Ancient Chinese Charm coin
Deer under a plum tree blossom, and a Magpie above
Size: 72 mm; Weight: 41 grams
Deer under a plum tree blossom and a Magpie above
Deer are among the most frequently seen animals on charms. The Chinese character for deer is 鹿 which is pronounced lu. The Chinese character 禄, which refers to the salary a government official receives, is also pronounced lu. A picture of a deer is therefore expressing a wish for a top government office with a high salary.
The Chinese believe the deer lives to a very great age and, as a result, has become a symbol for long life. The deer is traditionally believed to be the only animal able to find the magical lingzhi fungus of immortality. The deer is often seen by the side of Shou, the God of Longevity. The deer often is used as a verbal pun to refer to the God of Prosperity which has the same pronunciation (lu). The deer as a symbol used on charms may be seen at the following: Men Plow, Women Weave, Eight Treasures, and Auspicious Inscriptions.
A magpie (xi que 喜 鹊) is frequently used to symbolize "happiness" because the first character xi is the same word as happy (xi 喜). If the magpie is shown upside down, it means happiness has "arrived" because the Chinese words for "upside down" (倒) and "arrived" (到) are both pronounced dao.
Two magpies facing each other symbolize "double happiness" (shuang xi 喜喜). (See charm at Coin Inscriptions.)
A pair of magpies also symbolize marriage. This is based on an ancient legend concerning two heavenly lovers, the Oxherd and the Weaver Girl (Weaving Maiden). The two are separated for eternity except for one day each year (known as qixi 七夕, the Double Seven, or Sisters Festival) when they are allowed to meet each other by crossing a celestial river on a bridge made of magpies.
One can say "there is a happy bird (magpie) on the tip of the plum branch" as xi shang mei shao (喜上梅稍) which sounds exactly like saying xi shang mei shao (喜上眉稍) which means "happiness up to one's eyebrows". This expression means "very happy".