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What characters are depicted on this old jar? My (art-)sources have all different opinions: "fu2 shou4 an1 kang1" or "fu2 lu4 shou4 xi3" or 4 x shou4 or "fu2 shou4 kang1 ning2" and all without telling which tree is what character.

enter image description here

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Claw's answer is good. He is not sure that the last character is "寧(simplified:宁)", and I also doubt it. That character seems like “樂(simplified:乐)” to me, which means "happy,delightful". Look at the bottom part of that tree, it looks like "木", right? – Huang Feb 13 '12 at 13:02

It should be 福壽康寧 (fú shòu kāng níng; simplified: 福寿康宁).

I'm pretty certain about the first 3; 寧 is the only one that is hard to tell, but based on context, it should be 寧.

EDIT: And this is what it means: good fortune, long life, health and peace

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I did some more research regarding the fourth character and found this in a book I did buy in China. scan chinese book

I can't read it (I'm collecting art...) but recognize the 寿 (shou) between quotes, so is it 寿 in a different way of writing as 3 ? But then some time ago a Dutch professor in Chinese suggested 喜, Huang thinks it's 乐 and Claw 寧. So the mystery remains...

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Alenanno? I didn't say anything on the characters. Maybe you mean Huang... Anyway, please post a complete answer, don't address part of the question. – Alenanno Feb 14 '12 at 10:52
@Alenanno: Sorry, saw your name as the one who 'edited' my question, overlooked that Huang added the comment. And I thought it could be helpful to post the conflicting answers I found elsewhere. – Henry vM Feb 14 '12 at 11:42
It is helpful! I was just saying that you could add something about the other characters too. :) – Alenanno Feb 14 '12 at 11:43
Hmm... if the 4th one is 寿, I wonder if the 3rd one could be 寧 instead. – Claw Feb 20 '12 at 19:04

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