Chinese Boy Charms
parents have favored sons over daughters. Throughout
of China's history, the ideal family size was considered to
be 5 sons and 2 daughters.
responsible for continuing the ancestral lineage and
carrying out ancestor worship. Ancient
Chinese society placed a great emphasis on having children,
particularly males, to carry out Confucian filial piety
responsibilities and rituals.
Mencius (Meng Zi 孟子), the most famous Confucian scholar
said "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
examination system and achieve the rank of a high
government position which would bring honor and wealth to
When 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
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.
Sometimes the lower portion of the charm has a Chinese
inscription, and sometimes it displays other Chinese good
These boy charms usually have an eyelet on the 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
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 were bowing.
The body position also reminds one of the Chinese maritial
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
At the top is a tree peony or mudan (牡丹).
Because of the way it sometimes grows as doubles, the
peony 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 means "flower of
wealth and honor".
To the right of the hole is the plum (mei 梅). The
plum symbolizes courage and hope because it blossoms first
and bravely stands steadfast against the dangers of winter.
Additionally, the five petals of the plum
blossom symbolize the "five
五福), also known as the "five happinesses" or "five good
fortunes". The five blessings are longevity (寿),
wealth (富), health and composure (康宁), virtue (修好德), and
the desire to die a natural death in old age (考 终命).
To the left
of the hole is a lotus
which in Chinese is lianhua (莲花) or hehua (荷花).
Lian is also the
pronunciation for the Chinese word "continuous" (连)
and he is the
the word "harmony" (和).
The lotus thus has the symbolic meaning of
But the symbolism goes even deeper.
Lotus seeds (lianzi 莲
籽) have the hidden meaning of continuous birth of sons
because 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
"boy" but the character zi
(子) sounds the same as the zi (籽) in
lotus seed. And, the lian (连) meaning "connect"
sounds the same as lian
(莲) for lotus.
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 pronunciation.
This bronze boy charm is 93 mm in length and has a maximum
width of 45 mm.
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