At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


A tourist asked the store proprietor about the little statuette of a happy piglet in full Ming Dynasty court costume holding a pineapple. The shopkeeper explained "it mean wealth, good luck, and all family happy!" Which seemed reasonable enough. I was still there a while later when another customer asked about the three-legged frog with a coin in its mouth.
"It mean wealth, good luck, and all family happy!"

What about this mechanical cat statue beckoning with its raised paw?
"It mean wealth, good luck and all family happy!"

Evidently darn well everything on that shelf meant 'wealth, good luck, and all family happy'. Heck, the possibilities for symbolizing 'wealth, good luck, and all family happy' are well nigh endless.

Water buffalo ridden by an owl? Wealth, good luck, and all family happy!
Mouse roasting cat over fire? Wealth, good luck, and all family happy!
Motor car filled with bananas? Wealth, good luck, and all family happy!
Caterpillar smoking a hookah? Wealth, good luck, and all family happy!
Angry tentacled cartoon alien? Wealth, good luck, and all family happy!

"All thing here mean 'wealth, good luck, and all family happy!' What you not understand, stupid person?"

Chinese propitious symbolism is a constantly evolving field, where the layers of meaning keep increasing. It's only partly based on tradition, but largely on homonyms and words that sound similar or identical, plus logical fallacies and an enormous dollop of wishful thinking.

Just taking that first item mentioned to illustrate this, the pineapple, in the southern Min languages (閩南話) is called "onglai" (王梨), which sounds similar to 旺賚 or 旺來, meaning 'wealth bestowed' or 'wealth comes'.
Wherefore the fruit symbolizes the desired eventuality.
The pig wearing fancy formal clothes carrying it clearly has acquired money and status. And just to hammer home the point that the figurine is something very good indeed, the scroll behind him says 好運來 (Cantonese: hou wan loi - 'good luck comes'). Wealth, good luck, all family happy! Of course you want this in your house!
And, if you are Fujianese or Chiuchowese, you'll quite likely put a pineapple on the altar in your business, especially during lunar new year.
You'll also eat pineapple tarts around that time.
Because doing so means something to you.

The store around the corner from my apartment has a clown monkey carved out of a coconut, which is not for sale. There is a little tray with spare change in front of it, as well as a small porcelain cup for offering regular libations. Their prosperity has lasted for over thirty years, so it's best to treat him well; he's their own numinous patron, the good luck monkey.
Obviously it's working.

The Vietnamese merchant around the other corner grows habanero chilies (黄燈籠椒) for much the same reason. When the peppers ripen, they look like treasure, small lanterns, or happy fruits such as peaches and oranges.
Very good fortune!

A business woman from Thailand, of mixed Chinese ancestry, has a picture of a chicken drinking champagne and celebrating with confetti and gay paper tape, in front of which she often offers incense. No, I have NO idea what the boozy bird could possibly mean. I'm sure it's based on a very sound bit of word-magic, though. Probably in an obscure dialect I haven't even heard of, or a minority tribal tongue from the Burma-Siam border.
Her shop is thriving, and she recently bought a new car.
Hard work had very little to do with any of it.
Yeah, she's there fifteen hours a day.
It was the champagne chicken.
You have to keep it happy.
Don't take any chances.
Joss-sticks regularly.

Some thing you do because they improve likelinesses. Other things you do because not doing them any longer would change the patterns, and bring bad luck. Once you've recognized the paradigm, you are bound to it.
And almost anything could have a fortunate consequence.
Or potently symbolize your hopes and dreams.

I have a carved wooden seagull on one of my bookshelves with two bottles of men's perfume on its stand. One might think it a ritualistic arrangement. No, there is no significance, it doesn't mean anything.
But it looks like it could.

Wealth, good luck, and all family happy!

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


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