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Don F Gates
Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
   

Grand Acupuncture Center
3931 Grand Ave, 2nd Floor
Oakland  CA 94610
510-428-9430

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Bats in Chinese Art
In the Mandarin tongue, the character for "bat" is pronounced the same as the one for "happiness"——and from that play on words, bats have become associated with good fortune. When shown singly, bats represent happiness and are often depicted in bright red, the color of joy. When five bats are seen together in Chinese art, typically encircling the stylized ideogram known as the prosperity symbol, they represent the Five Blessings: health, wealth, virtuousness, longevity, and a peaceful, natural death.
This popular motif is traditionally embroidered on fine silk clothing to imply that the wearer's prosperity results from a virtuous lifestyle. For much the same reason, it's also a recurrent theme in traditional tile- and brick-work.
The leap from the traditional Chinese concept of the Five Blessings to the fundamental TCM theory of the Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water) seems to me a natural extension of the symbol's meaning. Further, with the average American associating the bat less with fortune and benevolence than with nightmares and evil—Dracula, Halloween, Batman (okay, so the campy 1960s TV series' Batman wasn't all that scary, but tell that to Frank Miller and Dave McKean)—I feel that bats deserve all the good press they can get.

In light of that, I encourage you to visit (and support) the fabulous Bat Conservation International, where you can learn more about bats and their importance to our ecology and economy.