TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Tuesday (Feb. 15) issued Lunar New Year's blessings derived from puns based on tropical fruits produced in Taiwan.
On Tuesday, Tsai explained on Twitter that food and wordplay are commonly used to offer best wishes and good fortune for the Lunar New Year. In her tweet, she included four Lunar New Year puns tied to tropical fruits commonly grown in the country.
In the first of the sayings, the word for luck (吉, ji) from 大吉大利 (dajijali), which means "wishing great luck and success," was replaced with the word for tangerine (桔, ju). The resulting pun 大桔大利 (dajudali) translates as "wishing great tangerine and success."
The next greeting features a fruit that is widely eaten in Taiwan: the wax apple (蓮霧, lianwu). Tsai modified the original greeting 好事連連 (haoshilianlian, many happy returns) by replacing the second 連 with the first half of the word for wax apple (蓮), which by itself means lotus — also an auspicious symbol.
A challenging pun for those not familiar with Taiwanese Hokkien is the one involving pineapples. In Taiwanese Hokkien, pineapple is pronounced ong lai (鳳梨), which is homophonic with the Mandarin phrase 旺來 (wanglai, flourishing). Combining this phrase with good luck 好運 (haoyun), the greeting becomes 好運旺來 (haoyunwanglai), meaning "flourishing good luck" in Mandarin and sounding like "good luck pineapples" in Taiwanese Hokkien.
The last greeting is a play on the Mandarin description of the custard apple's resemblance to the Buddha's hair. The Mandarin word for custard apple is 釋迦 (shijia), which literally means Sakyamuni (Sage of the Shakyas), another name for Gautama Buddha.
Many statues of Buddha depict snail shells attached to his head. In Taiwan, the bulbous protrusions on the custard apple have been compared to these shells, thus it has been dubbed 釋迦, or in some cases "Buddha's head fruit" in English.
The saying 事事如意 (shishiruyi), meaning "wishing every success," has been modified to 事釋如意 (shijiaruyi), which roughly translates to "success in Buddhist matters." However, it is really just a pun, and the intended meaning is to wish a person success in all things.
Food and wordplay are both big parts of #LunarNewYear here in #Taiwan. These traditional Lunar New Year’s blessings make puns on the names of delicious local produce. May all your endeavours in the Year of the Ox bear fruit! pic.twitter.com/IDgAC4muBc— 蔡英文 Tsai Ing-wen (@iingwen) February 15, 2021