The Origin of 福 (“Blessings”)

During the Chinese New Year season, the Chinese character “福” (pronounced as “fu“) is found on decorations and inscribed on hongbao (“红包”) or red packets. The word signifies blessings and prosperity and is considered most appropriate for the annual lunar new year celebrations (also known as chunjie (“春节“) or Spring Festival). As those of Chinese descent usher in a new year, words of blessings are exchanged among family and friends. This is often accompanied by new year goodies, exchanges of mandarin oranges, and giving of red packets of cash (or increasingly digital tokens of money). The character “福” may also be displayed in an upside down manner to symbolize the arrival of blessings (the Chinese word for “upside down” [““] sounds like the word for “arrival” [““]).

Scholars have postulated that the blessings as represented by the above Chinese character originated from the worship of the Divine.

Fig. 1


In the study of the character “福”, the radical 礻is derived from an earlier pictogram 示 depicting an altar (Figure 1, credit: Chengminglu).



Fig. 2


The 畐 came from the pictogram of a jar held by two hands used in the offerings (Figure 2, credit: Chengminglu).



Fig. 3


Putting both pictograms together symbolises the offerings made on the altar to the most high God (Figure 3, credit: Chengminglu).



Fig. 4

The evolution of the character to the present day 福 is made evident with the pictograph evolution diagram from the oldest (A) to the present (H) (Figure 4, credit: Sound of Art). It is noted the origin of “一口田” (literally “one,” “mouth,” and “field”) is the evolution of the pattern on the jar, rather than any other meanings.


From the study of this character, it hinted that ancient Chinese knew and worshipped the God of Heaven although the revelation of Jesus Christ came much later. (Such  ancient Chinese characters were found carved onto tortoise shell or animal bones more than three thousand years ago.) The fall of mankind due to man’s sin separated mankind from God. The only way to receive true spiritual blessings is by trusting in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. He is God’s only begotten Son, who has died on the cross to redeem us from our sins.

It has also been noted the meaning of 福 is best encapsulated in the Aaronic Blessing (Lim Liat 2014):

22 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:22-26, ESV)

In “Faith of our Fathers,”  the author, Thong Chan Kei, explained that the radical 礻which literally means “to reveal” and that God’s nature as the Self-revealing One is such that no one can know Him unless He reveals Himself. God has in fact revealed Himself through nature, which is considered General Revelation, and through Special Revelation, which is contained in the Bible and ultimately in His Son, Jesus Christ.

This Chinese New Year, we pray for God’s Special Revelation (Jesus Christ) to be made known to you that you may enjoy true blessings that will last. On identifying God’s “fingerprints” throughout China’s long history, consider reading Thong Chan Kei’s book Faith of Our Fathers: Discovering God in Ancient China (available here).


From all at EAST: Have a blessed Lunar New Year as you place your hope on a gracious God.



Chengminglu. 2019. “The origin and evolution of the word Fu [福].” February 16, 2019.

Cindy. 2023. “Why Chinese New Year is called Spring Festival.” China Highlights. January 10, 2023.

Lim, Liat. 2014. “The Best Chinese New Year Wish for You – 福 (Fu) and Its Origin.” Mind Value. January 25, 2014.

Sound of Art. 2020. “Master calligrapher: God’s imprint is written even in ancient Chinese script.” Salt & Light. June 30, 2020.

The Chairman’s Bao. 2017. “A Brief History of Chinese Characters.” October 23, 2017.

Thong, Chan Kei, and Charlene L. Fu. 2018. Faith of Our Fathers: Discovering God in Ancient China. Updated edition. Singapore: Media Ministry of Cru Singapore.


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