Understanding Chinese Symbolism
In Chinese art and design, almost everything is symbolic, which allows us to read special meanings encoded in the images themselves or in how their written names look and sound. These symbolic meanings often originate in traditions and legends, but many come from wordplay within the Chinese language.
Chinese contains many homophones — words with the same pronunciation but different meanings — which often add new layers of symbolic meaning through humorous puns. Sometimes the written name of a symbol shares some of the same basic writing components with another Chinese character. This connects the symbol with that word, giving it new meaning.