Analysis on the components of sample images
In terms of shared features of styling compositions, all the six samples in Table 2 contained three components: main images of Fu Lu Shou, decorative frames and text frames. Analyses and discussions were as follows:
1. Subject image: For constructions of the main images shown in Taiji-jin and Shou-jin (Sample 1 to Sample 4), detailed features such as the head, the costume, and objects held in hand were depicted in a complicated fashion. To Yi-jin, however, the texts were omitted, the styling composition was clearly simplified, and a left-right reversal arrangement between the Lu star and the Shou star was common.
2. Decoration for outer frame: The outermost was thick line frame, while the inner was a thin line frame of “Winding pattern,” symbolizing the endless prosperity and auspiciousness of Fu Lu Shou.
3. Text box: Sample 1 to Sample 4 were burned for gods or Buddha, with “Praying for safety” inscribed on the “Winding pattern” frame of Sample 1, 2 and 4, symbolizing the prayer for safety and smoothness. “Yuan Long (æºéš†)” inscribed on the Sample 3 represented pouring profits and prosperous business. Sample 5 and Sample 6 were burned for lower level spirits, thus inscription was not included.
A morphological analysis of the patterns of the Fu, Lu, and Shou Joss paper
The three gods in the six samples (Table 1) were further divided into 18 sub-samples that contained respectively Fu, Lu, and Shou (Table 2). Sub-samples with different images of the three gods were analyzed based on symbolic meanings, styling components, complexity-simplicity transformation of styling features, and connotation of styling simplification.
The symbolic meanings and styling components of the three gods
According to the styling features and embedded connotations of the aforementioned, Fu Lu Shou gods, components of the main images of the six samples listed in Table 2 were to symbolize the three main wishes of Chinese that is, prosperity, high position and longevity or wealth, prosperity of offspring and longevity, respectively. Further explanations are as follows:
1. Fu star: The Fu star refers to the Tein Guan star, symbolizing prosperity. Therefore, the Fu star features the costume of high officials or noble lords in ancient China, a round face, an officer cap on the head, and a “Fu” (that is,, happiness) scroll or a jade tablet (that is, a Ruyi jade tablet, a sycee) in hand.
2. Lu star: The Lu star refers to the Tein Chu star (also known as, Wenchang Dijun, the God of Culture and Literature), who was in charge of positions and riches. After the Five Dynasties, with the wrong interpretation of “The Baby Delivery Zhang Xian” attached, the folks often depicted the Lu star as a rich landowner carrying a baby, symbolizing the rich landowner who delivers babies.
3. Shou star: The Shou star refers to the Old Man of the South Pole, featuring his high, domed forehead and the stick or peach which he carries as a symbol of longevity (Sung, 2003).
Complexity-simplicity transformation of styling features of the three gods
Based on the 18 sub-samples in Table 2 (a set of six samples for each god), the current study analyzed the complexity-simplicity transformation and styling features of each set in terms of the head, the costume, and objects held in hand. In general, the degree of delicacy and richness of detail on the illustration of the three gods is in the order of Taiji-jin (for the god of highest rank), Shou-jin (for the gods of middle rank) and Yi-jin (for the gods of lower rank).
The heads of the three gods shown in Table 2 indicated that the Fu star featured the costume of high officials or noble lords, a high-rank officer cap with two horizontal blades on the head, and a round face. The Lu star was depicted as a rich round-faced gentleman, with his cap covering his neck and hanging down the shoulder. The Shou star was depicted as a long-lived old man, with a domed forehead. Long beards could be seen among the three gods. Facial details in Sample 1 to Sample 4 suggested that each part (eyebrows, eyes, nose, mouth, and beards) was clearly depicted with lines, and that prospective depiction could be observed in eyes and nose. The three gods in Sample 1, in particular, clearly showed their eyeballs. However, obvious simplification was noticed in Sample 5 and Sample 6, where eyes and mouths were presented with lines or spots and some parts were combined, such as the connection of eyebrows and the blade of the officer cap in 6-a, beards and clothes in 5-a and 5-b, as well as mouth and beards in 6-b and 6-c. With regard to the shape of cap, the Fu star and the Lu star in Sample 1 to Sample 4 featured decorative patterns of lines and contrasting red dots on the yellow background to present the prospective effect and to show the direction of the face (right or left). However, in Sample 5 and Sample 6, the shape of the cap and decorative patterns were simplified and transformed into simple lines or blocks.
