Who are the Sanxing (Three Stars)

Traveling through Asia and in countries like Cambodia, you meet in Chinese or Tao temples the statues of three old men at the altar:

Sanxing at Bokor Mountain

This picture was taken at the Dragon of the Mountain Taoist Temple on Bokor Mountain, Kampot. At the center of the altar we find the Sanxing, in Chinese means “Three Stars”. Following the Chinese way of reading from right to left, the first one is Fu, the one of the middle is Lu and the last one at the left is Shou. Who are these three venerated men? They represent prosperity (Fu), status (Lu) and longevity (Shou). This veneration is traced from the time of the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644).

Fu, also known as Fuxing, is the planet Jupiter according to the Chinese astrology. He is also associated with a governor of Daozhou (western Han) known as Yang Cheng (206 BC – 24 AD). Yang Cheng took courage to write a memorial to the Emperor to save the people from presenting dwarf slaves as a special tribute to the imperial court. This action was considered of great courage and after his death, people considered him the personification of good fortune. Normally he is represented in scholar’s dress, holding a scroll and sometimes writing the character “Fu” or sometimes holding or surrounded by children.

Lu, also known as Luxing, is the double star Mizar and Alcor in the Ursa Major constellation (also known as start ζ Ursae Majoris) and the 6th star in the Wenchang cluster, according to Chinese astronomy, known as Lu. He is believed to be Zhang Xian of the later Shu Dynasty. Lu means also salary of a government official, thus he represents prosperity, rank and influence. He is represented wearing mandarin customs and is highly venerated by political leaders.

Shou or Shouxing is the start of the South Pole and it means control of human life. The legend says that the mother of Shou brings him on her womb for ten years before being born. When he was finally born, he was already an old man. He is high, domed forehead and the peach meaning immortality. He also seems friendly, smiling and carrying a gourd filled with the elixir of life.

The Temple of the Mountain Drago

The Sanxing at the Dragon of the Bokor Mountain Temple.


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About Albeiro Rodas

Albeiro Rodas (in Cambodia Sky Ly Samnang), is a MA in Digital Communication, independent journalist and a Salesian of Don Bosco from Amalfi, Colombia, based in Cambodia since 1999. He is the creator of the Don Bosco schools of journalism in Sihanoukville and Kep with young people from poor communities and the founder of the Don Bosco Kep Children Fund. Medal for Social Commitment UPB (2010); among the 100 more upstanding Colombians abroad (Marca Colombia, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X39xwdGtVXI) and among the 12 Colombians that are making this a better world 2013 (http://www.colombia.co/en/culture/colombians-that-are-making-this-a-better-world.html).

One response to “Who are the Sanxing (Three Stars)”

  1. Hui Ho says :

    Very cool post. My favorite is Shou because I sense some irony, by his living in a womb with no control, then having control of his lifespan.

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