Word Play




Here’s a bar of Cadbury’s Chocolate, the special wrapper is to celebrate Chinese New Year! Can you identify what makes it festive?

Firstly, it has a lot of red on it, which is a happy colour in Chinese culture.

Secondly, it has pictures of plum blossom flowers. Plum blossom is a beautiful flower that appears out of very dead-looking branches in winter and is a promise that the new life of spring is on its way.

Thirdly, it has a picture of an ox, which is the symbol of the year that’s about to begin.

Traditionally in China, each year was not given a number but was symbolized by one of 12 different animals in a series.

Can you spot anything else on the back …?

There is a lot of gold, to represent hopes for a prosperous year ahead.

And there is decorative knotwork that symbolizes everything and everyone joined together in peace and harmony.

Let’s take a closer look at the Chinese character.  “Fu2” means “blessings” or “good fortune.”  Do you recognize the different parts of the character?

The radical on the left means ”spirit” or “god”. The line in the top right means “one”. The empty box means “mouth”. And the box in the bottom right means “field.”

There are different stories about why “Blessings” or “Good Fortune” is written this way but no-one is really sure: what do you think?

Now if you compare the character on the front and the back, what do you notice?  The character on the front is upside down!

That is because in Mandarin the word for “upside down” sounds exactly the same as the word for “come” or “arrive.”

Which means that if you say ”Hey, fu2’ is upside down,” it sounds exactly the same in Mandarin as “May blessings come!” or ”Good luck.”

We mentioned that in Chinese culture, animals are sometimes used as symbols for different things.  Can you think of an animal that is often found hanging upside down?

Well here’s the cool thing: in Mandarin the word for “bat” sounds exactly the same as the word for “blessings” or “good fortune.”

Which means that if you say ”The bat is upside down,” it sounds exactly the same in Mandarin as “May blessings come!” or ”Good luck.”

And that is why you will often find paintings or paper cuts of bats wherever people are celebrating Chinese New Year in particular.