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Imperial Calligraphy of “Blessing” Characters (Fu) by Qing Emperors

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Period: Kangxi – Daoguang reigns (1662–1850), Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium: Ink on decorative paper

During the Spring Festival (i.e., Chinese New Year), families across China paste “blessing” characters (fu) in their homes and on doors. During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) on the first day of the twelfth lunar month, the emperor would take up his “Blessing for the People” (Cifu cangsheng) brush and write the first “blessing” character (fu) on a sheet of paper decorated with imperial dragons in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong). He would then write another ten or more to be pasted throughout the palace and, then, another quantity to be gifted to court ministers and officials from across the empire and vassal states. The list of recipients was drafted by the Office for Provincial Memorials (Zoushi chu) and finally approved by the emperor.

These “blessing” characters (fu) were written by the Kangxi (1662–1722), Yongzheng (1723–1735), Qianlong (1736–1795), Jiaqing (1796–1820), and Daoguang (1821–1850) emperors. For the exhibition “Celebrating the Spring Festival in the Forbidden City” at the beginning of 2019, the five characters are displayed in the shape of a qing (an ancient chime stone) to represent “blessed celebration” (fuqing). The top, and central, character was written by the Kangxi Emperor. The middle-left character is by the Yongzheng Emperor while the middle-right is by the Qianlong Emperor. The one on the bottom-left is by the Jiaqing Emperor, and that on the bottom-right is by the Daoguang Emperor. This arrangement accords with the traditional order of “Brilliance on the Left, Reverence on the Right” (zuozhao youmu).

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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