"Good Fortune" and Longevity
Charms with 24 "Good Fortune"
Characters and 24 Longevity Characters
The most common Chinese character (symbol) seen on charms
is fu (福) which
means "good fortune" and happiness. The second most
common Chinese character (symbol) appearing on charms is shou (寿) meaning "long
life" or longevity.
Each of the old Chinese charms displayed below has 24
different variations of the "good fortune" character fu written on one side
and 24 different variations of the longevity character shou written on the other
Reasons for 24 Characters (Symbols)
Apparently, more characters bring more "good luck"
but why 24?
It is interesting that this particular type of old
Chinese charm always
has 24 characters (symbols) on a side. I have done some
research but so far have not been able to determine from any
source as to exactly why the number of characters is always
Possible reasons are proposed below.
Twenty-four is a multiple of 8. Eight is considered a
very auspicious number in Chinese because of the similar
pronunciation in certain Chinese dialects of the number "8" and the Chinese for
wealth or "good fortune".
The reason may be because 24 is the sum of the number of
zodiac animals (12) and the number of Earthly Branches (12)
displayed on old Chinese zodiac charms. (For
additional information, please see ancient
The special Chinese compass (luo pan 罗盘) used in
feng shui (风水) has a ring which
indicates 24 directions poetically referred to as "mountains"
(shan 山) each 15
degrees apart. The 24 "mountains" include 4 of the 8 trigrams which are used as
intercardinal (corner points), 8 of the 10 Heavenly
Stems (excluding the two Earth Stems), and the 12 Earthly Branches.
The number 24 is also the sum of the 12
months of the year and the 12 shichen (时辰). In ancient China, the
day was divided into 12
two-hour periods which were called shichen.
Perhaps the reason is because the Chinese, since ancient
times, have divided the year into 24 seasonal markers or solar
terms or nodes called jieqi
(节气). The 24 jieqi
correspond to the different positions the sun occupies in
regard to the 12 signs of the zodiac and include the
following: Slight cold, Great cold, Beginning of Spring,
Rain water, Excited insects, Vernal equinox, Pure brightness,
Corn rain, Beginning of Summer, Small fullness, Sprouting
seeds, Summer solstice, Slight heat, Great heat, Beginning of
Autumn, Stopping of heat, White dew, Autumnal equinox, Cold
dew, Frost's descent, Beginning of Winter, Slight snow, Heavy
snow, and Winter solstice.
Confucianism dominated Chinese
society for two thousand years and included as its primary
virtue "filial piety"
which was respect for one's parents and ancestors. One
of the most famous historical collections of stories
concerning how children displayed filial piety, and known by
all Chinese, was "The Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety"
(ershisixiao 二十四孝). (For a very interesting discussion
of a Confucian charm depicting four of these stories please
The first religious Daoist sect, known as Wudoumi Dao (五
斗米道 "Five Bushels of Rice"), was established by
Zhang Daoling at the end of the Han Dynasty and organized into
24 districts or dioceses (zhi
Finally, the reason for 24 characters may be associated with
the Chinese traditionally viewing life in groups of 12.
For example, a child grew into adolescence at the age of
12. A person entered society for the first time at age
24. At 36, a person reached maturity. At 48, a
person was expected to have accomplished something in life and
then to retire at age 60.
Whatever the real reason may be for having exactly 24 fu characters and 24 shou characters, anyone
who appreciates the beauty of Chinese calligraphy will
certainly enjoy viewing these charms.
This old Chinese charm has the "good fortune" character fu (福) written 24 times
on one side.
Each character is written in a slightly different way or
You will also notice that this type of charm has a circular
hole instead of the square hole found on Chinese coins.
Most charms with round holes were meant to be worn on a
necklace or hung from the waist.
The diameter of this piece is almost 45 mm and the weight is