COUPLETS: New Year Couplets (chun lian 春联) are traditional festive items that are used as wall décor (dui lian), and they are quite auspicious! The couplets are typically printed on red paper scrolls that hang on either side of your main doors. Many people give them as gifts to others with wishes of renewal and good luck.
The couplets can be purchased at the market, or made by hand. They are glued to the door frame on New Years day. Some couplets are inherited from previous generations and contain traditional hopes for prosperity. These decorations are similar to Halloween or Christmas decorations in America.
They are written vertically in beautiful calligraphy. The first line is posted on the right side of the door, and the second line is posted on the left. Also, a third line may be posted across the top of the door. The couplets are written to ward off evil and bring peace, happiness and good fortune to those inside. Some are left up year-round for continued good luck.
What do they say??
Chinese couplets are often antithetical in nature. This was a traditional method of teaching in China for thousands of years. The couplet includes two phrases/sentences that often have double meanings. The two scrolls generally have the same number of words & characters, and the tones of each character are often harmonious (there are certain rules for this, that I don't really understand yet). Also, the parts of speech for each corresponding word is identical. Both scrolls are related to one another, but not identical. Its really like writing a poem or haiku. There are RULES to follow!!
We also have learned that Chinese people make new couplets as a form of entertainment. One person makes up a first scroll sentence and challenges another to create spontaneous second scroll sentences that is appropriately matched. This challenges participants' linguistic, creative, and intellectual skills. Sometimes children are challenged to do this as a test or practice.
To translate a Chinese couplet can be very challenging, while keeping the same depth of wit, meaning & conciseness conveyed with such brevity. But we'll give it a shot!! (this picture below is our neighbors door)
Left Scroll: 金牛换 ? 耀五洲 jin niu huan (?) yao wu zhou = gold ox shining (?) bright/dazzling five continents - that's our best guess!
Right Scroll: 盛世呈祥英四海 sheng shi cheng xiang ying si hai - flourishing age lucky sign reflect four oceans - hmmm, we might not be so good at this!
Top Scroll: 平安年年 píng an nian nian - peaceful year year - that was easy, but why so repetetive? No idea!
Also - some people go the extra mile and place a square "FU" character on their door or windows (fu = 福 = good fortune, blessing, happiness). You can also hang it upside-down, as the meaning becomes "Fu dao le" or "fortune comes." I think we learned a bunch from writing this post!! We wish you abundant blessings year-round!!