June 2004

Longevity God

Longevity God © Aris Dervis

© Aris Dervis 2002



Longevity God

The following information is from Vivien Sung's wonderful book Five-Fold Happiness published by Chronicle Books.

Longevity is the most highly esteemed value of the five-fold happinesses. The desire for long life is embodied in traditions such as eating longevity noodles and peaches on an elder's birthday. Wishes for longevity are often inscribed on scrolls displayed in homes: "life as long as the Southern Mountain," "ten thousand long lives without end," and "life as long as the tortoise and crane."
The word for longevity, "shou", has been found engraved on bronze from the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1027-256 B.C.) Respect for elders, an important Chinese virtue, is documented in texts in the Warring States period (480-221 B.C.) According to Confucian thought, moral conduct was essential to living a long life, as conveyed in the saying "compassion brings longevity, immorality brings early death." Symbols representing the wish for longevity include the peach, the pine tree, the crane, the fungus of immortality, the God of Longevity, and the Queen Mother of the West.
Shou Xing, the God of Longevity, is the most popular of the three stellar gods, outshining The God of Luck and the God of Prosperity. His name literally means "longevity star." Legend has it that the God of Longevity began as the star Canopus in the southern constellation Argo, also known as the Old Man of the South Pole. People worshipped this and other stars in the belief that the heavens ruled human fate.
Worship of the God of Longevity was combined with ceremonies to honor elders. One such ritual was to bestow on persons over the age of seventy a nine-foot long jade walking stick.