Hanging of the Three Star Gods with a Birthday Celebration Scene
The scene at the top of this hanging shows a chapter titled ‘The Circle of Insignia’ from the drama ‘The Insignia-Laden Bed (Manchuang hu 满床笏)’, by playwright Fan Xizhe 範希哲 (fl. 1673). It tells the popular story of the famous Tang general Guo Ziyi 郭子儀 (697-781). Loyal to the dynastic house of Li, this general of Nestorian Christian faith fought against the Uighur and Tibetan empires. He is most prominently commemorated for successfully ending the two years of devastating uprisings under leadership of general An Lushan 安禄山 (c. 703-757), the so called An Lushan Rebellion or An Lushan Chaos.
Guo was later deified as the star god Lu of the three gods Fu (symbolizing prosperity), Lu (symbolizing emolument), and Shou (symbolizing longevity), related to the legend that the Jade Emperor, who had observed Guo’s loyal service to three Tang emperors with great appreciation, had sent a fairy to inquire about Guo’s desires. Guo responded that since he had seen so much bloodshed in his life he wished for peace and happiness. Thereupon the Jade emperor rewarded him with the position as God of Emolument.
The depiction on the hanging shows how on the occasion of Guo’s sixtieth birthday his seven sons and eight sons-in-law, all of them also accomplished in their service as high-ranking imperial officials, lay the tablets inscribed with their respective ranks in the shape of the character ‘shou’ 壽 (longevity) on top of a day-bed, to symbolize their wish for a long life for Guo.
The scene was performed on the occasion of advanced birthdays and adorned celebratory banners and other gifts.