The Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity
The origin of the Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity can be traced back to the Ming dynasty. The Ming dynasty Daoist scripture Daoist Ritual for Morning Recitation of the Golden Register of the Mysterious Soul quoted the Supreme Perfect Book for Prolonging One Alloted Life-Span from the Supreme, Mysterious and Numinous Northern Dipper , which was normally recited in imperial courts, as saying that the Stellar Sovereign of the Virtue of Longevity and Venerable Man of the South Pole, the Highest Clarity Stellar Sovereign of the Virtue of Wealth, and the Highest Clarity Stellar Sovereign of the Virtue of Luck were among the deities to be worshipped in addition to the Three Pure Ones, the Jade Emperor and the Nine Stellar Sovereigns of the Big Dipper. Another Ming dynasty Daoist scripture, the Golden Register Ritual Offerings for Prolonging Life, also included the worship of the Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity. The Three Stars were also among the Stellar Sovereigns listed by the True Precious Repentances of the Middle Heaven Star of Purple Subtlety. But in both folk culture and Daoist books, there were different versions about what the Three Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity exactly referred to. In the Golden Register Longevity Prayer Rite for Morning Recitation , the Venerable Man of the South Pole is apparently taken as the Perfect Sovereign of the Three Stars. Nowadays, Daoists and ordinary people tend to believe that the Star of Luck refers to the Heavenly Official, the Star of Wealth refers to Wenchang, and the Star of Longevity refers to the Venerable Old Man of the South Pole.
Originally, worship of the Star of Longevity dates back to prior to the Qin dynasty. The Book of Sacrificial Offerings in the Records of the Historian says that, during the Qin dynasty, memorial temples were dedicated in Du and Bo to the Three Village Lords well as to the Star of Longevity. The Index of the Records of the Historian says that the Star of Longevity refers to the Star of the Venerable Man of the South Pole. His emergence is a good omen of peace. So people set up memorial temples dedicated to him, praying for good luck and long life. According to that, during the Qin and Han dynasties, it was popularly accepted that worshipping the Star of Longevity brought about long life as well as good luck. In the Chart of the Ranks of the Perfect Souls by Tao Hongjing, the famous Daoist of the Qi and Liang dynasties, the Highest Perfect Man Danlin, who was popularly known as the Venerable Man of the South Pole, was ranked as the Left of the Supreme Ultimate. He was among the deities worshiped in national memorial ceremonies since the Han dynasty; however, his worship came to an end after the third year of Ming dynasty emperor Hongwu's reign, because he was accused of being fake and useless. Within Daoism, however, the worship continued. The Venerable Man of the South Pole, along with the Heavenly Official and Wenchang, were called the Three Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity.
Impact on Folk Culture
The function of the Heavenly Official of the Star of Luck is to confer good luck on people. According to the Lantern Rites of the Three Officials, he acts as Pure Yang, Master of the Temple of Purple Purity, Great Sage of Spontaneity, Heavenly Official of Blessings, Controller of the Heavenly World, Commander of All Ghosts and Spirits, and Protector of the Eternity of Heaven. The Wenchang Star of Wealth includes six stars among which is the Star Controlling Wealth. According to the Comprehensive Explanation of the Original Predestination of the Events Recorded in the Spring and Autumn Annals, he rewards contributions and encourages well-educated people. He is also responsible for the careers of the literati. The Star of Longevity, popularly known as the Venerable Man of the South Pole, foretells the life-span of the emperors, as mentioned in the True Meaning of the Records of the Historian.
The three pursuits for luck, wealth and longevity have consistently embodied the common wishes of Daoist believers as well as ordinary Chinese people. That's the reason why, since the Ming dynasty, the worship for the Three Stars of Luck, Wealth and Longevity remained popular for a long time. Although Daoist temples rarely set up specific memorial halls for the Three Stars, the exclusive worship for Star of Longevity was very popular. Even today, many people still bring porcelain figures of the Three Stars home for worship. Before doing so, they normally go to Daoist temples to take part in Inauguration Ceremonies for Divinities, which, they believe, bring luck, wealth and longevity to their family members.