Gongxi facai! – 恭喜发财 ! or “What Does The Fú Really Say?”

恭喜发财 !
Gongxi facai!
Happy New Year!

Today I am heading off to what I am sure will be a marvelous celebration hosted by the Chinese Ambassador to the Holy See.  I will give you a report later.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Guy Power says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,

    Why is it customary for Chinese to display the “fuku” [happiness] ideogram upside down? I have seen this so often, but never asked.

    Thank you,

  2. Guy: Hmmm… What Does The Fú Really Say?

    I am by no means expert in these things, and one of our Chinese readers might help us. My understanding is that the character pronounced fú “good fortune” is put upside down because in Chinese “upside down ‘fú'” is pronounced the same as “fú comes”, both being “fú dao le”.

    I read a story somewhere about the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang (+1644 – whose Chinese name I share – 朱). Zhu wanted to wipe out a family who had supposedly insulted the Empress. To mark them he gave them a fú symbol so the soldiers would know where to start killing. The Empress wanted to prevent this and gave a fú to everyone in the city so that when the soldiers came they wouldn’t know where to commence the slaughter. However, at one household an uneducated man put the fú upside down on the door. The emperor was irritated at being outwitted. He thus decided to take umbrage at the guy with the upside down fú, as if that was an insult to their august persons who gave the fú symbols in the first place. Zhu commanded that the one with the upside down fú should be killed. The Empress, thinking quickly, responded that he had no doubt done that on purpose. He didn’t want to offend, but to honor, thinking that “fú comes” expressed hope that they would be fortunate enough for the Emperor to visit.

    Well, its a story and it is as good as another.

  3. Thank you for remembering those of us who celebrate the Lunar New Year, Father. I hope you had a good celebration and ‘xin nian kuai le’ (literally, happy new year)!

  4. The lunch today was very fine. There were many of the Chinese Catholic community in Rome there. I had the privilege of sitting at the table with the Ambassador and many of the senior Chinese priests in town. Although I have been in this situation before, happily, I am a bit of a curiosity to some of them. So, one of the people asked about my name tag at my place setting, which had my name in Western letters. After I explained the origin, etc., I mentioned that they could not put my Chinese name on the card because I hadn’t settled on one yet.

    At that point there was nothing but for the Ambassador to give me a Chinese name. There followed a little discussion with the old fellows at the table, especially a very learned octogenarian I had accompanied and my name was settled as 朱思道 (Zhu Sidao). There was a little debate about the middle character, whether it should be æ–¯ or 思, but we thought 思 is best. The name has a rather subtle meaning. Zhu (朱) is a surname which means “bright red”, like to that of the first Ming Emperor while zhu (猪) is “pig”, like the year 2007 and also the year I was born. æ–¯ (si) is “this” in a rather literary or archaic way of speaking and is often used in transliterating foreign names (like mine). On the other hand 思 (si) is “meditate” or “ponder”. It has the components of both “head” and “heart”. 道 is “the way” or “doctrine”. There is a Chinese version of the Gospel of John (my baptismal name) which has this character 道 for Greek “logos”, for “word”. So my Chinese name both sounds like the Chinese pronunciation of my surname “Zuhlsdorf” (which is virtually impossible for them to say), but it has the meaning of “one who contemplates the Way”.

    So, I had a wonderful meal with many fine people on a great occasion and got a new name too. I also won a prize in the drawing: appropriately a Red Envelope! Inside was a gift certificate for a serious meal (no price limit indicated) for two at that same restaurant. Sooooo….


  5. Brian Day says:


    What character set (font) are you using to post? Several of your characters display as “?”
    I assume that firefox doesn’t recognize the character and substitutes the question mark instead.

    If that is the case, then all I have to do is change my default character set/font.

  6. Brian Day says:


    My default character set is: Western (ISO-8859-1)

  7. My Character Encoding selection (in the Firefox View dropdown menu) is Unicode (UTF-8) and all the Chinese characters appear to display ok.

  8. Janet says:

    My firefox is set to unicode UTF-8 also but I’m getting lots of question marks in Fr. Z’s post.
    Is there some change I should make to get the chinese characters to show?

