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The makers of Crazy Rich Asians know a thing or two about prosperity. The movie made crazy rich money at the box office, raking in $174 million in the U.S. and $218 million worldwide.
So, when the movie references auspicious symbols, maybe we should pay attention. 👀😊 Below are five of the film’s lucky moments explained.
Before Rachel flies to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick Young’s family, her mom recommends she buy a red dress. “This symbolizes good fortune — and fertility,” she says with a wink. “Wearing a lucky color will make a good first impression.”
IOHO, Rachel looks super cute in her swingy red dress. But when she visits her old college roomie, Peik Lin (hilariously portrayed by Awkwafina), her friend’s entire family lets her know that an off-the-rack dress isn’t nearly glamorous enough for her BF’s unfathomably wealthy clan.
“I thought red was a lucky color. Right?” asks Rachel.
“Yeah, if you’re an envelope,” jokes Peik Lin’s dad.
In China and other Asian countries, friends and family give each other red envelopes stuffed with money on Lunar New Year and other special occasions, including weddings and births. The envelope’s red color represents good fortune and joy.
The Young clan likes an excuse to celebrate! At the start of their stay in Singapore, Nick’s grandmother gathers her family — and the rest of Singapore’s glitterati — to watch her fragranttan hua flowers bloom. The cactus plant’s white petals unfurl once a year and they only do so at night.
In the book on which the movie is based, Nick’s cousin, Astrid, attempts to lure her reluctant husband to the party by saying “it’s awfully good luck to see the flowers bloom.” Later, another one of Nick’s cousins explains to Rachel that it’s “very auspicious to witness tan huas blooming.”
Because the fragrant flowers only last a few hours, the Chinese idiom “tan hua yi xian” is used to describe someone who had an impressive but short-lived moment of fame — in other words, someone had their fifteen minutes of fame.
“Chinese culture is reflected in some of the film’s more subtle details and aesthetic choices,” points out HuffPost. “Rachel and Nick’s grand hotel room contains a blue and white ceramic vase that bears the Chinese characters for ‘double happiness,’ a phrase often used in wedding decorations.” (Perhaps this is a sign of good things to come for the couple!)
Indeed, the film’s production designer told Bridal Guide that hand-painted lanterns with blessings for double happiness, prosperity, and fertility were created for the opulent wedding scene.
Before the wedding rehearsal dinner, the Young family gathers together to make dumplings for the big event. Nick shows Rachel how his grandmother taught him to make dumplings: “You put the baby in bed” and then you “tuck, tuck, tuck” the baby into bed. Or, in more literal terms, you place the meat-and-vegetable filling in the middle of the rolled-out dough, and then you fold the dough around the filling and pinch it closed.
As cute and innocuous as this scene seems at first, the adorable dumplings hold a much meatier meaning. Thanks to their resemblance to currency used during the Ming Dynasty, the crescent-shaped snacks symbolize wealth and prosperity. And in the movie, the dumplings also represent more than just dough: As the website Eater notes, they “are symbolic of family history, a link tying the Youngs together through tradition. The elder Youngs taught their children how to make these specific dumplings, and they’re expected to pass the tradition on.”
In the pivotal mahjong battle between Rachel and Nick’s mother, Eleanor, Rachel’s power is palpable even if you’re totally clueless about the game. But as explained in an article on Vox, the game’s tiles have quite a tale to tell:
“The four seats in mahjong are named after the compass directions,” explains the journalist Jeff Yang. “Eleanor, in the role of the ‘East,’ representing Asia, is the player in control. Rachel, sitting across from her, represents America — the ‘West.’”
“Early in the scene, Eleanor completes a “pong,” or a matched set of tiles. In this move, Eleanor communicates to Rachel that she “is trying to create a winning hand comprising all matches of the same exact tile — an ‘extended family’ that’s metaphorically composed of kaki lang [our kind of people].”
“Rachel … draws the most important tile in the game: an eight of bamboo,” writes Yang. (Spoiler alert: This is the winning tile for both her and Eleanor.) “The number eight is of huge symbolic importance to the Chinese; it resembles the character for fortune and is considered a sign of wealth, prosperity, and happiness. It’s why so many Chinese license plates, phone numbers, and even street addresses contain eights.”
Adds Yang, Rachel “also had two ‘bonus tiles’…” One “appears to be a chicken tile. … As Peik-Lin points out, Rachel and Eleanor are engaged in a game of ‘chicken.’ In this scene, Rachel proves that she won’t be the one run off the road.” BUK BUK!
While not everyone can afford the Young family’s life of luxury, we can all treat our loved ones to the world’s most luxurious floss. Cocofloss will make their pearly whites gleam like cousin Astrid’s $1.2 million dollar earrings!