During ancient times, beans used to be an essential foodstuff viewed as important as rice.
These days, as daily food available to consumers have exploded in variety, it’s no longer a food item that is as basic as rice. But it’s use in symbolism and rituals is still as revered today as it was in the past.
This is partly also due to an instinct that these vessels of energy should not be left empty. Just like a merchant ship would not be delivering any money when it is empty.
When in doubt (or simply lazy), one can hardly go wrong with placing 5 types of beans in 5 colors in these items.
The 5 colored beans which is referred to as wu se dou (五色豆) is a term used to describe 5 types beans of 5 different colors representing the 5 elements.
This is supposed to power-up the item that these beans would be placed in. Sort of like charging a smart phone with electrical energy. Without electrical power, the device is as good as useless… except being something nice to look at.
While there is no standard of what the 5 types of colored beans should specifically be, the usual practice is to procure the following:
- Mung beans (green beans for wood)
- Red kidney beans (red beans for fire)
- Pinto beans (yellow beans for earth)
- Black eye peas (white beans for metal)
- Black turtle beans (black beans for water)
It should be repeated that the above are what types of beans are commonly used when collecting 5 colored beans.
You could very well replace them with other beans as long as the colors represent the desired elements.
For example, green peas can be used to replace mung beans and cannellini beans to replace black eyed peas. And so on.
Even though the use of the 5 beans is used to generally charge an item with positive auspicious energy that calls on good fortune in general, this method of using beans is most notable for enhancing fertility luck when couples are finding it difficult to conceive.
The strong association with conception and descendants is because the children of emperors were commonly known as long zi (龍子) which translates to dragon’s son. During pregnancy, it’s called long zhong (龍穜). So the offspring that result from long zhong is also called zhong zi (穜子). Zhong zi is a homonym of the beans that are used in this ritual.
To give fertility luck a boost, married couples were known to keep containers filled with the 5 color beans beside their bed or somewhere in the bedroom.
Sometimes, it’s also placed with the chi lin as the Chinese unicorn is known to be associated with descendants too.
This became such a common practice that even today, we can often find bronze chi lins in the feng shui store that are somewhat hollow with the opening at the creature’s mouth. This is so that people can insert items like the 5 beans or crystal chips into the chi lin to call on it’s blessings.
Also note that the beans can be dried.
And if there is enough space like in a vase, it’s totally acceptable to keep them in zip-lock bags.