Interesting findings & case studies on commonly misunderstood and mystery images

Are you afraid of small insects such as spiders? Why do we see this tidy dangling creature a popular motif used in traditional Chinese art? There is a secret here…

The flying mammal bat is called bian fu (蝙蝠) in Chinese. Image of the bat including its various stylised forms are often used in Chinese art to express an auspicious meaning, as ‘蝠 (fu)’ in ‘蝙蝠’ puns on ‘福 (fu)’ which means ‘good luck’, ‘good fortune’, and/or ‘happiness’ in Chinese. Therefore, one or more bats flying in the sky towards people is an auspicious pun rebus design popular in traditional China.

Related Pun Pictures:

May unexpected good luck descend on you! 喜从天降

Pun Design: Quails + Magpies

Punning Details:

The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ puns on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. The word ‘‘xi 喜’ in ‘xi que 喜鹊’ for ‘magpie’ can mean ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’. Thus, the combination of quails and magpies can be used to convey the auspicious message of ‘May you enjoy peace and happiness’.


画面要素: 鹌鹑 + 喜鹊

谐音详情: 取‘鹌鹑’ 中 ‘鹌’ 与 ‘安’ 谐音和 ‘喜鹊’ 中的 ‘喜’ 字构成 ‘安喜’ 祝愿。


Related Pun Picture:

May unexpected good luck descend on you 喜从天降


Pun Design: Quails + Chrysanthemum

Punning Details:

The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ makes a pun on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. The word ‘ju 菊’ in ‘ju hua 菊花’ for ‘chrysanthemum’ puns on the word ‘ju 居’ for ‘to live’. Thus, the composition forms a pictorial pun that conveys the auspicious message of ‘May you live in peace and leisure’.


画面要素:鹌鹑 + 菊花

谐音详情:‘鹌鹑’ 中 ‘鹌’ 与 ‘安’ 谐音, ‘菊花’ 中 ‘菊’ 与 ‘居’ 谐音


Related Pun Pictures:

May you enjoy peace and happiness 安喜

May the country be in peace and order forever 久安长治

Pun design:

Spider + descending from the sky

Punning mechanism:

‘Zhi zhu (蜘蛛, spider)’ has a nickname ‘xi zi (蟢子)’ or ‘xi zhu (喜蛛)’ meaning the ‘lucky one’ or ‘lucky spider’.

Its first character ‘xi 喜(蟢)’ for ‘happiness (good luck)’ is then combined with the phrase ‘cong tian jiang (从天降)’, meaning ‘descending from the sky’.

The whole phrase (喜从天降) describing the spider’s action in the picture is to convey the meaning ‘pleasant surprise descending on you’.


画面要素:蜘蛛 + 从天降

谐音机制 : 取蜘蛛的别名‘喜蛛’谐音‘喜’; 某物自天而降,取‘从天降’


Related Pun Pictures:

May good fortune descend from heaven 喜从天降

Related blog:

Why do Chinese artists often paint spider in their works?