I have always considered myself a ‘lucky’ person. Nothing really bad has ever happened to me, no one has died, I feel I have always been lucky in the friends I have made and have a great family. My definition of ‘luck’ was my life was rich with family and friends, no one was sick and I have always had a good job so I have never struggled financially. I have even won a few competitions and raffles in my time, winning such prizes like holidays and vouchers!
I love sayings like when you see a magpie “one for sorrow, one for joy”. I search for a second magpie when I see one for fear if I only see one, it’ll result in sorrow. I would never walk under a ladder and on the few occasions a bird pooed on me when flying past I have went straight into the nearest shop and did the lotto! Recently, I have been obsessed with a robin that keeps flying into our house and following me around the garden. Last week, the robin even appeared at the coffee shop down the road from my house. He flew up next to me and perched himself on the chair next to me!! I googled what this meant, apparently, it means that someone in the house is going to die! Oh my god, you can imagine how I freaked out at this. However, on further research I came across an article that claimed that a bird coming into your house signifies change not death. It further ascertained that the bird is actually a lucky bird to guide you through the change! I have clung onto this explanation rather than believe it signified a death in my small family (only three of us live in our house).
My first experience of the Chinese and luck was when I was on my second day living in Beijing, I bought a phone. In the store, I had to pick a telephone number. At first, when given the choice between about 50 number I picked a number with lots of fours, it was something like 186 444 1444, I figured what an easy number to remember. The sales assistant was horrified and I am sure was afraid of me. He said are you sure, those numbers is really unlucky or something like that in his broken English, how we got as far as choosing a telephone number is a miracle! Apparently, the number four is considered unlucky just like 13 and 666 is in western culture. Fair enough I said and wanting to avoid any tricky situations with the locals when I gave out my number, I choose another with less fours. Turns out the only numbers left in the Beijing area with that service provider all had some fours in the number! From then on, every lift I got into I noticed that there was no floor no 4, 14, 24, 34…and certainly no 44, sometimes-even 42 is left out. After a few months of living in China my Chinese friends explained to me, the reason that the number 4 is considered unlucky is that the word for number four, si, sounds similar to the word for death!! I completely understand this now and it makes perfect (kind of) sense!!!
So, when I arrived in China almost from day one, I was fascinated with all their symbols and beliefs about what brings luck, happiness, blessings and good fortune to themselves and their families. There are countless symbols for luck in Chinese culture.
“Fu’ the character for ‘luck’, ‘blessings’ and ‘good fortune’ is a popular decoration pasted on doors and walls, particularly during Chinese New Year. It is usually written in black one red diamond shaped paper. Note that red is considered a lucky colour in China. Everywhere I went in China, I spot this decoration and not just at Chinese New Year! I remember little villages with this diamond shaped decoration randomly posted onto walls. It is posted onto to doors to welcome the luck and to encourage it to flow into the house. The Chinese also believe in the god of luck, along with the god of prosperity and the god of longevity, the god of luck is part of this group of three important gods. Apparently, according to Chinese legend, the God of luck originated as a star and was believed to bring good fortune; his name literally means ‘lucky star’ –‘Fu Xing’. Other symbols of luck include bats, dragons, and windmills (windmills can turn your luck around)!
My daughter was conceived and born in the year of the dragon. As a pregnant lady in China, that year everyone (including foreigners who lived there as they had heard so much about the year of the dragon and what a great time it was to have a baby) were so excited that that she would be born in the year of the dragon. My Chinese friend pointed out the fact that she was both conceived and not just born in the year of the dragon was even better for the child! The dragon is a symbol of courage and wisdom and it is thought that children born within that year somehow pick up this courage and wisdom. My favourite belief about this was the dragon babies carry with them ‘good fortune’ for life, so much so that the good fortune spreads to the rest of the family! The Chinese born year peaks in the year of the dragon (year of the dragon occurs every 12 years). However, on reflection this is a very flawed belief, since if you are a Chinese dragon baby, when you go to school all the other dragon babies will be in your class and later in your university competing for jobs as roughly at the same time…and since it is so competitive in China already between its young people its inevitable not everyone will be blessed with the good fortune of the dragon! Perhaps for my daughter it will hold true, as she will grow up in Ireland. Only time will tell!
Anyways, after two years in China, many years of believing I am a lucky person…I have realised that just maybe in some areas of life, one makes their luck by working hard, putting themselves out there, putting work into relationships and friendships and rather than being in the right place at the right time, they put themselves in the right place at the right time! Maybe luck is a positive attitude, just plain old believing you are lucky or maybe its what you did in a past life (this is definitely one theory I would like to investigate!)
My three lucky stars pendants include the characters for luck, prosperity and longevity. I love the saying that “in heaven there are three lucky stars, on earth there is luck, prosperity and longevity’. I guess the Chinese philosophers and legends realised you cant just rely on the god of luck, you need the god of prosperity (he governs a person’s success in their career) and you need the god of longevity (he governs a long life). And in a way, you need to work hard as I say (prosperity), rely on some luck and good fortune (god of luck) and hopefully the god of longevity will ensure you live a long life to enjoy this luck and prosperity!