Chinese Symbols and Their Meanings


Even in South Australia, Chinese symbols and characters surround us in our daily lives.  They present us with a valuable opportunity to understand more about Chinese culture, history and customs.  However the meaning of the symbols and characters is rarely self-evident.  This web page explains those symbols most commonly seen in Australia.  Further information on this topic is available in excellent books like “Five Fold Happiness” by Vivien Sung and “Chinese Wisdom” by Lillian Too.  You may also wish to take a virtual cultural tour of Adelaide's Chinatown by accessing the "Hidden Dragon" feature on this website.


The 5 Best Known Chinese Characters in Australia

Double Happiness





The Chinese display the symbols above to attract positive outcomes in their lives, but there are also many hidden traditions behind these symbols.  For example did you know that:

  • The Double Happiness character was inspired by a Tang Dynasty love story that concludes with the two young lovers each placing a single happiness character side-by-side on their wall in order to celebrate their relationship.  To this day the “Double Happiness” character they created continues to be used to celebrate engagements and weddings and families.

  • The symbol for Luck can often been seen hanging upside down at the entrance to Chinese homes and businesses.  This is because the symbol for “arrived” is the same as an upside down luck symbol.  Hence, according to traditional stories, the meaning became “luck has arrived”.

  • With most people dying at a young age in ancient China, Longevity was highly prized.  Confucian teachings also emphasized the respect for ones Elders and so longevity was particularly sacred.   

  • Prosperity or “Lu” literally means “official salary” as the attainment of public office in ancient China was considered to be a great honor and a path to respect, prestige and prosperity.  

  • In the West, the desire for Wealth is often seen as a negative one.  However in China wealth was considered to be a component of happiness itself.  To this day the Chinese use various images of wealth to ensure the success of their businesses.