There are many ways to say “I love you” in Chinese, from words, poems, characters, to romantic symbols. The Chinese symbols for love are particularly interesting, mainly for their artistic beauty. Gifting someone with the appropriate symbol shows your love, thoughtfulness, and sensitivity towards the recipients.
In this article, we’ll list the top 8 most common Chinese symbols for love to help you choose the most suitable gifts for special occasions.
1. Chinese words
The Chinese character for love is 爱 “ai.” For example, saying 我爱你 “wǒ ài nǐ” is the most common, standard way of letting someone know “I love you” in Mandarin Chinese. The phrase 我爱你 (wǒ ài nǐ) is not just for romantic relationships. It can also express love between family members and is mostly used by parents to tell their kids that they love them.
The character 爱 is also often printed or sewed on traditional items (such as hongbao) or furniture (such as pillows or curtains). This love symbol is ideal for any occasion and can be given to your spouse, parents, relatives, or friends.
2. The 喜 (double happiness) character
The Chinese character 喜 (xǐ), also known as the double happiness symbol, is designed by writing the word 喜 twice side-by-side. Though this character might confuse some people, especially those who are just beginning to learn about Chinese culture, it is one of the most popular Chinese symbols for love.
The word 喜 (xǐ) by itself means happiness. By writing it twice, the meaning changed into happiness as a couple. The double happiness character is most often seen in weddings or events related to a Chinese couple’s marriage. So, if you’re invited to a Chinese wedding or engagement party, it would be a good idea to bring a gift with the character 喜 printed on it.
3. Red peas
Red peas strung together as necklaces or bracelets are usually presented as gifts for couples to remind each other of their loving partner. This Chinese love symbol comes from an old folklore story of the undying love between a woman named Hong Dou (红豆) (which literally means red peas) and her husband, the love of her life.
One day, Hong Dou’s husband went to the WuYi mountain to search for valuable mushrooms to make a living and didn’t return for an extended period of time. Left alone, fearing that he might have died due to the harsh weather or being attacked, Hong Dou cried for days inside her residence. The villagers who walked past the place heard her crying for days.
One day the crying stopped, and concerned neighbors came over to check on Hong Dou. She was nowhere to be seen, and there was a tree flushed with red peas.
As the story spread, red peas became a symbol of love given to a loved one to remind them how much the giver means to them. And that they should treasure every moment together before time eventually runs out.
4. The mystic knot
The mystic knot, also called the lucky diagram, the eternal knot, the endless knot, the infinity knot, etc., is an auspicious symbol in Feng Shui. Just like its name, the infinity knot’s overall theme is to be continuous, endless, and limitless. Therefore, it often symbolizes peace, safety, and love. This Chinese symbol is also believed to be a wonderful cure for relationship problems. It is gifted to newlyweds as a wish for an eternal blessing of love between the couple.
You can easily find the mystic knot printed on furniture design, clothing, kitchenware, and all types of stuff. Chinese people place pictures of the mystic knot in the living room to drive away anxiety and anger, bringing stability and tranquility to the mind. They also hang this good luck charm in the bedroom to improve relations between couples or place it in the office as a way to maintain loyalty and harmony among the workers.
5. Mandarin ducks
In Chinese culture, Mandarin ducks are believed to be extremely faithful to their partner throughout their lifetime. Their love for each other is so strong that if one of them dies or disappears, the duck left behind will be shattered. Because of this, Mandarin ducks are a symbol of love, fidelity, devotion, and affection.
You can find the symbol of Mandarin ducks on various decorations at many Chinese weddings. This symbol is not just an appropriate gift 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. However, you should never gift this symbol if the receiver’s partner has already left the living world, as it would be extremely inappropriate and insensitive.
6. The dragon and the phoenix
Dragon and phoenix are two of the most powerful symbols of success and prosperity in Chinese mythology. Put together, the dragon and phoenix represent yin and yang, male and female, harmony, and a celestial unity of love. This symbol was once only used by couples with high statuses, such as the emperor and empress.
Despite its meaning, you need to be tactful when gifting this symbol. For example, if a young colleague invited you to his wedding, gifting this symbol may be unsuitable as the big boss might be at the event as well. In this case, go for a safer choice instead, such as the mystic knot or the double happiness symbol.
In China, peonies are believed to be the “king of flowers” (花中之王 Huā zhōng zhī wáng). They are also known as China’s unofficial national flower. The flower’s large petals are associated with prosperity, beauty, and happiness. Peonies can also symbolize love and romance. They were often chosen for weddings and other special occasions in ancient China to express goodwill, best wishes, and joy.
Because peonies are considered the “king of flowers,” only imperial China family members could have them sewn on their clothes. Commoners must not wear anything with peonies sewn on them. Whoever committed this crime would be punishable by death.
Declaring love by numbers is a modern twist of Chinese symbols for love. Numbers have always had a special place in conversational Chinese language due to the phonetic similarity to certain words.
The massive gain in popularity of using numbers as expressions in the last two decades is in part attributed to the widespread use of text messages for communication. It’s much easier and more convenient to type a number than a word.
For example, the number 520 represents “I love you.” Another common number combination is 1314, which means “forever in life.” So it’s not uncommon for lovers, especially those who are dating, to use the number code 5201314 as a declaration of love. So, if you are dating a Chinese and receive their messages with these numbers, don’t think it is a typo mistake.
What are your favorite Chinese symbols for love? Let us know by sharing a comment!
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