Hundred Characters Of Longevity Picture: Bai Shou Tu

Hundred Characters Of Longevity Picture: Bai Shou Tu

The Hundred Longevity Characters Picture is a traditional Chinese folk art form, featuring an array of one hundred distinct characters for "longevity" (寿) arranged in circular, square, or rectangular shapes. Sometimes, smaller characters are inscribed within a larger "寿" character. These characters often include elaborate scripts such as seal script, clerical script, regular script, or a mix of several calligraphic styles. The combination of different "寿" characters creates a unique artistic effect, exuding a sense of grandeur and profound meaning.




Bai Shou Tu
Bai Shou Tu

As its name suggests, the Hundred Longevity Characters Picture consists of images composed of one hundred different forms of the "寿" character, arranged in various shapes such as circles, squares, or rectangles. This art form first appeared during the Song Dynasty and by the Southern Song period, it had already been celebrated as a rare and precious treasure. Since the Southern Song, workshops dedicated to printing and mounting these pictures have flourished. Nobles, scholars, and commoners alike took great pride in owning a Hundred Longevity Characters Picture.


Since the Song Dynasty, the Hundred Longevity Characters Picture has been regarded as a rare treasure, widely celebrated, especially during the Southern Song period. Workshops that specialized in printing and mounting these pictures remained popular. Nobles, scholarly families, and common people all felt a sense of pride in owning such a picture. Displaying it in a hall could instantly enhance the room's grandeur, attracting guests to admire it. In ancient times, merchants traveling afar or officials navigating the bureaucratic sea considered the Hundred Longevity Characters Picture a protective charm for safety and prosperity.


Legend has it that there was a well called the Red Sand Well in front of the Hundred Longevity Rock, known for its sweet and cool water. A pair of chubby children, said to be transformed from thousand-year-old Fleeceflower Root spirits, often appeared around it. A man named Liao Fu and his family, who frequently drank from this well, lived to over 150 years without illness. Subsequently, many of his family members also enjoyed long lives, each living to be over a hundred years old.


A corrupt official, having heard of this longevity secret, sought the well's water and the "live Fleeceflower Root" to cook and consume, hoping for immortality. Instead, he met an untimely death. The Red Sand Well then dried up and disappeared. People lamented the loss of such a longevity secret. Thereafter, in front of the Guanyin Shrine within the rock, someone wrote a couplet lamenting the lost secret: "In the history of a hundred generations, events transpire as such; how long will it be before we can find the green water and red sand again?"


Artistic Features


Variety of Scripts: The "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" features various styles of the Chinese character for "longevity" (寿), including seal script, clerical script, regular script, or a combination of several calligraphic styles. Some pictures even incorporate pictographic, bronze script, bird script, small seal script, and other designs such as Taiji symbols, tadpole script, and mulberry leaf shapes. This creates a unique artistic effect. (Sources: Baidu Baike,


Exquisite Composition: By combining different forms of the "寿" character, the Hundred Longevity Characters Picture often exudes a sense of grandeur and profound meaning. Some pictures embed smaller "寿" characters within a larger one, presenting diverse and colorful forms, making them highly aesthetically pleasing.


Rich Cultural Connotation: The Hundred Longevity Characters Picture not only symbolizes the aspiration for longevity but also contains rich cultural connotations. For instance, some pictures incorporate painting elements. The Qing Dynasty New Year picture "Hundred Longevity Characters" features motifs such as ritual vessels with peonies, ritual vessels with plum blossoms, and the Eight Immortals, which reflect auspicious patterns and showcase the art of calligraphy.


Representative Works and Authors


Historically, several famous individuals have created Hundred Longevity Characters Pictures, such as Li Hongzhang and Ren Bonian. Each of their works has unique characteristics. In Li Hongzhang's "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture," each of the 100 characters for "寿" is distinct, showcasing various calligraphic styles. Ren Bonian's "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" cleverly incorporates elements symbolizing longevity, such as cypress trees and ribbon-tailed birds, expressing a beautiful wish for health and longevity.


Additionally, the largest stone carving of the Hundred Longevity Characters Picture located in the Baishouyan Cave in Baishou Town, Yongfu County, Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is a well-known representative work. This stone carving is 175 cm high and 148 cm wide. The entire script is compact and vigorous, appearing as regular script but with a more solemn, ancient, and rounded style. The 100 small "寿" characters within the stone carving are each unique and varied, making it a treasure of calligraphy art.