The three gods in Table 2 differed in costumes because of their personalities, with gorgeous officer costume for the Fu star, wealthy gentleman costume for the Lu star, and an elder in robes for the Shou star. In Sample 1 and Sample 2, white (yellow) lines or spots on a red background clearly differentiated the levels and details of the upper body, the lower body, two sleeves, and gestures. Besides, the beards and the upper body were masterly blended, such as sample 1b and 2c. In Sample 3 and Sample 4, levels of each part were combined, omitted, or simplified, and transformed into line compositions or symmetrical geometric styling with long stripes, such as simplifying the decorative patterns of the upper body and the lower body to symmetrical geometric styling (Sample 3a and 4a), combining the upper body with the decorations of the cap (Sample 4b), and omitting two sleeves and gestures into simplified blocks or arcs (Sample 3c and 4c).
Objects held in hand by the three gods shown in Table 2 yielded differences based on different symbolic connotation the role had. The Fu star symbolized prosperity and high officials, with a “Fu” (that is, happiness) scroll or a jade tablet (that is, a Ruyi jade tablet, a sycee) in hand. A “Fu” scroll was held right in front of the chest, with detailed decorative pattern depiction (Sample 1a). Ruyi jade tablet was held in hand, as observed in sample 2a and 3a. Sample 5a showed a slanting Ruyi jade tablet in the left clothes, where gestures were omitted. Simplification existed in sample 6a, with objects held in hand omitted. The Lu star symbolized the rich landowner delivers babies. In Table 2, sample 2a showed a baby face and baby clothing in front of the chest. Sample 4b was simplified into an oval arc and human form could not be observed, making it hard to infer its symbolic objects, The Shou star was a long-lived old man carrying a stick. Straight and thick depiction of sticks appeared among all the six samples. The curved surface depicted with white spots on a red background symbolized the head of the peach stick (Sample 1c). The curved line in sample 5c and short curve in sample 6c were connected with the body, where the head of the stick was used to symbolize its image.
The rules of styling component of images of the three gods
To sum up, different purposes and types of the Fu Lu Shou three star Joss papers led to various facial expressions, head depictions, cap decorations, costumes, and objects held in hand. The degree of simplification and abstract on the illustration of the three gods is in the order of Yi-jin (for the gods of lower rank), Shou-jin (for the gods of middle rank) and Taiji-jin (for the god of highest rank). This is also reflected on other graphic design elements, such as line density, frame type and spot pattern.
1. Simplification principle of density of lines: Simplification was mainly reached via costume styling. In Sample 1 and Sample 2, the upper body, the lower body, and two sleeves were depicted in detail with straight lines, zigzags, and curved lines. However, in sample 4a, 4b and 5a, obvious regional combination or omission was observed, with simple lines used to depict symmetrical geometric styling.
2. Styling principle of white (yellow) spots on a red block: Such styling principle was used mainly for the cap patterns of the Lu star (for example, in sample1b, 2b, 4b and 5b) or for the costumes, such as the upper clothes in sample 1a and the lower clothes in sample 3b and 3c.
3. Simplification principle of combination and omission: Such simplification principle was used mainly for the combination of each part or the integration of clothes levels. In Sample 4 to Sample 6, for example, combinations between the head and the upper body, the upper clothes with the lower clothes, or the object in hand with the clothes were obvious. In Sample 6, in particular, each component was omitted or combined for multiple times, and was simplified into the styling features of the main parts.