October 5, 2017

Main Shrines

I have not been able to identify any shrines in which Jurōjin is the main enshrined kami.

Along with Fukurokujū, with whom he is often conflated or confused, Jurōjin is one of the two of the Seven Lucky Gods of Taoist derivation. The literal meaning of his name is longevity (寿) old person (老人). The following paragraph, which can probably fairly be described as a very Japanese account, is from Miyata  (26, 宮田, pp 38-39)

In the Southern sky there is a very bright star called Canopus (Kanōpus) in the constellation of Carina (Ryūkotsu-za). Being in the southern hemisphere it is relatively unknown in Japan, but is somewhat better known, if only rarely seen, in China where it used to be known as Ju-sei (lit. longevity star) or Nankyoku-rōjin-sei (lit. South Pole old person star). As the personification of this star it is perhaps not surprising that Jurōjin was once the Kami of Longevity. The Chinese believe that the star's rare appearances heralded times of peace, and in imperial times it was thought that it helped prolong the emperors' lives. So much so in fact that to a man the emperors built shrines praying for their own long lives and for peace on earth. Jurōjin is usually depicted as old man wearing a black hood and sporting a staff, a depiction which first appeared in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and has persisted in Japan to this day. There is usually a scroll wrapped around the staff, on which is thought to be recorded the lifespan of all living things. He is often shown in the company of a deer.

Chiba's account differs in some ways from Miyata's. She describes him as the god of wisdom and for this reason he is always accompanied by a black deer, an animal which the Chinese believe to be exceedingly wise and which grow wiser as they age. At one thousand they are blue, at fifteen hundred they become white, and black at two thousand. Somewhat confusingly for a god of wisdom he has a taste for wine and women and the ability to imbibe copious amounts of the former without suffering any morning-after effects. Sadly, no information is given on his priapic prowess. She goes on to say that he is not highly regarded in Japan, possibly because of his carousing, although those who believe in him are said to have no need for any other patron: if someone gives him some wine he will in return bestow a portion of his wisdom on them. The final point she makes is that because of the longevity character in his name he was regarded as the god of longevity, "was" being the operative word, that attribute now properly belongs to Fukurokuju.

The occupations Chiba associates him with are accountants, administrators (along with Ebisu), astronomers, bartenders, clerks, engineers, explorers (along with Bishamon), fortunetellers (along with Hotei), inventors, journalists, judges, mathematicians, politicians (along with Hotei), philosophers, professors, scientists (along with Fukurokujū), secretaries, and teachers.


© Rod Lucas 2016-2020

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated