A Chinese Handling box for Temple Newsam House, Leeds

New Year envelopes, Buddha, pendants, tiger and ox models

Red paper envelopes with lucky New Year symbols and characters

Use: Family members put coins in the envelopes and give them to children of the family at New Year.

Background: Chinese New Year, otherwise known as the Spring Festival, takes place according to the lunar calendar and is usually in January or February. It is the biggest festival of the year and a time for families to be reunited and to honour their ancestors. All the family gathers for a meal on New Year’s Eve, on a table spread with new tablecloths and using new chopsticks and dishes. Calligraphy pictures symbolising good luck and long life are hung around the house (see Object C21 Lucky Symbol), and fireworks and firecrackers are set off. On New Year’s Day everyone dresses in new clothes and visits relatives and friends, taking gifts such as fruit or flowers and money for the children and being offered tea and sweetmeats to eat. The festivities last for fifteen days and include dragon and lion dances


Buddha figure

Use : Lucky charm or ornament

Background : Buddhism came to China in around 500 CE from India. It became very influential, but always existed alongside the two other major Chinese religions/philosophies of Daoism and Confucianism. This Buddha figure is a symbol of health and happiness. He is laughing and has a big round tummy which shows wealth and a good life. In his right hands he holds the ancient Chinese currency of gold (Jin Yuan Bao) and in his right a jade holder (Ling Zhi) containing the elixir of immortality. A person might stroke the Buddha’s tummy in order to ensure health, stroke his right hand for wealth or his left for a long life.


Jade effect pendants on red thread. One depicts a snake, one a cockerel – both are figures from the Chinese Zodiac

Use : The pendants can be hung from the bottom of a mobile phone.

Background : It is believed to be good luck to carry an icon of your own astrological sign. This object was included to show how Chinese astrology and the power of symbols is still important today, and has been adapted to suit the modern world.


Tiger and ox resin models, signs in Chinese astrology

Use : Ornaments or lucky charms

Background : It is believed to be good luck to carry an icon of your own astrological sign. People born in the year of the Tiger are said to be brave and strong. Those born in the year of the Ox are believed to be hard-working and to ask for little for themselves.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Temple Newsam House, Leeds Museums and Galleries | 
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