What a great way to begin our blog – by welcoming in the Chinese New Year. In China, it is traditional to start the new year by pasting auspicious paper cutouts of the character (福) on the front door of your house. The character means good fortune or happiness, and is often printed in the lucky color red.

While walking around Chinatown here in the States or among the meandering lanes of Old Town in Shanghai, those with a keen eye will notice that the cutouts are hanging upside down.

Chinese fu character hanging upside down.

But wait . . . why would you hang something lucky upside down?

The answer lies in the beauty of the Chinese language. Many Chinese characters look different but are pronounced the same. The character dào (倒) means upside down. This sounds the same as the character dào (到) which means to arrive. When you see pasted upside down, it reminds you of the word “to arrive.” So an upside-down creates a play on words which indicates that good fortune has arrived.

Seeing these upside-down paper cutouts reminds me of the upside-down nature of acupuncture.

How can being stuck with needles actually make me feel better? How can being in a room full of other people (some of whom may be snoring) make me feel more relaxed and comfortable than I would in my own private treatment room?

Those of us who have sat down in a cozy recliner surrounded by the hushed sounds of other people sleeping, and who have let our acupuncturist place tiny needles in our arms and legs, know the answers to these questions. We know that sometimes things that seem so incongruous, so contradictory, are actually quite extraordinary.

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