People give best wishes to one another in the New Year. Besides modern greetings, they still like traditional well-wishes.
According to tradition, in the New Year, people wish each other happiness, wealth and longevity. These three Chinese characters are seen on horizontal lacquered boards, the New Year calendar and the signboard of jewelry shops and restaurants.
These New Year greetings are formed with images of the Three Abundances, or Fu Lu Shou. The God of Happiness (Fu) holds a baby. The God of Wealth (Lu) wears a mandarine costume and bonnet. The God of Longevity (Shou) is a short and bald-headed old man. One of his hands holds a stick and the other, a peach. They all have a long, white beard, and a ruddy and smiling expression.
Where were these Gods from?
According to Chinese legends, these gods had been leaders of three different dynasties.
The God of Blessing is Guo Ziyi, who had been ruler of the Tang dynasty. He was known as a clean-fingered mandarin and his family lived in harmony. For five generations they lived together under the same roof. He and his wife lived long to 83. After their deaths they were buried side by side.
During his lifetime, he always worked for charity to bring blessings to people. He left the world with mercy, family happiness and respect. People worshipped him with their respect and wishes to be blessed as he had been.
The God of Prosperity is Zhao Gongming who had been a leader in the Chin dynasty in China. He was said to be a corrupt official and enriched himself with bribery. He lived a wealthy and glorious life. However, when he reached 80, he still had no grandchildren to maintain the continuity of his family line. He was so sad that he fell ill and died in loneliness. Before dying, he always complained about his issueless situation and felt sorry for his great wealth.
The God of Longevity is Dongfang Shuo who had been a scholar and leader during the Han dynasty. He was said to be a flatterer and therefore received many loaves and fishes from the king. He used the money to buy young and beautiful concubines in order to use the Yin to nourish the Yang. He lived till 125 years old.
The Chinese people put these three men into the three abundances as a warning. Meanwhile, their good side became people’s wishes, namely blessing, prosperity and longevity.
The concept of Happiness, Wealth and Longevity at present
Every person wants to be happy, wealthy and long-lived. However, the concept changes with the passage of time.
In the past, people held that happiness came from having many children, particularly boys. At present, both boys and girls bring happiness to their parents as long as they are good, dutiful, healthy and successful in life. What is the use of being rich if one dies in loneliness as Zhao Gongming. A long-lived person should be healthy, joyful and helpful.
In short, happiness, wealth and longevity are people’s long-term wishes. That’s why they send to each other new years greetings with these three wishes.