Among the many characters in Chinese folklore, few have become household names as recognized as Fu Lu Shou (福禄寿).
This is a team comprising of 3 deities. Namely Fu, Lu and Shou.
In mandarin, fu lu shou means blessings, prosperity and longevity. This combination of auspiciousness covers all aspects of life and is generally known as all-encompassing good fortune manifestations that one can enjoy in life.
Also known as San Xing (三星), they are also sometimes referred to with the alias Cai Zi Shou (财子寿) which means fortune, children and longevity.
The word fu lu shou are so commonly spoken of that children very often mention the words in phrases without really knowing that the term is a direct reference to the 3 deities.
Temples are erected just to worship the trio. Even whole buildings have been named after the threesome gods of good luck.
Legends of Fu Lu Shou
Each of the three deities have their own fascinating stories regarding their origins. Here are some of the most popular ones.
Fu the god of blessings
The Fu star is a reference to the planet Jupiter which during the old days was believed to be a very auspicious star. It is sometimes referenced as the year star… not to be confused with the grand duke.
A point of interest is that the worship of the god of wealth was originally meant to be for this star. However, that slowly evolved to something else.
Often also known as the god of happiness or god of fortune, mythology associated the Fu star with a governor of DaoZhou named Yang Cheng (楊成).
He was said to have risked the wrath of the emperor by writing to his majesty to save the lives of midgets who were summoned to the palace to provide entertainment. This gamble paid off as the emperor saw Yang’s point of view and release all midgets back to the prefecture to be with their loved ones.
This episode earned him the title as the god of happiness among the people. And after his death, he was worshipped as a god.
Another tale tell of a business man called Zhang who distributed foodstuff for the poor. Upon hearing this, the god of wealth and god of glad tiding decided to pay him a visit to give their blessings. Amazingly, Zhang refused to open the door for them. Then the god of blessings made his arrival and Zhang merrily opened the doors for the gods. His reasoning was that without happiness, there would be no use for wealth and good news.
Lu the god of prosperity
The god of prosperity is a reference to the sixth star in the Wen Chang cluster. It is associated with a person named Zhang Xian (張仙).
However, the most well-known story about Zhang is about an emperor of Shu, Meng Chang and his concubine Huarui. Legend has it that Meng drew a portrait of himself as an archer and presented it to lady Huarui. When his kingdom was later conquered by the Song dynasty, his life was spared as he surrendered. Yet he died a week later without any clear reason. The king of Song then took Huarui under his wing as his own concubine. As Huarui still longed for Meng, she hung the painting of Meng on the wall. When questioned about it by the emperor, she claimed that it was a painting of a fertility god called Zhang Xian who would bring them sons. Elated to hear this, he started to worship the god in the hope of having sons.
Time passed and there was still no sign of Huarui conceiving. He then had a dream of Zhang explaining to him why he has yet to have children. Upon waking up, the emperor had more paintings of Zhang drawn and the people started to worship the god.
Among others, there are also various stories about how he helped people with a magic bow.
Shou the god of longevity
Shou is the star of the south pole and is associated with Shou Xing (寿星). The story of Shou goes like this.
A young couple was admiring the star of the south pole in the night sky when the star suddenly disappeared. The lady realized later that she was pregnant and theorized that it might have something to do with the experience she had watching to night sky. Then in a dream, the unborned child informed her that he would only be born in 10 years. As the baby did not come into this world after 10 months, she started to believe that dream.
As it was a long period to be pregnant, she started to seek answers in her dreams. Then she learned that the baby would be born when the eyes of the stone lion turns red. When she started to comprehend this later, pig’s blood was used to paint the eyes of the stone lion. Shou Xing was finally born. But because he did not went through the full incubation period of 10 years, he was born permanently bald.
This was the reason for his uniquely bald characteristic and odd-shaped forehead.
The story behind his aged appearance was that he went into the mountains to mediate. Then emerged generations later with a walking stick, a gourd, and the peach of longevity. By this time, all his mortal friends were long gone and all he met were the great great grandchildren of his peers. Thus his aged appearance. He had become an immortal god.
Then there was the tale of how emperor RenZong of the Song dynasty ran into Shou by chance but failed to recognize who he really was.
There’s also a popular story about a young filial boy by the name of Yan Chao who was judged to live a short life by a famous fortune teller Guan Lu from the State of Wei. Yan was then instructed to bring food and wine into the forest to serve two old men who were playing chess. The two wise men turned out to be the star god of the north pole and the star god of the south pole. In appreciation, San Xing ameded Yan’s lifespan to 90 years old, which Yan lived to till his death.
Then there’s the little adventure about restoring a longevity ginseng tree Fu Lu Shou shared with the Goddess of Mercy, the monkey god and another deity named Zhen Yuan of WuZhuang temple.
Identifying the gods
The god of longevity (Shou) is the one that is most easy to recognize since he is the only member in the trio who is bald. The gourd he carries is assumed to contain the nectar of immortality.
Differentiating Fu and Lu might not be simple to some people.
Just note that the god of prosperity (Lu) usually wears a hat with clearly distinguishable flaps on both sides. His personal emblems include the Ru Yi or scepter of office.
The third of the gods will then obviously be the god of blessings (Fu). He is often depicted carrying a child in his arms which is a direct reference to descendants luck.
When setting them up for placement, their correct order arrangement would be from Fu to Lu to Shou, from right to left.
This means that Shou should be positioned on the left, Lu at the center, and Fu on the right.
Placement of fu lu shou san xing
Because the 3 stars (sanxing) are gods, the basic rules of placement for figures of worship applies.
This means that:
- You should not confront them directly face-to-face
- There should be a backing for support where you place them
- Placement should be elevated at least 3 feet above ground, ideally with auspicious dimension using the feng shui ruler
- They should not be exposed to sha chi
On top of that, if they are placed on altars, then they should either be facing the main door or facing out into the heavens via the windows.
And because the trio encompasses luck for all aspects of life, there are no specific sections of a house where they should be located.
But because they are considered as fortune gods in their own right, setting them up in the wealth locations are often recommended by feng shui masters.
Otherwise, having them in common areas like the living room or dining area is also suggested.
For example, having figurines of the trinity of star gods overlooking the dining table can help enhance the harmony and good fortune within the family unit.
When placed in the office, they are most powerful when situated behind the chair against the wall. This is so that you have their support when doing your work.
They are also often used as display items individually.
Fu for example, is god of happiness. Paintings or sculptures of him are often depicted with symbols of happiness such as calligraphy or the mystic knot. He would undoubtedly be best place in the relationship sectors of the house.
Lu is the god of prosperity which directly relates to wealth. This is why artwork of this god is often drawn with gold ingots. His best placement would be the wealth areas.
Shou as the god of longevity is all about good health and a long life. No surprise that he if often accompanied by symbols of longevity such as pine trees and cranes. Placement would obviously be most suitable in the health corners.
Saying that, my personal preference is to have them in a trio.