Photo by Hiep Dai on Unsplash.
As Spring Festival comes closer, you are very likely to see those long, red, papers, stuck on both sides of doors, plus one more at the top; those are “对联 duìlián”, better know as Chinese couplets and yes, almost no laowai can fully understand what they mean. But Mandarin Community came to save our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) friends to explain what the most common 对联 duìlián mean.
Couplets are where Chine people place good hopes and wishes in a very refined, effective, way using elegant and literary tones, which is why it’s hard for non-native speakers to understand what they mean. Hey, we don’t mean to say you are not refined, or effective, or elegant, it’s just that this way of using the Chinese language can be so hard to understand, that even native speakers have a hard time to fully understand the meaning.
Why are they so hard to understand? Couplets are meant to be poetic and concise, they are meant to communicate a beautiful message in a short way, almost like haikus but hardcore. Couplets writers would cut some words, so they would only write 已 instead of 已经 (already), expecting people to imply the full meaning. Also, let’s remember that 对联 duìlián usually come in three phrases and they are stuck around the entrance door in every house: two long phrases which are stuck on both sides of the door, and one short phrase stuck on the top.
Photo by Maud on Unsplash.
对联, or Chinese couplets, are a way to wish all families and people around us happiness, health, luck, and good fortune in the coming new year, so as a way to wish the same to our community, we translated some of the most widely used couplets.
1. 喜气盈门 Xǐqì yíng mén：Wish joy in your home.
福旺财旺运气旺，家兴人兴事业兴 Fú wàng cái wàng yùnqì wàng, jiā xìng rén xìng shìyè xìng: Wish joy to your family, a prosperous career and good fortune.
2. 家和万事兴 Jiā hé wànshì xīng: Harmony in the family leads to success in everything.
一年四季行好运，八方财宝进家门 Yī nián sìjì xíng hǎo yùn, bāfāng cáibǎo jìn jiāmén:
Wish you good luck all year round; may treasure from all directions come into your home
3. 吉星高照 Jíxīng gāo zhào: May a lucky star shine upon you.
一帆风顺年年好，万事如意步步高 Yīfānfēngshùn nián nián hǎo, wànshì rúyì bùbùgāo
May you sail safely through life; may you get luckier year by year.
4. 万象更新 Wànxiàng gēngxīn May many new things come.
百世岁月当代好，千古江山今朝新 Bǎishì suìyuè dāngdài hǎo, jiāngshān jīnzhāo xīn.
May present times remain prosperous through the ages.
5. 家庭幸福 Jiātíng xìngfú: May your family be blessed with happiness.
欢天喜地度佳节，张灯结彩迎新春 Huāntiānxǐdì dù jiājié, zhāng dēng jiécǎi yíng xīnchūn
May people celebrate with joy; may we cheerfully welcome the new year with color and happiness.
6. 国泰民安 Guótàimín’ān : May the country be prosperous and all the people be in peace.
民安国泰逢盛世，风调雨顺颂华年 Mín ān guótài féng shèngshì, fēngtiáoyǔshùn sòng huá nián:
May people remain in a time of peace and prosperity, may good weather come to nurture the fields (crops).
Most couplets appeal to fortune, richness, wealth, and prosperity but here can be as many 对联 as people can think of. Which 对联 is your favorite? Will you use any of these Chinese couplets to wish your Chinese friends a Happy Spring Festival?