If you've ever found yourself an outsider in a Chinese restaurant or home, then you might well have wondered about three ornate statues of bearded men -- especially since one of them has an enormous, bloated forehead.
I pondered the same thing last fall as I strolled my newly-acquired son through the Guangzhou China Hotel. The statues loomed behind the front desk, greeted us on entry to the hotel restaurant and generally popped up everywhere we went.
Who are they? They are of course Fu, Lu and Shou. From an astrological stand point, they represent the planet Jupiter, the circumpolar variable star Z Ursae Majoris and the class-F giant star Canopus, respectively.
Fu represents good fortune, and we see that symbolized in his scholar's dress and the cradled child. In fact, sometimes he's positively crawling with children. Some depictions give him a scroll as well.
With his fine clothes and Ruyi scepter, Lu represents prosperity. He's the one you want to venerate for business savvy and professional success.
Old man Shou with the bloated skull represents longevity. According to Cultural China, Taoist mythology attributes his ancient appearance to ten years in his mother's womb. In fact, he was born an old man. The peach in his hand symbolizes immortality. So he's your personifying deity for long life.
According to Taoist Chant, Mantra, and Invocations, the three stars also associate with points in the body, as each is ultimately an internal energy rather than an external power. Here's a quick excerpt:
Naturally, you'll want all three energies for a balanced existence.