Traditionally, Chinese parents have
favored sons over daughters. Throughout
much of China's history, the ideal family size was considered to
be 5 sons and 2 daughters.
Sons were responsible for continuing
the ancestral lineage and carrying
ancestor worship. Ancient Chinese society placed a
great emphasis on having children,
particularly males, to carry out Confucian
Mencius (Meng Zi 孟子), the most famous Confucian
scholar after Confucius,
"there are three things which are unfilial, and to have no posterity is
the greatest of them."
It was hoped that one or more of the sons would be
successful in the imperial
and achieve the rank of a
high government position which would bring honor and wealth to the
sons grew up they were responsible for caring for their elderly
parents. When daughters grew up, they would marry, leave home and
be responsible for caring for their in-laws.
There is a type of Chinese charm that illustrates this desire for male
children. These charms are said to be more commonly found in
southern China and usually depict a boy in a position of
reverance standing on top of a traditional round charm.
the lower portion of the charm has a Chinese inscription, and
sometimes it displays other
Chinese good luck symbols.
These boy charms usually have an eyelet on
back so that they can be hung or worn.
In Chinese, these boy charms are known as tong zi lian qian (童子连钱) which
roughly translates as boy connected or linked to money.
This is an example of such a pendant charm
with a boy standing on top. The charm was reportedly found in
Guizhou Province in southern China.
As can be seen, the boy is shown in a traditional position of
reverance. His hands are clasped together in front of his chest,
his knees are bent, and his body is leaning slightly forward as if he
The body position also reminds one of the Chinese maritial arts.
The boy is standing on top of a more traditional Chinese charm with a
round hole in the middle. This is known as an "open work" charm
because there are openings or holes between the design elements.
(Please see Chinese Open Work Charms.)
The lower portion of the charm displays images of four different
At the top is a tree
peony or mudan
of the way it sometimes grows as doubles, the
looks to the Chinese like strings
of cash coins and the flower has
thus come to
symbolize prosperity and wealth.
For this reason, the peony is also
known as fuguihua (富贵花) which
of wealth and honor".
To the right of the hole is the plum
(mei 梅). The
and hope because it blossoms first and bravely stands steadfast against
dangers of winter.
Additionally, the five petals of the plum blossom
symbolize the "five
blessings" (wufu 五福), also
known as the "five
happinesses" or "five good fortunes". The five blessings are
wealth (富), health and
composure (康宁), virtue (修好德), and the desire to die a natural death in
old age (考
To the left of the hole
is a lotus which in Chinese is
lianhua (莲花) or
Lian is also the pronunciation
for the Chinese word "continuous" (连)
he is the pronunciation for
word "harmony" (和).
The lotus thus has the symbolic meaning of "continuous harmony".
But the symbolism goes even deeper.
Lotus seeds (lianzi 莲
籽) have the hidden meaning of continuous birth of sons
the lian sounds like
"continuous" (连) and the zi has
the same pronunciation as the word for son or child (zi 子).
As already mentioned, this type of charm is referred to in Chinese as tong zi lian qian (童子连钱) which
roughly translates as "boy connected to money". The tong zi (童子) means
but the character zi (子)
the same as the zi (籽)
lotus seed. And, the lian (连) meaning "connect" sounds
the same as lian (莲)
At the bottom of the charm is the chrysanthemum (ju
菊), a member of a group known as the Four Gentlemen, which
blooms late and confronting the winter symbolizes those who maintain
their virtue despite adversity and temptation.
The chrysanthemum also symbolizes "forever" (yongjiu
永久), and thus "longevity", because of the similarity in
This bronze boy charm is 93 mm in length and has a maximum width of 45