Chinese Character: Shou (Longevity)

Chinese Character: Shou (Longevity) Chinese Character: Shou (Longevity) Chinese Character: Shou (Longevity)



This character “Shou” unambiguously represents 'long life'. Shou and fu co-exist; to live long is to have fu. Some popular designs in folk culture are fu and shou side by side, or shou circled by the five fu. This shows that shou and fu were of equal importance.

Taoism has a strong influence on Chinese culture. In Taoism, life is everything, without which, nothing is left. So the current life (as opposed to the afterlife) is overwhelmingly valued. Thus the desire to live longer, as a goal of life, has been mixed into the everyday life of every Chinese.

In folklore, immortals never die, so immortals are the main characters in the shou culture. It became so popular that people started to follow Taoist teachings, hoping to turn into long-living gods. Under the influence of Taoism, people longed to find a panacea to stop death.

China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang, the establisher of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), even dispatched an official he knew well to the East Sea, together with five hundred virgins, to look for mountains where magic medicine could be found to help one live long. "East Sea" and "southern mountains," from then on, were closely connected to fu and shou, as illustrated in a saying: "May your happiness be as immense as the eastern sea. May your life be as lofty as the southern mountain ranges.”

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Today, begging for longevity is a must for people in celebrating their birthdays. The wording of birthday congratulations varies, such as "10,000 shou," "Shou above the five fu," and "Endless fu, endless shou," with the core meaning of longevity being unchanged.

The character shou can be presented in a lot of shapes and designs. When written in a long shape, it is called "long shou" (stress of longevity). Shou in a round shape is "round shou," which suggests complete and perfect life and health. When 100 shou characters are written in different shapes on a piece of paper, the drawing expresses an utmost wish to live long.

Shou is also the God of longevity, one of the three "gods" — legendary gods of blessings, prosperity, and longevity — that have been popular among Chinese people for centuries.

The God of Shou is perhaps the most popular of the three gods, and is often portrayed alone. Legend says that the god of Shou spent nine years in the womb, and born with an extraordinarily large forehead.

The God of Shou is usually seen holding the Peach of Immortality, and carrying a peach wood staff. Legendary says that the celestial peach was the Queen of Heaven’s favorite fruit, which blossomed once ever 3,000 years with it taking another 3,000 year for the peach tree to bear fruit. Thus a bite of the celestial peach could gain longevity.

Chinese folklore describes the God of Shou as wise, knowledgeable and capable of ruling the world. During festivals, a Chinese family normally worships the symbols or pictures of the God of Shou to express gratitude for granting the elders in the family a long life.

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Learn more about Jade & Chinese characters:

Chinese Character: Fu (Blessing)
Chinese Character: Lu (Prosperity)
Chinese Character: Shou (Longevity)
Chinese Character: Xi & Shuangxi (Happiness & Double Happiness)
Chinese Character: Cai (wealth)
Chinese Character: Ji (auspiciousness)
Chinese Character: Ai (Love)
Chinese Character: De (Virtue)
Chinese Character: Ning (Peace)

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