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The Sanxing (三星 "Three Stars") are the gods of the three stars or constellations considered essential in Chinese astrology and mythology: Jupiter, Ursa Major, and Canopus. Fu, Lu, and Shou (simplified Chinese: 福禄寿; traditional Chinese: 福祿壽; pinyin: Fú Lù Shòu; Cantonese Yale: Fūk Luhk Sauh), or Cai, Zi and Shou (財子壽) are also the embodiments of Fortune (Fu), presiding over planet Jupiter, Prosperity (Lu), presiding over Ursa Major, and Longevity (Shou), presiding over Canopus. They have emerged from Chinese folk religion. Their iconic representation as three, old, bearded, wise men dates back to the Ming dynasty, when the gods of the three stars were represented in human form for the first time. They are sometimes identified with other deities of the Chinese religion or of Taoism.
The term is commonly used in Chinese culture to denote the three attributes of a good life. Statues of these three gods are found on the facades of folk religion's temples and ancestral shrines, in nearly every Chinese home and many Chinese-owned shops on small altars with a glass of water, an orange or other auspicious offerings, especially during Chinese New Year. Traditionally, they are arranged right to left (so Shou is on the left of the viewer, Lu in the middle, and Fu on the far right), just as Chinese characters are traditionally written from right to left.
The three gods, their stars and their attributes
The star of Fu (福), Fuxing 福星, refers to the planet Jupiter. In traditional astrology, the planet Jupiter was believed to be auspicious. Alternatively, according to a Taoist myth of the Ming dynasty, the Fu star is associated with Yang Cheng (楊成), a governor of Daozhou in Tang Dynasty. Yang Cheng risked his life by writing a memorial to the emperor to save the people from presenting dwarf slaves as the special tribute to the imperial court. After his death, the people built a temple to commemorate him, and over time he came to be considered the personification of good fortune.
He is generally depicted in scholar's dress, holding a scroll, on which is sometimes written the character "Fu". He may also be seen holding a child, or surrounded by children. He is sometimes conflated with Caishen, the "Wealth God".
The star of Lu (祿), Luxing 祿星, is Mizar (ζ Ursa Majoris), or, in traditional Chinese astronomy, the sixth star in the Wenchang cluster, and like the Fu star came to be personified. The Lu star is believed to be Zhang Xian who lived during the Later Shu dynasty. The word lu specifically refers to the salary of a government official. As such, the Lu star is the star of prosperity, rank, and influence.
The Lu star was also worshipped separately from the other two as the deity dictating one's success in the imperial examinations, and therefore success in the imperial bureaucracy. The Lu star is usually depicted in the dress of a mandarin.
The star of Shou (壽), Shouxing 壽星, is α Carinae (Canopus), the star of the south pole in Chinese astronomy, and is believed to control the life spans of mortals. According to legend, he was carried in his mother's womb for ten years before being born, and was already an old man when delivered. He is recognized by his high, domed forehead and the peach which he carries as a symbol of immortality. The longevity god is usually shown smiling and friendly, and he may sometimes be carrying a gourd filled with the elixir of life. He is sometimes conflated with Laozi and corresponding gods of Taoist theology.
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- (in Chinese) 福禄寿星 Archived 2006-07-22 at the Wayback Machine. British Taoist Association.
- "Chinese good luck symbols". goodlucksymbols.com. Good luck symbols. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
- http://www.chinaknowledge.de/Literature/Religion/personssanxing.html, retrieved 11 Des 2017
- Seow, Jeffrey. Fu Lu Shou: Gods of Blessings, Prosperity and Longevity, Singapore, 1999.