by William B. Guthrie
Cantonese dialect Chinese, literally, "eight (bat) directions (gua)." The original reference may be to the eight divisions of the Chinese compass. In any case, an idea of universality is intended.
In traditional Chinese religion pakua refers to the "luck" symbol consisting of a mirror encircled by the I Ching trigrams. Properly it does not so much represent good luck as it repels bad luck, ghosts, demons and especially bad fung shui. The pakua can be found in the basic form described, usually as a plaque, seen on a temple or residence, or even on a place of business. A pakua is held to be useful if pointed through a door which opens into a public area or if hung in a window which strangers can see from a street. If a building is accidentally the target of a pakua, a sharp object — often a sword of metal or wood, knife or other cutlery-shaped object, such as old-fashioned Chinese "cash" strung together in the form of a sword, or even a table fork — should be positioned to "catch" the reflected bad luck. These devices are also used to catch or destroy any kind of bad fung shui.
It is also the name of a traditional martial art, one of the many types of Chinese boxing. In Macau "pakua" is a word for an insatiably curious person.