fine.


Fú dào fú dào, 福倒福到, Hanging "Happiness" upside down means the arrival of good fortune,


Xìngfú lái dào. 幸福来到. Happiness is coming.



New Vocabulary: 好 (Hǎo): adj. fine


高兴 (Gāoxìng): adj. happy; glad


可笑 (Kěxiào): adj. ridiculous



Useful Chinese Phrases And Idioms Commonly Paired with Fu


1. 祝福 (Zhùfú) n./v.blessing/bless


Example: Qǐng jiēshòu wǒ zhōngxīn de zhùfú. 请接受我衷心的祝福。 Please accept my heartfelt blessing.



2. 福利 (Fúlì) n. material benefits; well-being; welfare


Example: Zhè jiā gōngsī fúlì dàiyù hěn búcuò. 这家公司福利待遇很不错。 This company has very good benefits.



3. 幸福 (Xìngfú) n./adj. happiness/happy


Example: Wǒ yǒu yígè xīnfú de jiātíng. 我有一个幸福的家庭。 I have a happy family.


Learn a Chinese Nursery Rhyme-我有一个幸福的家 (Wǒ yǒu yígè xìngfú de jiā) I Have a Happy Family


4. 五福临门 (Wǔ fú lín mén) five blessings descend upon the house


Example: Zhù nǐ wǔ fú lín mén, hǎo yùn lián lián. 祝你五福临门,好运连连。 Bless you and I wish you good luck.



5.福如东海 (Fúrúdōnghǎi) may your fortune be as boundless as the East Sea


Example: Zhù nǐ fúrúdōnghǎi, shòubǐnánshān. 祝你福如东海,寿比南山。 May your happiness be as boundless as the Eastern Sea and may your life be as long as the South Mountain!


Note: “福如东海,寿比南山 (fúrúdōnghǎi, shòubǐnánshān)” is used as a blessing for seniors. Therefore, it’s appropriate to apply it to give best wishes on your grandpa’s or grandma's birthday in China.


HSK 3 quiz

1. Please choose the best answer to make the sentence complete.

Kàndào háizi chī bǎo hòu, māma lòuchū le (    ) de xiàoróng.

看到孩子吃饱后,妈妈露出了(    )的笑容。


A. 祝福 (Zhùfú)


B. 福利 (Fúlì)


C. 幸福 (Xìngfú)



See Answer Analysis

Further Learning More Traditional Chinese Customs for New Year

Video Lesson: Chinese New Year (Part II)

Why Do Chinese Eat Fish During Spring Festival?

Chinese Culture Series: Chinese New Year 2009 Part Ⅱ: Hongbao – Lucky Money


Chinese Culture

HSK Test

General Chinese (Beginner Level)

General Chinese (Intermediate Level)

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