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Friday, February 10, 2012

Double Happiness: The Shuang Xi

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One of the cool things about China is that over its long history, a great wealth of myths, legends, and stories exist within the fabric of everyday life. One such example is the Shuang Xi (双喜), which means "Double Happiness".

"Shuang" means "a pair" of something, and "xi" means "like" or "happiness".

The actual character looks like this: 喜喜
You'll see it a lot when people get married. They've got it up on their door, their car, the gate to their apartment building - everywhere! It's a symbol of good luck, but it has a really cool story behind it.

So, here goes:
In the Tang Dynasty, there was a student who was going to the capital to go to take the national final examinations, after which the top scorers would be selected as the ministers in the court. Unfortunately, as he passed through a mountain village on the way, he fell ill. Thanks to a herbalist doctor and his daughter, he recovered quickly due to their good care. When he had to leave, he found it hard to say good-bye to the pretty girl, and she felt the same way. They fell in love and decided to get married after his examination. The girl wrote down the right hand part of an antithetical couplet for the student to match after he finished and returned from the examination to marry her.
"Green trees against the sky in the spring rain while the sky set off the spring trees in the obscuration."
In the examination, the student won first place, and was recognized by the emperor. He was then interviewed and tested by the emperor. As luck would have it, he was asked by the emperor to finish a couplet, which needed its other half to be completed by the student. The emperor wrote:
"Red flowers dot the land in the breeze's chase while the land colored up in red after the kiss."

Suddenly, the young boy remembered what his young love had written for him. Realizing that it was perfect answer to the emperor’s couplet, he answered the emperor with her words. The emperor was more than happy with his reply, and appointed him as a minister in the court. He also permitted the boy some time to visit his hometown before assuming the office. The young boy went straight to the young girl and told her everything about the examination. 

He kept his promise to her, and they got married. On their wedding day, both of them wrote the same right half of a couplet, which had kept them together, as well as the character for happiness, 喜. This is how the double happiness character came to be. 

Now this character is used on just about everything connected with marriage, and is also used in other random ways such as Shuang Xi cigarettes and the subject of films. It's one of the things that a person living in China cannot ignore - it's simply everywhere. 

This is one of the things I love about China - you can be walking along and see something on someone's car, and say, "What's that character?" -- "Oh, that's such-and-such, it comes from a classical Chinese legend that says such-and-such, and to this day, we commemorate it in such-and-such way." That just blows me away - floors me every time. 

To have a culture so steeped in tradition, where everything hums with meaning, is something that I cannot get over. The expats and old China hands who live in the "developed" regions of China are laughing their asses off, because that's not the way it is in their part of the country. In the Northwest - in Gansu, tradition is still very much alive and well, and the tradition of China is what I fell in love with and still love to this day. 


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  1. Great post! The shuang xi double happiness sign 喜喜 is such an auspicious sign esp relating to love and marriage. It is still used here among the Chinese Malaysian community when it comes to marriage.

    1. Thanks a lot!! The next few posts are gonna be along the same lines (legends/stories that tie into everyday life) - come back and check it out every now and then! We look kindly upon those who leave comments haha

  2. Wonderful story. I am trying to read the character.. It is in traditional form is it not?

    1. The 喜 that is used here doesn't seem to have changed much through time......this character stayed the same when they did the switchover from traditional to simplified. Cheers, thanks for the comment! I don't post on this blog anymore, but you can always find me on YouTube!

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.


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