happiness and joy in traditional chinese jewelry

happiness and joy in traditional chinese jewelry

"Joyful Culture" is an integral part of China's exceptional traditional culture. Its humanistic essence has continuously evolved alongside the economic development, political transformations, and cultural prosperity of ancient Chinese society. Created by people and chosen by many, it stands as an outstanding representative of Chinese folk culture. It carries within it the unceasing wish for a better life, flowing through the veins of the Chinese nation, symbolizing people's aspirations for the beauty of joy. With the passage of time, Joyful Culture remains evergreen, increasingly becoming synonymous with the optimistic and upward spirit of the Chinese nation.


In today's consumer market, jewelry has become an indispensable part. However, in Chinese jewelry design, a trend towards uniformity is evident, primarily in materials and styles. While jewelry styles should ideally be diverse, the prevalent consumer preference for popular designs has resulted in a multitude of pieces that lack novelty. Jewelry produced using molds often lacks distinctive design styles, diminishing originality, and resulting in a singular design approach. Furthermore, instances of rapid imitation and plagiarism of excellent jewelry designs have caused significant losses for jewelry designers, thereby impeding the development of jewelry design in China and denting designers' confidence. In contrast, the standards for jewelry design are higher abroad, with designers aiming for innovation in their creations. Additionally, the abundance of resources abroad facilitates the utilization of various materials in jewelry design. Foreign designers lead fashion trends through innovative design concepts, thereby dictating the popularity of jewelry. It's a collective responsibility for contemporary Chinese jewelry designers to infuse new vitality into Chinese cultural soil, broaden the artistic perspective of traditional Chinese jade culture, seek inspiration from cultural designs in craftsmanship, and showcase the vigorous vitality and boundless creativity of traditional culture.


The Chinese characters are symbols used to record the Chinese language, where the characters we use in our daily lives belong to the category of ideogram characters. Each character succinctly encapsulates the most basic essence of a particular thing, and the character for "joy" is no exception. The character for "joy" was initially discovered in the Shang Dynasty oracle bone inscriptions and is composed of the elements for "auspicious/happy," "mouth," and "drum," vividly depicting the joyful act of clapping hands in happiness upon hearing or personally sharing delightful news. Joy is the most common emotion experienced by people, one of the seven emotions, encompassing everyday feelings of fondness, hobbies, happiness, pleasure, and delight. It is also one of the "Five Blessings" often mentioned by the Chinese, alongside fortune, prosperity, longevity, and wealth. The Chinese people's profound love for joy is evident in its widespread application in daily folk customs. From numerous appellations and phrases passed down through the ages, such as celebrations, wedding banquets, wedding candies, auspicious eggs, wedding invitations, auspicious couplets, and auspicious banners, to terms like joyous pulse and morning sickness, or specific terms representing joyous events in life, such as beneficial rain, good news, congratulations, celebrations, and comedies—it's easy to see how the Chinese associate the arrival of new life, the integration of new families, and auspicious events with joy, anticipating that new things can bring happiness and auspiciousness to life, thus forming a unique joy culture. Throughout history, joy culture has represented the Chinese people's pursuit of a beautiful life, harmonious families, and cheerful spirits. As the saying goes, "Life is dull without joy, and life lacks fun without joy."


In traditional Chinese jewelry design, there is often an embodiment of the Chinese populace's aspirations for auspiciousness. These aspirations can be categorized into four major themes: wealth, auspiciousness, longevity, and joy. Specific symbols in traditional auspicious patterns include bats for seeking fortune, Buddha's hand, fish, jade ruyi scepters, Chinese cabbage, peonies, ancient coins, the Eight Treasures, gourds, pine and cypress trees, cranes, lingzhi mushrooms, peaches, turtles, immortals, longevity stars, and longevity locks for praying for longevity. Symbols denoting celebration include magpies, deer, pomegranates, gourds, grapes, sails, children, dragon and phoenix motifs, kirins, and the twelve zodiac animals. Symbols praying for career advancement and a smooth career path encompass monkeys, cockscomb flowers, halberds, lions, fish leaping over the Dragon Gate, and more. These auspicious patterns, as integral parts of Chinese joy culture, have become symbolic representations of national cognition and interests.