Legends of the Hundred Longevity Characters Picture


There are several legends about the origin of the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture." One version, recorded in "Baopuzi," states: "Liao Fu's elixir well, a family drinks from it and lives long." "Yongning County Annals" also mentions: "Liao Fu was from Yongning, and it is said that his family had an elixir well. Those who drank from this well lived for more than a hundred years." These records stem from a Chinese folk legend: In ancient times, Liao Fu's family lived in front of a cave, drinking from the elixir well and living over a hundred years, with Liao Fu himself living to 158 years before ascending to immortality. The county magistrate Shi Wei was inspired by this legend and wrote a large longevity character. After extensive research and gathering references, he created the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture," which was then engraved by the craftsman Wang Yuan inside the cave.


Another legend from the Southern Song Dynasty tells of a village east of the ancient county (now Baishou Town), where disputes over irrigation persisted for decades. When magistrate Shi Wei took office, he sought to resolve the issue by consulting an elderly villager. The villager, around fifty, suggested asking his father. His father, around eighty, further deferred to his father, who was over a hundred. The magistrate was astonished and eventually found that the village had numerous centenarians, leading to the creation of the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" as a symbol of their longevity secret.


A third legend involves a county magistrate named Gao Deng during the Song Dynasty, who aspired to immortality. During a Lantern Festival, he saw two chubby children, believed to be spirits of an elixir well, and sought to capture them for their longevity secret. He eventually excavated a pair of thousand-year-old Fleeceflower Roots from the well, which he consumed but did not achieve immortality, instead causing the well to dry up and bringing disaster to the area. His successor, Shi Wei, created the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" to restore peace and prosperity to the region.


Although these legends differ, they all attribute the creation of the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" to the wisdom and efforts of magistrate Shi Wei. Over nearly eight hundred years, the picture has been celebrated as a rare treasure. Even in ancient times, it was sought after by scholars and officials, and workshops dedicated to printing these pictures have thrived since the Southern Song. The "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" has been regarded as a valuable gift for wishing longevity, cherished by families and even presented as state gifts, reflecting its significant cultural impact both domestically and internationally.


Feng Shui Significance


The "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" holds profound significance in Feng Shui, primarily reflected in the following aspects:


  1. Symbolizing Longevity and Auspiciousness

   - Longevity Symbol: The "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" is composed of one hundred different forms of the Chinese character for "longevity" (寿). These varied forms symbolize the wish for a long life and the attainment of both happiness and longevity. In Chinese culture, the character "寿" is a symbol of longevity and good fortune, making the picture a common expression of prayers and blessings for a long life.

   - Auspicious Meaning: Besides longevity, the picture embodies rich auspicious meanings. The "寿" characters are meticulously arranged and written, creating beautiful works of art that convey a sense of grandeur and profound meaning. Displaying this picture at home can enhance the auspicious atmosphere and bring good luck and blessings to the family.


  1. Ward off Evil and Ensure Safety

   - Exorcising Evil: In Feng Shui, the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" is believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits. It can dispel negative energy and bad vibes in the home, protecting family members from evil influences. Therefore, it is often hung in important areas such as the elderly's room or the living room to ensure peace and good fortune.

   - Ensuring Safety: The picture not only symbolizes longevity and auspiciousness but also carries people’s prayers for safety. Hanging it at home can safeguard the health of family members, ensure career success, and promote family harmony. This psychological suggestion can, to some extent, boost people's confidence and courage, making them more resilient in facing life's challenges and difficulties.


  1. Enhancing Home Atmosphere and Decorative Effect

   - Enhancing Atmosphere: As an artwork and talisman, the unique artistic effect and profound cultural connotation of the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" can enhance the overall atmosphere of the home. Hanging it can fill the space with vitality and create a warm, harmonious, and positive environment.

   - Decorative Effect: The various forms and orderly arrangement of the "寿" characters create beautiful patterns. These patterns not only have aesthetic value but can also blend with the home decor style, enhancing the decorative effect of the home. Therefore, the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" is often used as a high-end gift for friends and relatives or for decorating halls and other spaces.


In summary, the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" holds rich meaning and function in Feng Shui. It symbolizes longevity and auspiciousness, wards off evil, ensures safety, and enhances the home atmosphere and decorative effect. Therefore, hanging the "Hundred Longevity Characters Picture" at home is a very auspicious and beneficial practice. Of course, it is also important to choose the appropriate location and method for hanging it to ensure the best effect.






  1. "Exquisite Hundred Longevity Characters Picture, Wishing You Health and Longevity" by Shaolin Neijin Yizhichan, February 13, 2021.
  2. "National Treasure is Here! The Unique Longevity Culture Phenomenon of the Chinese Nation - 'Hundred Longevity Characters Picture'" by Huixin's Historical Journey, January 18, 2023.
  3. "Anshan Museum's Embroidery Hall Newly Opened" by Sina, July 5, 2024.
  4. "What Do Heritage Masterpieces Made through 108 Procedures Look Like? Visit the National Centre for the Performing Arts to Appreciate the Eight Musts of Yanjing" by Beijing Daily Client, July 8, 2024.
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