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Shouxing is a mysterious celestial being, known by many names in traditional Chinese mythology – Shalou, Shalu, Shou Lao, Shou Xing, and others. However, he is always depicted the same way, as a balding old man with a long beard, high brow, and a wise, smiling face.
A symbol of longevity, Shouxing is worshipped and revered to this day, even though there aren’t many preserved legends of his exploits in ancient China.
Who is Shouxing?
A popular deity, Shouxing is depicted on paintings and in figurines, found in most homes in China. In one hand, he’s typically shown carrying a long staff, sometimes with a gourd hanging off it, containing the elixir of life. In the other, he holds a peach, symbolizing immortality. Sometimes, other symbols of longevity are added to his depictions, including storks and turtles.
Shouxing is also called Nanji Laoren or Old Man of the South Pole because he’s associated with the Canopus star of the South Pole, i.e. the star Sirius. His name, Shou Xing, translates as God of Longevity or rather – Star (xing) of Longevity (shou).
The Legend of Shouxing’s Birth
According to legend, Shouxing spent ten years in his mother’s womb before finally coming out. Once he came into the world he did so as an old man, as he had fully matured during his mother’s long pregnancy.
After this slow birth, Shouxing not only came to symbolize longevity – he’s believed to be responsible for deciding the life spans of all mortals on Earth.
In this respect, Shouxing is comparable to the Norns of Norse mythology or the Fates of Greek mythology, who had similar roles of deciding the life spans of mortals.
Shouxing as One Of The Sanxing
Shouxing is a part of a special trio of deities in Chinese mythology. They are typically called Fu Lu Shou or Sanxing (Three Stars). Their names are Fu Xing, Lu Xing, and Shou Xing.
Just like Shou symbolizes longevity, Fu stands for fortune and is associated with the planet Jupiter. Lu symbolizes wealth as well as influence and rank, and is associated with the Ursa Major.
Together, the Three Stars are viewed as everything a person needs to have a satisfying life – longevity, fortune, and wealth. The three are often depicted together as three old men standing side by side. Their names are also said in greetings in the sense of “May you have longevity, wealth, and fortune.”
Symbolism of Shouxing
Shouxing symbolizes longevity, lifespans, and fate.
He is believed to govern the lifespan of all humans, deciding how long a person will live. In addition to this, he also represents longevity. He’s the type of ancient deity that doesn’t have temples and dedicated priests but has statuettes in countless homes in China.
In a way, Shouxing is one of those deities who are almost impersonal – they represent a universal constant and a part of life. That’s likely why his image has also made its way into Taoism (as Master Tao) and Japanese Shintoism (as one of the Shichifukujin – the Seven Gods of Good Fortune).
While Shouxing doesn’t have any temples dedicated to him, he is often worshipped, especially during birthday parties for older members of a family.
Shouxing is a core deity in Chinese culture and mythology. He’s a beloved god as his name and image are synonymous with longevity. Well-meaning and wise, this smiling old man’s statuettes and paintings can be found in many homes.