It is often said that there are 3 life aspects that people seek to satisfy if they don’t have to worry about basic survival needs such as safety and food. And that is the aspects of wealth, health and love.
Love itself can be classified under a few umbrellas such as romantic love, parental love, social love, etc. And among them, probably the one that affects everybody the most is romantic love.
If you have ever been in love, you’d know for yourself how those butterflies in your stomach, falling head over heels, and getting swept off your feet feels. Well… at least for the first few months of the relationship 😀
Love is such a powerful force of life that we often life to remind ourselves how much we value it.
Some people frame pictures of loved ones on the wall, some people paint symbols of love as a hobby, some even tattoo the word love onto their body.
And as we would have it, there are various symbols that represent love in Chinese culture.
1) Chinese word
The Chinese character for love is 爱. It is pronounced as ai. While some might contend that this is a word, just take it into account that words are just symbols used for communication.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the above characters in simplified and traditional Chinese that represent love is so beautifully constructed. So much so that homeowners often frame up the word in calligraphy to use as decorations in the house. I’ve also seen people get a tattoo of these words.
This love symbol is appropriate for gifts to anybody including your spouse, parents, relatives and friends.
2) Double happiness
Another character that symbolizes love is the double happiness symbol which is designed by writing the word 喜 twice side-by-side.
This can be confusing so some people, especially those who are just beginning to learn about Chinese culture.
Because the word 喜 by itself carries the meaning of happiness. But by writing it twice, the meaning is morphed into meaning happiness through relationship as a couple.
And unsurprisingly, this is a design motif most often seen in weddings.
If you are attending a Chinese wedding or going to an event related to a Chinese couple’s marriage, it would be totally appropriate to gift something with this design printed on it.
3) Red peas
The folklore story of how red peas became a Chinese symbol of love is quite fascinating.
They are usually presented as gifts strung together as necklaces or bracelets.
Because of the story behind this, it is most appropriate for couples who are already in love to give each other so that they are reminded of the loving partner. Don’t take the special relationship they have for granted.
When dating and yet to be in a relationship, it is also a suitable item to subtly tell the receiving party that he or she has a special place in heart.
Have them handmade yourself to add more sincerity.
4) Mystic knot
Chinese knots are so tied to ancient culture that this topic alone can easily make up it’s own encyclopedia. They are also beautiful and has found it’s way into furniture design, clothing design, kitchenware, and all types of stuff.
One of the most famous Chinese knots is the mystic knot, which is also often known as the infinity knot.
The overall theme of this knot is to be continuous, endless, and limitless. And therefore, it is often appropriately used as a symbol for peace, safety and love.
For example, they are often carved into furniture meant for newlyweds to signal the wish for an eternal blessing of love between the couple. Couples who just want a less cheezy declaration of their union sometimes also use red packets with the mystic knot design when giving them out to the younger generation.
5) Mandarin ducks
A real life male mandarin duck can appear like something that came right out of a cartoon for someone seeing it for the first time. It’s colors combination is so outrageous and vibrant that it often beggars belief.
When they appear as a pair of male and female, it symbolizes the union of man and wife. This representation is deeply embedded in Chinese culture. So much so that the term “鸳鸯戏水”, which means a male and female duck frolicking in the water, is regularly used to in books and TV shows to describe couples who are affectionate with each other.
This symbol is not just appropriate for weddings, but also for gifts to seniors who have their life partners by their side. For example, during grand celebrations to mark seniors reaching a milestone age.
Take note that if you are gifting to elders, this is totally inappropriate and insensitive if the receiver’s partner has already left the living world.
6) Dragon and phoenix
For elder couples who have high status, the love symbol of choice is often that of a dragon and phoenix.
This is a pair that represents yin and yang, male and female, and a celestial unity of love.
One has to be tactful when using this. For example, if a young colleague has invited you to his wedding, gifting this symbol can sometimes be unsuitable as the big boss might be at the event as well. If the youngster is given the symbol of dragon, then what does that make your boss?
While many might wave this off as thinking too much, it doesn’t hurt to play it safe. Go with the mystic knot or double happiness if you are unsure. You are not going to unknowingly offend a third party this way.
This is a modern twist of Chinese symbols for love. Numbers have always had a unique place in the use of conversational Chinese language due to the phonetic resemblance to how they sound to certain words.
For example, the numbers 1688 is one of the favorite combinations as it sounds like 一路发发 which means a journey filled with wealth.
The massive gain in popularity of using numbers as expressions in the last 2 decades is in part attributed of the widespread use of text messages for communication. It’s much easier and convenient to type a number than a word.
in terms of love, the numbers 520 represents “I love you”. Another common number combination is 1314 which means “forever in life”. So it’s not uncommon for lovers, especially for those who are dating to use the number code 5201314 as a declaration of love.
So if you are dating a Chinese and see these numbers on the messenger app, don’t think that it is a typo mistake.
All in all, love symbols are meant to convey a message of love. However, don’t forget that wrong usage can communicate all the wrong things.