  9. RBrown says:

    Fr Z,

    All very interesting, but you failed to mention the most important item: What did your Fortune Cookie say?

  10. RBrown says:

    Did said Fortune Cookie say anything about the Motu Proprio?

  11. Janet: I don’t know. I’m reminded of an old manual for Macintosh gurus (of which I’m not one). After about 600 pages, the chapter entitled Fonts starts with the sentence “Now we’ve come to the point where computing finally requires some real understanding.” Apparently I never made it past that point, at least not with regard to fonts.

  12. RBrown: I am reluctant to speak more about the timing of the M.P. right now. I am getting interesting reports from a very good spy who is way inside. But I need another confirmation. Also, aside from the fact that the cookies are not Chinese, these days they are mostly “platitude cookies” rather than “fortune cookies”. Thus, I will refer you to the USCCB for more information.

  13. Al says:

    Using Firefox here on a MacBook set to UTF8 and seeing all the characters..

  14. Andrew says:

    Xin Nian Kuai Le Father!
    Happy New Year to you.

    About the upsidedown ‘Fu’ character, ‘Fu dao le’ pronounced as ‘Fu comes’ becomes a pun that implies “good fortune has arrived”. This was the standard explanation that we learnt from our elders.

  15. Guy Power says:

    Fr. Z;

    Sorry about using “fuku” — that is Japanese and I don’t know Chinese except when using the On-yomi
    pronunciation in Japanese (which somewhat retains the original Chinese sound that was borrowed with the

    Andrew writes ‘Fu dao le’ pronounced as ‘Fu comes’
    Should I infer that dao le’ is Chinese for “upside-down”? If so, then “Fu dao le” finally makes sense
    to me.

    Kind regards,
    –Guy Power

  16. Tim Hallett says:


    There are the following two sentences, pronounciation identical
    福到了 “good luck has arrived”
    and 福倒了 “‘Fu’ has fallen over”

  17. Brian Day says:

    I am reluctant to speak more about the timing of the M.P. right now.

    Fr. Z.,
    Is safe to say then, that the M.P. is not being released this Thursday (the latest rumored date)?

  18. Is safe to say then, that the M.P. is not being released this Thursday (the latest rumored date)?

    I personally feel quite safe in saying this. Whereas we all know from repeated experience that “chatter” in the usual places does not quarantee the release of a document on the rumored day, I still suspect that absence of chatter in the immediately preceding days quarantees its non-release. And thus that, when the MP is really to be released, we’ll have heard about it in advance.

    As for the next rumor, let me point out that Holy Thursday is a most appropriate day for the release of a Eucharistic document – e.g., Ecclesia de Eucharistia in 2003. For the record, just be the first to mention the Motu Proprio in the same sentence — thereby officially starting the rumor as soon as the internet rumor bots have done their job — Holy Thursday this year is April 5, 2007.

    Or would Holy Thursday, April 5, 2007 (repeating the date for the benefit of the sentence-dredging rumor bots) be more appropriate for release of the post-synodal exhortation of the Eucharist, which may be more important for the Church provided it carries out the substantial reform of the Novus Ordo necessary to bring it in line with Vatican II and Sacrosanctum Concilium?

  19. T. Chan says:

    Also, aside from the fact that the cookies are not Chinese, these days they are mostly “platitude cookies” rather than “fortune cookies”. Thus, I will refer you to the USCCB for more information.

    Hahahaha. Happy New Year, Father!

  20. Brian Day says:

    Hey everyone,

    Henry Edwards says the Moto Proprio is to be released on 5 April 2007!!!!!
    (Not really, but I like the idea of feeding the internet rumor bots.)

  21. Az says:

    Fr Z.,
    Gogxi, gongxi, on acquiring such a splendid Chinese name!

  22. Az: It is good, isn’t it? 朱思道神父

  23. Az says:

    Indeed, Fr.Z, better than mine, I’m quite jealous! I wonder, how would you, or your erudite friends translate my given name? Unfortuately I’ve never been able to explain it adequately in English. 卓傳 (卓传 in PRC script!)

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