Nov 01, 2012

The five playful friendly mascots of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics are named Fuwa, literally the children endowed with auspiciousness and good fortune. Fu literally means auspiciousness, good fortune, luck, prosperity, blessing or happiness; and wa literally means child.

Fuwa are probably the most meaningful Olympic mascots in the history. Actually, when designers design them, they put many symbolic meanings into these five mascots that represent traditional culture and natural characteristics of China, which might be very difficult for foreigners to understand.

Fu usually appears as a cultural symbol to express people's wishes for the coming new year. In oracle bone carvings, the Chinese character Fu looks like two hands placing a jar of wine onto an altar. The hands are offering wine to the Gods in the hope of obtaining blessing. Hence the meaning blessing.

The tradition of pasting the character Fu on walls, doors and doorposts has existed among the people for a long time. According to Menglianglu, a book recording the folk customs in the Song Dynasty (960-1127), people at that time had already been practicing the tradition. A large Fu character would often be found at the entrances of houses to bring a continuous flow of good luck through the door.

The character can either be written or printed. The accompanying patterns usually include a variety of themes like the god of longevity, a birthday peach, a carp, a dragon and a phoenix as well as other themes. The character written on paper can be pasted both normally and upside down, because in Chinese the up-sided Fu is homophonic with Fu has arrived (fu dao le), both being pronounced as fu dao le.

This good luck symbol is a popular decoration during Chinese New Year. The bat, or bian fu in Chinese, is also a symbol of good fortune. The fu in bat sounds the same as good fortune. A red bat is an extremely good fortune symbol.

This is a rebus for Five Blessings Surround Longevity (wu fu peng shou in Chinese). The five blessings (wu fu) are: longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue, and natural death.

Five bats (representing each blessing) surrounding the stylized Chinese character for longevity shou is a rebus for wu fu peng shou, an extremely powerful motif for good fortune and longevity. Five bat motifs are very auspicious and hence very popular.

Basically, the names of the five Fuwa: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and NIni altogether in Chinese mean “welcome to Beijing.” The images of Fuwa come from the auspicious animals of fish, Giant Panda, (Olympic flame), Tibetan antelope and swallow.

Beibei is the Fish with water designs. In China's traditional culture and art, the fish and water designs are symbols of prosperity and harvest. And so Beibei carries the blessing of prosperity. A fish is also a symbol of surplus in Chinese culture, another measure of a good year and a good life. The patterns from Beibei's headgear come from artifacts unearthed at Banpo, site of a Neolithic village of the Yangshao culture. The ornamental lines of the water-wave designs are taken from well-known Chinese paintings of the past. Among Fuwa, Beibei is known to be gentle and pure. Strong in water sports, she reflects the blue Olympic ring.

Jingjing is the Giant Panda in black and white. Jingjing makes children smile -- and that's why he brings the blessing of happiness wherever he goes. You can see his joy in the charming naivety of his dancing pose and the lovely wave of his black and white fur. As a national treasure and a protected species, pandas are adored by people everywhere. The lotus designs in Jingjing's headdress, which are inspired by the porcelain paintings of the Song Dynasty (960-1234), symbolize the lush forest and the harmonious relationship between man and nature. Jingjing was chosen to represent our desire to protect nature's gifts -- and to preserve the beauty of nature for all generations. Jingjing is charmingly naïve and optimistic. He is an athlete noted for strength who represents the black Olympic ring.

In the intimate circle of Fuwa, Huanhuan is the big brother. He is a child of fire, symbolizing the Olympic Flame and the passion of sport -- and passion is the blessing he bestows. Huanhuan stands in the center of Fuwa as the core embodiment of the Olympic spirit. And while he inspires all with the passion to run faster, jump higher and be stronger, he is also open and inviting. Wherever the light of Huanhuan shines, the inviting warmth of Beijing 2008 -- and the wishful blessings of the Chinese people -- can be felt. The fiery designs of his head ornament are drawn from the famed Dunhuang murals -- with just a touch of China's traditional lucky designs. Huanhuan is outgoing and enthusiastic. He excels at all the ball games and represents the red Olympic ring.

Yingying is the Tibetan Antelope. Like all antelopes, Yingying is fast and agile and can swiftly cover great stretches of land as he races across the earth. A symbol of the vastness of China's landscape, the antelope carries the blessing of health, the strength of body that comes from harmony with nature. Yingying's flying pose captures the essence of a species unique to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one of the first animals put under protection in China. The selection of the Tibetan Antelope reflects Beijing's commitment to a Green Olympics. His head ornament incorporates several decorative styles from the Qinghai-Tibet and Sinkiang cultures and the ethnic design traditions of Western China. Strong in track and field events, Yingying is a quick-witted and agile boy who represents the yellow Olympic ring.

Nini is the Swallow. Every spring and summer, the children of Beijing have flown beautiful kites on the currents of wind that blow through the capital. Among the kite designs, the golden-winged swallow is traditionally one of the most popular. Nini's figure is drawn from this grand tradition of flying designs. Her golden wings symbolize the infinite sky and spread good-luck as a blessing wherever she flies. Swallow is also pronounced yan in Chinese, and Yanjing is what Beijing was called as an ancient capital city. Among Fuwa, Nini is as innocent and joyful as a swallow. She is strong in gymnastics and represents the green Olympic ring.


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