Xinfu noun, meaning the state of being happy from Xin the mandarian, for lucky and fu – meaning to have enough or just what you need in life. Unlike the English translation of happiness, xinfu refers not to a good mood, but a good life that is sufficient, sustainable and has meaning. The term originated during the Han dynasty – the second imperial dynasty of China dating from 206BC to AD220.
Xinfu is meaning or purpose – it is a deeper sense of the word Happy, Wei explains, pressing a palm to his chest and magically managing to avoid getting paint on his mandarin – collared black shirt. While many cultures have happiness terms that are to do with pleasure or short term feelings, Xinfu status of your life as Wei puts it. We meet one wet Monday in an old spinning mill that is now a work space for creative types in my town and Wei tell me how his own Xinfu meant swapping China for design school in Denmark. Where he now lives in and works. I wanted creative fulfillment from my career and I felt there was some part of me missing in China. So he chose Denmark? With all the taxes? He smiles: Xinfu cannot be fulfilled material things. Lucky, that. Ofcourse Xinfu requires some money –enough to buy food and pay for shelter. Plus I have to buy paint, he gestures to the to the mettle buckets filled with a glossy black lacquer that I am terrified of tripping over: “ But this was the place where I could live my meaning. “ Studies show that having a sense of purpose can make us happier and researchers at university college London found that having a sense of meaning might also increase our life span.
Xinfu is an ancient concept denoting a set of values systems that are uniquely Chineese. To understand the term in its original Mandarin seek out the expertise of John, the colleague of a friend from Shenzhen. John practices traditional chineese calligraphy and is ( a) kind and (b) patient, deigning to explain in lay persons terms the building blocks of Xinfu’s mandarin characters. Basically, he tells it is a torture.
Alright John take it easy!
We all feel like that sometimes……….