Auspicious culture highlighted at exhibition

Wu Huixin
Check out exhibits that stand for Fu (福), Lu (禄), Shou (寿) and Xi (喜), meaning fortune, prosperity, longevity and happiness respectively in Chinese.
Wu Huixin
Auspicious culture highlighted at exhibition
Ti Gong

The Fu, Lu, Shou and Xi Auspicious Culture Exhibition has attracted crowds of people coming to visit as Chinese people regard these four Chinese character as fortune, prosperity, longevity and happiness. The exhibition runs through October 28.

Fu (福), Lu (禄), Shou (寿) and Xi (喜), meaning fortune, prosperity, longevity and happiness respectively in Chinese, stand for the four most popular immortals among Chinese people.

The four immortals make up Chinese auspicious culture which also includes an abundance of animal and botanic patterns, designs and legends. They have had a deep influence in people's daily lives throughout millennia.

Now, the Fu, Lu, Shou and Xi Auspicious Culture Exhibition is underway at Zhejiang Museum of Natural History through October 28. About 300 pieces of antiques on loan from Shanghai History Museum and Hebei Museum are on display.

"Fu, lu, shou and xi symbolize a hope for a better life. They have encouraged people to build confidence in the future," said Yan Hongming, curator of Zhejiang Museum of Natural History. "We started to prepare the exhibition from April 2018 and constantly enriched the antiques within three years in efforts to display history integrated with natural science."

The exhibits are set up in designed scenarios to help visitors better learn about the historical backgrounds. Some antiques are arranged with specimens, exploiting the museum's advantages to the full.

All of the exhibits are divided into four life stages, namely birth, schooldays, marriage and career. At the exhibition, visitors can see gourd-shaped exhibits throughout four sections.

Gourds are called hulu (葫芦) in Chinese, sounding like fulu with the meaning of fortune and happiness. When shou is added to fulu, it is traditionally believed that fortune and longevity will increase. In ancient China, gourd-shaped porcelains and sculptures often decorated the living room with an expectation for a bright future.

The exhibition displays antlers unearthed from the Hemudu Neolithic Relic Site in eastern Zhejiang Province. Deer were common in China long ago and were considered a symbol of good luck. "Deer" has the same pronunciation as the Chinese character lu which stands for "prosperity." Thus, the deer has been given a propitious pattern as evidenced by the exhibited crafts.

Auspicious culture highlighted at exhibition
Ti Gong

Showcased is a silver plate with a deer pattern on it, meaning prosperity in Chinese. The plate is on loan from Hebei Museum.

Elephants are another animal considered auspicious in traditional culture. The pronunciation of elephant in Chinese is similar to the character xiang (祥) which literally means lucky.

The exhibition displays a jade elephant figurine on loan from Hebei Museum. Alongside it, organizers set up an Asian elephant specimen collected by Zhejiang Museum of Natural History.

The specimen corresponds to the latest news of the wandering herd of wild Asian elephants in Yunnan Province. They have returned to their traditional habitat after roaming around for more than 100 days.

Wild Asian elephants, a key species in the rainforest, are under A-level state protection in China. Thanks to stronger environmental and wildlife protection efforts, their population in the country has grown to about 300, mostly scattered across Yunnan.

Another common animal pattern on crafts is the white crane, a symbol of longevity. It often appears along with the shou immortal and lingzhi (灵芝), the ganoderma.

Some painters used cranes as metaphors. Usually a crane carrying a lingzhi in its mouth implies longevity. Lingzhi is considered an immortal tonic that can nourish the body.

Auspicious culture highlighted at exhibition
Ti Gong

An Asian elephant specimen is set up.

Auspicious culture highlighted at exhibition
Ti Gong

Crane sculptures, standing for longevity in traditional Chinese culture, are on display.

The exhibition displays a piece of centuries-old pillow towel embroidered with floral patterns and a couple of yuanyang (鸳鸯), literally meaning mandarin duck in Chinese.

In traditional culture, mandarin ducks often appear as couples and represent a harmonious marriage. They are believed to be the happiest motifs on a bride's dowry and wedding ceremony.

Patterns on clothes would vary according to different stages of life. When people married, the bride's dowry was wrapped in textile stitched with mandarin ducks. When a child was born, the newborn would be put in clothes made with patterns of god protecting the baby against evil.

China has a long tradition of embroidery and is famed for its own intricate and time-consuming style. Hand-made embroidery is considered a typical representation of Chinese traditional crafts. With an abundance of silk and an ancient tradition of needlework, the country has developed a myriad of stitching skills and popular patterns.

Except for animals, flowers are commonly seen in embroidery. One of the favorite patterns is mudan (牡丹), or peony, as seen in the exhibits.

Throughout Chinese history, mudan has been frequently portrayed in art. Whether in ink-wash paintings, sculptures or furniture, mudan is a favorite of craftspeople and artisans for its ornate petals. Known as the "king of flowers," mudan flowers often symbolize honor, wealth and aristocracy, as well as love, affection and feminine beauty.

'Fu, Lu, Shou and Xi Auspicious Culture' Exhibition

Date: Through October 28 (closed on Mondays)

Admission: Free

Venue: Zhejiang Museum of Natural History

Address: No. 6, West Lake Cultural Square


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