Double Happiness (Calligraphy)

DoubleHappiness (Calligraphy)

Doublehappy, also called happiness is a very old decoration design for theChinese people. The design can be found in many items, includingearrings, pendants, toasting glasses, mats, soap dishes, wristbangles, post stamps, rubber stamps, and wax seal stamps. Similarly,the pattern is also used in the beautifying items that are associatedwith weddings. For instance, it can be seen on wedding cakes,invitation cards, wedding gifts, mats, tables, clothes embroidery,enamel plates, and buckets among others. In many cases, the itemsdecorated with the Double Happiness symbol are red in color, althoughsome are often black (Chang and Dowling 25).

DoubleHappiness is a Typographic ligature in Chinese tradition. Itis composed of two interconnected Chinese letters. The plain meaningof the joined letters is “joy”. The letters are then compressedto resemble the normal square shape used with ordinary Chinesecharacters. To enhance the letters’ esthetic, they are designed incalligraphy. The Chinese pronounce the integrated letters likepolysyllabic characters (Kalman 72).

Thepurpose for using Chinese calligraphy is to improve the visualimpression of the design such that it can improve the beauty ofdecorated items. Many items used in the Lunar Year Celebrationsand wedding events are decorated using the double happiness patternsince the motif symbolizes good luck. Several wedding embossed withthe logo come in a red theme because the Chinese attribute red tolove (Sung 47). Gifts given to couples that have just got marriedfeature a red color theme and double happiness pattern imprint towish the bride and groom a lovely and happy marriage. On the otherhand, the lunar New Year gifts are often colored black sincethe main message is wishing people happy times without expressing thelove theme common in weddings. Over time, the double happiness motif has become common in South East Asia, United States, and Europe (Liu9).

SeveralChinese objects used in weddings such as carpets, mats, birthdaygifts, chains, and clothes among others often have a feature twoletters that are elegantly designed. From a long time back,decorators preparing for happy events such as birthdays and weddingsoften hang papers calligraphy or letters featuring the two letters onwalls, windows, and doors at places designated for celebration eventssuch as weddings. The culture came from the Song Dynasty thatlasted between 960 and 1279 AD (Blanchard 24). The Chinese use the‘double letters’ as a motif for abundant joy.

Inthe recent past, the double happiness has become a famous in thepopular culture. Manufacturers have twisted the letters slightly andused them in branding items such as soy sauce, fashion, cigarettes,and jewelry among others (Zang 38). Many Chinese manufacturers oftenuse the double happiness motif in Chinese luxury brands such as theShanghai Tang. In addition, the G.O.D (a Hong Kong lifestyleretail store) offers several products that are characterized thatfeature the double happiness theme such as tea sets, accessories,scented candles, and Ming-inspired tableware (Liu 9).

Mostwestern jewelry designs have no significant emotion or meaningintegrated on its design. Nonetheless, the medieval Chinese jewelryfeature a pattern or a motif that has special meaning intended foruse at a defined moment. Many luxury Chinese brands often createornaments that communicate special meaning concerning the wearer. Theobjective of integrating the motifs in the jewelry and decorations isto tap real happiness and positive energy for everyone attending agiven function (Martin 24).

TheChinese culture deems happiness as five-fold. The five pillars of theculture include Wealth, Luck, Happiness, Longevity, and Prosperity.The distinctive Chinese jewelry expresses these esthetics usingcolor, motifs, and characters (Sung 53). One of the most famousChinese characters used in making, decorating mats, and paintings area character that means “HAPPINESS” . The jewelry designers oftencreate a big pendant containing an integration of the two charactersthat is often read as “DOUBLE HAPPINNESS” (Blanchard 33). Thepaired characters are commonly used in decorating wedding items andvenues. It passively communicates the theme of happiness to thecouple getting married. The calligraphy of paper cuts is stuck on thewindows, walls, and doors during parties. Each time the charactersare used in the decorations, they remind the Chinese of one of theirancient values, which is the joy that fuses married persons sharingphysical and spiritual urge into one (Munck 14).

Originsof double happiness symbol

Thedouble happiness is a popular motif in the Chinese culture.Decorators often curve the motif on red papers or painted on a redbackground, and then placed in a strategic position where youngcouples can easily see it. The origin of the double happiness motifdates back to the Song Dynasty that lasted from 960 to 1279 AD(Blanchard 24). Historians claim that a young boy was invited to thecapital for an interview to choose the best candidate to fill theposition of the royal court minister. However, the boy became sick onhis way to the capital. Fortunately, he stumbled on a herbalpractitioner based in a mountainous village. The herbalist took himto his home. His daughter assisted him in taking care of the youngboy until he recovered (Zang 38). However, the boy found it difficultto leave the home because he had fallen in love with the herbalist’sdaughter. Before the boy departed, the girl wrote the right-handsection of a couplet for him. She intended the couplet design toremind him that she was waiting for his return to marry her aftercompleting the examination (Sheng 1).

Luckily,the young boy passed the test with the best score and his knowledgeimpressed the emperor such that he requested to ask him the lastquestion. He requested the boy to finish the right-hand side of acouplet. The boy recalled the message his young lover had writtenbefore he left their home. He discovered that it could complete themissing part of the king’s couplet. He used the herbalistdaughter’s words to answer the emperor’s challenge. The answerwas satisfactory, so he appointed him as the minister of the court(Sheng 1). However, the emperor granted the young boy an opportunityto visit his home before taking the office. He went back theherbalist’s home to fulfill his promise of marrying his daughter.He narrated to the young girl how he won the contest. On theirwedding day, a young couple used right side of the double hapinesscouplet to celebrate the motif that gave them double luck of keepingthem together and winning the contest (Munck 17).

Analysis

Thecouplet motif represented double happiness luck for winning theemperor’s interview and love that culminated into a marriage. Sincethen, the Chinese often use the double happiness motif as a symbol ofluck, love, and happiness. The three elements are essential insuccessful Chinese weddings hence, the reason carpets, cakes, andother gifts Chinese couples receive while the wedding are oftendecorated with the pattern (Zarrow 66). The signage often appears ona red background since red is a symbol of love and a common theme inChinese weddings. Several brands also manufacture items bearing theDouble Happiness motif.

References

Chang,Chien-Chi, and Claudia G. Dowling. DoubleHappiness: Photographs.New York, NY: Aperture, 2005. Print.

Sheng,Jim. The Oringin of Double Happiness. Dalriada Books Ltd, 2010. Web.Viewed from &lthttp://chinesecouplets.dayabook.com/couplet-storyhtml/double-happinesshtml&gt

Sung,Vivien. Five-foldHappiness: Chinese Concepts of Luck, Prosperity, Longevity,Happiness, and Wealth.San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002. Print.

Liu,Heping. Paintingand Commerce in Northern Song Dynasty China, 960 – 1126.Ann Arbor, Mich: UMI Diss. Services, 1998. Print.

Blanchard,Lara C. W. VisualizingLove and Longing in Song Dynasty Paintings of Women., 2001. Print.

Munck,Victor C. RomanticLove and Sexual Behavior: Perspectives from the Social Sciences.Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Praeger, 1998. Print.

Martin,Fran. BackwardGlances: Contemporary Chinese Cultures and the Female HomoeroticImaginary.Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. Internet resource.

Kalman,Bobbie. China,the Culture.New York: Crabtree, 2008. Print.

Zang,Xiaowei. UnderstandingChinese Society.Beijing: Routledge, 2012. Print.

Zarrow,Peter. CreatingChinese Modernity: Knowledge and Everyday Life, 1900 – 1940.New York: Lang, 2006. Print.