How to Be Rich and Happy, Chinese Style

I’d like to make an announcement:  my wealth will be increasing soon, as will be happiness and general well-being.  How do I know this?  Because my new Chinese souvenirs told me so.  Chinese culture is replete with symbolism, so it is no surprise that most of the souvenirs and gifts I bought when I was in China have symbolic significance.

Take, for example, this framed embroidery of two fish.  My sources tell me that fish represent abundance, or “more of.”  Therefore, by buying and displaying this embroidery, I will surely gain more wealth in the near future.   (One source claim that black and red koi more specifically represent wealth, so it looks like I made a good investment here.)


Fish mean I'm gonna be rich!
Fish mean I’m gonna be rich!


I also bought some jade jewelry.  Jade is BIG in China and has a great deal of significance attached to it.


Happiness and Health are MIne
Happiness, Health, and Moral Virtue are Mine


The meaning of jade

My tour guide told our group that jade has some health benefit because it contains some sort of beneficial mineral. (I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention because I don’t remember the details.)   She also said Chinese women often wore jade bangles because it brought fertility.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about jade and China:

“Jade occupies a special place in Chinese artistic culture, valued as gold is in the West but hallowed with even loftier moral connotations. The Shuowenjiezi (“Discussions of Writings and Explanations of Character”) of Xu Shen defined jade (yu) as follows:

A stone that is beautiful, it has five virtues. There is warmth in its lustre and brilliance; this is its quality of kindness; its soft interior may be viewed from the outside revealing [the goodness] within; this is its quality of rectitude; its tone is tranquil and high and carries far and wide; this is its quality of wisdom; it may be broken but cannot be twisted; this is its quality of bravery; its sharp edges are not intended for violence; this is its quality of purity. (Translation adapted from Zheng Dekun)”

Click here for source.

That’s an awful lot of benefits to be had for an earring and a pendant.  What a deal!  Plus, the silver design in the middle of both the pendant and the earrings is the Chinese character for happiness.  That means this jade will bring me happiness as well as health and  moral virtue.  I can’t wait!

But that’s not all.  I also bought these chubby feet:

Happiness and Wealth
Happiness and Wealth

My sources told me that the feet represent satisfaction with life, and the engraved fish on them represent wealth (as previously discussed.)  I figure it can’t hurt to double-up on my good luck charms.

Door of life
Door of life


Just to be on the safe side, though, I walked through the door of life to bring me more benefits.  This gate/door is found at one of the Ming Tombs I wrote about earlier.  I have to admit I didn’t completely follow what my tour guide was saying, but I do remember that she said to definitely NOT go through the door from the other side.  That way, the door represents death and will bring evil into your life.  (I did see one poor woman walk through it from the wrong side.  She must not have had a tour guide.  I hope she’s OK.)  On the other hand, walking through it from this side (the side you see in the picture) makes it a door of life (or something like that) and brings all sorts of wonderful benefits.

And since a person can never have too much good luck, I also touched a few of the knobs on this door (found at the Forbidden City)  This door is supposed to bring great luck to whomever touches the knob(s) because there are nine rows of nine knobs and nine is an auspicious number.

9 x 9 = good fortune
9 x 9 = good fortune

With all of these symbols working in my favor, I figure I’ve got to have a good year, right?  I’ll keep you posted on the rise and fall of my fortunes.


If you know more about Chinese symbolism, please feel free to chime in.  It’s a fascinating topic!


Author: DebraB

I am a Professor of English at Concordia University-St. Paul. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My research interests include American literature, contemporary literature, Middle Eastern literature, African literature and feminist theory.

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