The elements of Joyful Culture, apart from being extensively used by the Chinese people to seek peace and auspiciousness, also find abundant application in traditional Chinese wedding customs. In China, the union of marriage is regarded as one of life's most significant moments. In such a society and family-oriented event like a wedding banquet, a symbolic auspicious painting is hung in the wedding hall. The protagonists of the artwork are two joyful and lively children with tousled hair and smiling faces. One is dressed in red, holding a lotus flower, symbolizing harmony, and a lotus pod, signifying the union of marriage. The other child, adorned in green attire, holds a round box from which five bats emerge. The five bats symbolize the arrival of the Five Blessings, conveying abundant blessings in Chinese auspicious culture. These two children, adored by the populace, represent the beloved Harmonious Union Immortals, often depicted in such decorative elements, commonly utilized in traditional wedding jewelry designs.


In modern jewelry design, inheriting and applying traditional Joyful Culture holds significant significance, primarily evident in three aspects: Firstly, it fulfills the need to boost cultural self-confidence. A high level of cultural confidence is a fundamental prerequisite for promoting the prosperity and flourishing of socialist culture in the new era, a necessary requirement for the return of Chinese culture to the world stage. Jewelry, as a form of cultural expression, requires a blend of exquisite craftsmanship and cultural ideologies to create contemporary jewelry with distinctive Chinese cultural characteristics. This is profoundly meaningful as it allows the world to understand Chinese culture through the representation of Joyful Culture in jewelry, narrating the profound significance of "small jewelry, big stories," reinforcing confidence in Chinese socialist cultural characteristics, demonstrating that the enduring aspect of love isn't diamonds but the continuous pursuit of the spiritual qualities of Chinese culture. Secondly, it fulfills the need for contemporary jewelry innovation. Designers, by integrating materials, colors, forms, and other factors according to diverse requirements, can imbue artistic creation concepts into jewelry design, crafting innovative and excellent jewelry pieces. Currently, China's entire jewelry market still faces various design issues and lags behind the international standards in jewelry design, whether in artistic concepts or commercial value. Integrating China's Joyful Culture into jewelry design plays a pivotal role in both modern jewelry design and the preservation of traditional culture. It not only perpetuates and promotes traditional culture but also fosters the development of the Chinese jewelry design market, paving new paths for the advancement and progression of jewelry design. Thirdly, it fulfills the need to carry forward noble customs and establish an awareness of life norms. The Chinese civilization has a long history and stands as a unique spiritual emblem of the Chinese nation, serving as a spiritual bond among Chinese worldwide and representing a treasury of Chinese cultural innovation. It's crucial to widely propagate the research achievements of the Chinese Civilization Exploration Project, educate and guide the masses, especially the youth, to better understand and identify with Chinese civilization, enhancing their pride and confidence as Chinese. Wearing Joyful Culture jewelry helps instill a life view of unity, friendship, and the courage to shoulder responsibilities. It promotes healthy perspectives on love, marriage, and family, thereby positively impacting individual behavior norms and contributing to societal stability and healthy development.


Contemporary jewelry design, serving as an art form for human society, is intricately linked to the economic, cultural, and political changes in human society. Artists draw inspiration from everyday life stories brimming with positive meanings, enriching the humanistic essence of jewelry design through diverse expressions. This evolution has transformed jewelry design into symbols showcasing individuals' lives and spiritual worlds. Good design originates from people and ultimately serves people. Joyful Culture, as an exceptional component of China's traditional culture, carries profound connotations and a long history. By using Joyful Culture as a source of inspiration and infusing contemporary interpretations into traditional folk customs, designers can inject new vigor into Joyful Culture, creating designs that resonate with people and bring delight. This revitalization allows traditional Joyful Culture to radiate new brilliance in the modern era.



(Author: Huang Xiong, Professor at Hubei University of Technology, School of Art and Design; Wu Yajie, Master's student at Hubei University of Technology, School of Art and Design)

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