Fu Lu Shou (traditional Chinese: 福祿壽; simplified Chinese: 福禄寿; pinyin: Fú Lù Shòu) refers to the concept of Good Fortune (Fu), Prosperity (Lu), and Longevity (Shou). This Taoist concept is thought to date back to the Ming Dynasty, when the Fu Star, Lu Star and Shou Star were considered deities of these attributes respectively. The term is commonly used in Chinese culture to denote the three attributes of a good life.
The Fu star (福) refers to the planet Jupiter. In traditional astrology, the planet Jupiter was believed to be auspicious. Alternately, according to Taoist legend, the Fu Star is associated with Yang Cheng, a governor of Daozhou. Yang Cheng risked his life by writing a memorial to the emperor to save the people from suffering. After his death, the people built a temple to commemorate him, and over time he came to be considered the personification of good fortune.
The Fu star is often placed in the centre when the three are depicted as a group. 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.
The Lu star (禄) is Ursa Major-ζ, 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 luspecifically 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 Shou star (壽) is Argo Navis-α (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 year 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 God of Longevity is usually shown smiling and friendly, and he may sometimes be carrying a gourd filled with Elixer of Life.