L to R: Shou, Lu, Fu
(Cover of a book by Asiapac)
Gods of "Blessings, Prosperity, and Longevity"
||Fu Lu Shou
(plus sometimes a fourth, "Xi"); more fully Fu Xing (Fu Hsing,
Yang Cheng), Lu Xing (Lu Hsing, Lok Xing, Zhang Xian, Shi
Fen, also Guan Xing), and Shou Xing
(Shou Hsing, Sau Xing, Sou Xing, Zhao Yen).
||Fu, Lu, and Shou are three "gods" sometimes called the "Three
Stars." Separately, they may be called Fu Xing, Lu Xing, and Shou Xing, "Xing" meaning "star." Some have identified them with the three stars of
Translations of the names vary.
Perhaps "Blessings, Prosperity, and Longevity" are close.
The character fu is "good
fortune, blessings, happiness." It denotes being happy as the
result of being lucky. The character is prominently displayed on
doors (including the Temple Guy's), often upside-down, as "turn
upside-down" and a word meaning "arrive" are homophones,
so to say "luck upside-down" sounds like saying "luck is
Lu is "official's salary in
feudal China"--that is, a position in the civil service, one of the
most desired jobs in old China. The Confucian system of study
followed by examination and placement holds sway in all Chinese-based
cultures to this day, including Japan. It was certainly a key to
Shou is unambiguously
Many images add the character xi,
meaning "happiness." This balances the image if written
in characters; it also completes the list of wishes that anyone might
have: in Chinese thinking, what could we possibly want that is not
covered by blessings, prosperity, longevity, and happiness? (How
||Fu Xing is
generally shown as a court official with a characteristically
"winged" hat, and often holding a scepter. He had been
Yang Cheng, governor of Dazhou in Hunan. The emperor of his day
found midgets amusing, and often conscripted them from Dazhou.
When Yang Cheng learned that the midgets were unhappy to be taken away
from their families, he stood up to the emperor, who abolished the
practice. Thus Yang became immortalized as one who brings
blessings and happiness.
Lu Xing was a poor man
born named Shi Fen. Given a minor position at court, he worked
hard, constantly learning, so that ultimately he gained a high
position. As few Chinese have a chance to become court officials,
Lu Xing is often seen holding a baby boy--another route to prosperity,
especially comfort in old age. There are many stories of him as
Zhang Xian helping overcome childlessness.
Shou Xing is perhaps most
popular of the three, often portrayed alone. He was nine years
in the womb, and born with an extraordinarily large head. His
mother had seen the star of the South Pole the night he was conceived;
this star is said to determine the time of a person's death, so Shou
Xing is often called "The Old Deity of the South Pole."
He is usually seen holding the Peach of Immortality, and carrying a peach wood
staff. A crane, a bat, a deer, or some combination of these may be
near him, though they are sometimes associated with the other two stars
("deer" is a homophone of the character for Lu's name).
Another story has him as a lad named Zhao
Yen who encountered the stars of the North Pole (in charge of birth
times) and the South Pole (death times, as mentioned). Because he
kindly shared his food with them, they gave him immortality. In
this version, he was not the star of the South Pole, but
associated with it.
I have found no legend
associated with the inclusion of "Xi" with the triad of
folk (non-Buddhist and not specifically Taoist) temple that I have been
in has a representation of the Fu Lu Shou somewhere, often on overhead
banners before the offering table, or on decorations on the outside of
the building--places often decorated with images of the Ba Xian (Eight
Immortals). Less often, there are statues of the three among the
crowds on side tables (I have not yet seen them on a main altar).
And occasionally, as seen below, they are on frescoes inside the
hall. Look for three men, one with an enormous forehead, and
another holding a child; occasionally there will be a woman in the
group. Be careful that you are not looking at a half-set of the
Eight Immortals--check for four more in balance with these!
This pewter box (for sale here)
shows the four characters for the names:
Some very traditional statues of
Here we see all four of the gods
(Fu in the center, Lu with the child; the woman is Xi), with the bat, stag,
and crane included.
The above image was found in this hall
in Ping Shan in Hong Kong's New Territories; the hall itself has no altar, but
the fresco was in the position of a main image:
|Finally, my friend Lila arrived
one day from Hong Kong with a shopping bag from a Giordano
clothing shop. Each of the three gods includes at least one rooster
symbol--it was near Chinese New Year's of 2005, the Year of the Rooster.
The old boys never looked so good, proving that the traditions are alive and
Photos of hall in Ping
Shan are copyright 2005 by James