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Oranges on the altar.
Oranges on the altar.

A common question from new students is, “What’s with all the oranges on the altar?”

Oranges are a common sight on Chinese shrines and altars. You may also see flowers or cups of tea as well as other types of food with incense burning nearby and statues or figures of deities. During Chinese New Year tangerines and oranges are given as a symbol of good fortune and riches because of the golden colour and their round shape which are both seen as auspicious. Tangerines represent wealth where oranges are a popular symbol of good luck. The associations come from a similarity between the Chinese words for tangerine and gold, as well as a resemblance between the words orange and good luck.

Hung Ga Kuen is also a style of kung fu derived from the Shaolin Temple. Shaolin is a Buddhist temple and in Buddhist culture, fruit symbolizes enlightenment, the ultimate goal of all humans. Offerings are not made to please Buddha, since he is seen to already possess universal love and compassion. Instead, the altars and offerings promote positive energy for the ancestors of the family or tradition.

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