Have you found your mandarin duck half?

This symbol of eternal love has its roots in one unlikely couple.

At Chinese weddings, it’s common to see motifs of Mandarin ducks on various decorations. In Chinese culture, Mandarin ducks are believed to be extremely faithful to their partner, and are symbols of love, devotion, affection and fidelity.

The Chinese refer to mandarin ducks as yuanyang. A mandarin duck couple looks very striking — the female has dull feathers, while the male has colourful plumage. Because their appearance is so different, yuanyang is also colloquially used in Cantonese to describe an odd or unlikely couple.

Although yuanyang is a representation of eternal devotion, the story behind it is one that features an unlikely pairing: a gardener and the daughter of an official.

In ancient Chinese folklore, it’s said that gardener, Yuan Ge, was hired by a retired official, Hong Fu, to do some cultivation work at a park. One day, during a local festival, a cry for help was heard from the park’s lotus pond. It came from Hong Fu’s daughter, Ying Mei.

Yuan Ge jumped into the pool to save her. But Hong Fu misinterpreted this act of saving her life as an attempt to take advantage of his daughter. He imprisoned Yuan Ge, even though Ying Mei begged for his innocence.

One night, Ying Mei secretly visited Yuan Ge’s prison cell and gifted him a multi-coloured robe. The visit was witnessed by the guards, who reported it to Hong Fu. Enraged, he ordered Yuan Ge to be thrown into the lotus pond with stones tied to his feet.

Heartbroken, Ying Mei jumped into the pond to be with Yuan Ge. Days later, a pair of birds were spotted swimming around the pond. The male was colourful, like the robe that Ying Mei gifted to Yuan Ge. Those who saw these birds believed that the couple had taken the form of the two loving birds. And thus, the term yuanyang was coined.

Some pairings, like Yuan Ge and Ying Mei, may seem unlikely but are actually the perfect fit for each other. Sometimes, unlikely investments are ones that could fit you too. Learn more with Eastspring investments

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