So you’re marrying into a Chinese family. Congrats! Do you know what’s likely to show up on your bed on your wedding day? Fruit. Lots of it. Sound strange? It isn’t, really, once you understand why some fruits are associated with good luck and babies. So how did four fruits come to be seen as the ultimate wedding good luck charm?
Something old, something new…
For some, there’s no more beautiful gift than having a baby soon after getting married. Especially in China, where your (only) child is your 宝贝 bǎobèi, your treasure. So it is customary to use symbolic items during the wedding - even if it’s more a matter of habit than anything else - to put luck on your side.
Extra servings of luck, please
Auspicious colors are in order, of course (go red!) for a lucky wedding, as well as an auspicious date (remember the 8/8/ 2008 Chinese wedding craze?). Lucky numbers won’t hurt either (poor 4s and 7s, they never got a chance!). But did you think about the fruits and their symbolic meanings? Many fruits also double as symbolic items…
Good sounds are good
See, in China, similarities in phonetics are considered extraordinarily important. Not only do the Chinese use homonyms to craft clever wordplays, but homonyms also determine if something will be symbolic and whether it is auspicious or not. So fruits are as good candidates as any to become symbolic and auspicious.
And fruits can symbolize a lot of good things. Citrus fruits, for instance, are particularly appreciated during the Chinese New Year: oranges symbolize riches and good luck, because the word for orange in Chinese contains the character jí (吉) meaning lucky). Other fruits are said to bring wealth, luck or have good childbearing vibes. Four fruits in particular, when combined, convey extra good baby wishes to the future parents.
The best four-fruit combo
Here’s what’s one needs to create the ultimate good luck combo for a wedding: .
Ingredient #1: Jujubes or red dates
Red dates, also known as jujubes, are known for their sweetness and are often served as snacks (candied jujubes are called 蜜枣; mìzǎo) and in desserts. Their symbolic meaning: wealth, prosperity, fertility. Pretty good, huh?
Photo credit: chooyutshing
But what interests us really is the name for jujubes in Chinese: 红枣 hóngzǎo. 红 hóng is for red and 枣 zǎo is for dates. And what does 枣 sound like? 早Zǎo, which means early, or morning, as in 早上好 (zǎoshang hǎo, good morning).
Here’s how you say “枣 sounds like 早” in Chinese, by the way: “枣”与“早”谐音 “Zǎo” yǔ “zǎo” xiéyīn
与: yǔ = and, together with
谐音 xiéyīn = homonym
Ingredient #2: Peanuts
Next up are peanuts.
Photo credit: SimonQ錫濛譙
Peanuts are said to bring you a bunch of good things: health, long life, prosperity, continuous growth, multiplication in wealth and good fortune, stability…
Peanuts are called 花生 huāshēng in Chinese. So where’s the homonym?
花生的“生 ”与“生 ”谐音. Huāshēng de “shēng” yǔ “shēng” xiéyīn.
Yup, 生 shēng is our winner. The second character in peanuts (生) means “born, to give birth to”.
Ingredient #3: Longans
Longans are sweet and juicy fruits that belong to the lychee family (something you notice as soon as you start peeling the fruit).
Photo credit: Johnnie Utah
The Chinese have two names for longans:龙眼 lóngyǎn, which literally means dragon eyes, and 桂圆 guìyuán in its dried form. Longans are traditionnally associated with having many sons.
For our combo recipe, the item we’re looking for is hiding in the dried longan’s Chinese name: 桂圆.
桂圆的“桂” 与 “贵” 谐音. Guìyuán de “guì” yǔ “guì” xiéyīn
The first character in the name sounds like 贵 guì, which means valuable, noble, precious.
Ingredient #4: Lotus seeds
Lotus seeds are the final component of this lucky combo. Lotus seeds come from lotus seed heads (which have always looked like vegetal shower heads to me) and are very often eaten during the summer as they are particularly refreshing. They are also a very common ingredient in Chinese medicine.
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds
Lotus seeds are called 莲子 liánzǐ. They have a double symbolic meaning: they are said to bring prosperity (in the form of a full wallet apparently) and offspring. They also have the hidden meaning of “continuous birth of children” because the first character 连 lián sounds like “continuous” and the 子 zǐ is the same character as in the word for son or child (子 zǐ)
In general, because they are numerous and are all pronounced zǐ, seeds symbolize having a large number of children. So, many seeds, like watermelon seeds (imagine gifting that to someone!) or pomegranate seeds are also considered auspicious.
The 子 zǐ is the sound and character we were looking for, because of its “child” meaning.
莲子的“子” 与 “子” 谐音. Liánzǐ de “zi” yǔ “zi” xiéyīn
A fruity saying
There you have it, the four fruits that make up the ultimate wedding combo.
Red dates + Peanuts + Longans + Lotus Seeds =
早 + 生 + 贵 + 子
Together, they form the saying:
“早生贵子” Zǎoshēng guìzǐ.
This means [we hope you] “have a baby soon!”. The traditional custom is to get a “lucky” lady (i.e someone who has healthy children of her own) — when possible the mother-in-law — to scatter the fruits on the newlywed’s bed before the wedding to wish them good luck. Like this:
This is what you’ll find on your bed. Photo credit: YiPing@SuZhou
The fruits can also be placed in a more ornamental manner, like such:
More fruits for the newlyweds
If as a guest, you’re worried the four-fruit platter still won’t be enough luck, you can also gift the newlyweds pomegranates, since pomegranates (what with their numerous and juicy seeds) symbolize fertility, happiness in the family and good luck for one’s descendants. A common wedding present is therefore a work of art picturing a pomegranate split in half, with plenty of seeds spilling out of it. This too is expected to bring the happy couple good luck and many healthy children.
Now that the gift’s taken care of, you can finally get down to partying and feast on all the (symbolic) delicacies at the wedding!
The Nincha Team!
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