China the Beautiful

What is Chinese Chun Lian (New Year's Couplet)?

Chun lian is a special type of Duilian, or couplet. It is used only during the Chinese New Year as part of its celebration. While duilian is permanent, chunlian is a temporary decoration to be placed on the entrance of the house, somewhat akin to Halloween and Christmas decorations.

Duilian comprises of a couplet written on vertical strips of red paper in the best calligraphic style one can muster.
The first (called upper) line is posted on the right side of the front door.
The second (called lower) line is posted on the left side of the front door.

In addition, a third horizontal piece may be posted across and on top the door.

Look at this picture or this for a general idea.
Look at this painting depicting the scene of writing couplets

Typically, the chun lian writes an happy, hopeful, uplifting message about a better New Year to come, like this one:

   

 

Word-for-word translation of above:

Top (Horizontal across)   : Whole   Earth  Returns  Spring

Left (Vertical) line    : winter gone mountain clear water sparkles

Right (Vertical) line: Spring comes   bird    sings flower fragrant

Note that word for word, the upper and lower lines are antithetical, yet the meanings are complementary and content of the message is hopeful and uplifting. The words in the horizontal are written from left to right.

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