Where does the upside down “fu” come from?
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Where does the upside down “fu” come from?

by Tian Danyang
(Harbin, China)

Have you ever noticed the phenomenon that Chinese people will hang a big character “fu” (福) on the door? It reflects both the peculiarities of ancient emperors and modern customs about the issues of how empires in the past deal with their secrets and how this phenomenon evolved to a lucky symbol nowadays.

In ancient China, there is no such custom in relation to the upside down character “fu” on the door of each house during the Spring Festival.

It reminds me of an old wise story about the emperor Zhu Yuanzhang who would kill one person for he knew too many secrets about the royal court. The assassin was going to kill that person with the indication of a character “fu” hung on his door.

The wife of the emperor, empress Ma, who had a kind heart, could not bear to kill people and she worried that the insistence of their killing people would lead to broad and severe repercussions.

In order for his husband to save one life, she gave everyone the order to hang on a character “fu” as same as the assassin’s. Interestingly, one house hung the “fu” upside down by mistake. After hearing about this, Zhu Yuanzhang got furious and make the order to kill the person who hung the “fu” upside down.

Then the empress said it had an interesting meaning “fudao”(福倒) which has the same Chinese pronunciation with that of “luck was on my side.” The Emperor was happy to hear that and released that person.

After being spread and modified, this upside down character “fu” has become a traditional custom during the spring festival. People use this way to pray for auspiciousness dedicated to the memory of the kind and notable empress Ma.

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Jul 02, 2013
by: LUMYONG Pichanee

So, this is the origin of the upside down “fu”? There are always interesting tale or historical anecdote behind Chinese methods.
Thank you for share such a great story : )

Jul 02, 2013
by: Lee JungHong

it is good information, if I use a fitting comparison, I want to make additional my finger for your article

Jun 30, 2013
precise story
by: Tomoko Oyama

Thank you for sharing more precise story about fu dao:) I did not know such a historical reason.

P.S. I found fu dao at first because I love seeing the decoration of shops.

Jun 29, 2013
Upside down “fu”
by: Jing

As a Chinese, this is my first time to know where the upside down "fu" comes from. When I read your story, I begin to miss home. This year may be the first year I can't celebrate the China New Year with my family.

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