Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gods And Goddesses: Shou

Shou is a highly popular god, often seen with two other gods known as Fu and Lu. When these three gods are together they are known as the Three Blessings, Three Stars or the San Xing. Shou himself is also known as Shou Xing, Shou Lao, Nan Ji Xian Weng, the Star of Longevity and Star of the South Pole. As you can see by the title of Star of Longevity, Shou is the god of longevity. It is even said that Shou can control the life spans of mortals.

Shou himself can be easily recognized by his high bald head and beard but also by what he carries, a peach wood staff which holds onto his bottle gourd and a peach of immortality. Shou is sometimes seen with a crane and symbolically Shou is represented as a mushroom, deer or a turtle.

In legend it is said that Shou was born after nine long years in his mothers womb. It is said that his mother ended up pregnant by looking at the Star of the South Pole, in which the mother was supposed to carry the child for ten years until born. It was said that on the tenth year of the pregnancy the eyes of a stone dragon would turn red, but the mother was impatient and had the stone dragons eyes painted red with blood. Painting the stone dragons eyes did the trick and a baby was born in which the baby was then on known as Shou Xing seeing as it is said that his mother became pregnant by looking at the Star of the South Pole.

Shou is also said to have also been called Zhao Yen and was destined to die at the age of 19. Under the advice of a fortune teller to go to a field with wine and some food but to not answer any questions, Shou found two men playing a game. Shou offered the food and wine to these two men, in which the two men revealed their identities, the gods of Birth and Death also known as the God of the North Pole (who determines the day people are born) and the God of the South Pole (who fixes the dates of death). Shou’s life was given an extension for the food and wine, the 19 had been reversed into a 91.

Shou has been bald since birth and was embarrassed to go out into the public because of this. So instead of going out to the public Shou went to the hills practicing both meditation and the Tao. Eventually Shou decided to travel deep into the hills in which no one else had dared to. After many years Shou came out of the hills and went to the village he used to live in, carrying his peach wood staff with its gourd hanging off it and with his peach of immortality. Not only that but Shou had grown a beard.

Shou went to a place called Bianliang and his appearance caught the attention of many, this caused Shou to be brought to the Emperor who asked Shou who he was and for his age. Shou is said to have not answered the Emperor’s questions but simply asked for some dates and wine to drink. After Shou drank some wine without saying a word the Emperor sent Shou away. Shou did actually went away as the next day the Emperor was advised that the old man who was given wine and didn’t say much was probably the God of Longevity and couldn’t be found.
It is even said that a man saw Shou ascend to Heaven on a cloud of smoke.

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