In Chinese mythology, Yue Lao (月老), also called Yue Xia Lao Ren (月下老人), is the god of love and marriage who appears to people beneath the light of the moon.
Yuè Xià Lǎo Rén’s (月下老人) name literally translates as “the old man under the moon.” His title is sometimes shortened down to Yuè Lǎo (月老).
In art, Yue Lao is characterized by his long, pure white beard, yellow imperial robes, and friendly expression. He carries with him a red, silken rope or thread that he uses to “tie” together potential couples.
Legend has it that one day during the Tang Dynasty, a young man named Wei Gu (韋固) was wandering through the streets, lamenting the fact that he didn’t have a wife. At the outskirts of a nearby city, he noticed an old man with a long, white beard intently reading a book.
Wei Gu asked the old man what he was reading since it was in a language he didn’t understand. The old man replied that it was his journal where he kept track of recent marriages and engagements. The old man then gestured to a small girl who was walking along the road with her grandmother and told Wei Gu that in ten years time, that girl would become his wife.
Wei Gu thought the story was ridiculous. He was so upset at what he thought was a cruel joke, that he threw a stone at the girl and caught her between the eyes. Wei Gu thought nothing more of the incident and ended up becoming a government official under the leadership of Xiangzhou.
After working for the governor for some time, he was rewarded for his good work with a betrothal to the governor’s daughter, who, though beautiful and well educated, had been unable to find any suitors.
On their wedding night, Wei Gu noticed that his wife insisted on wearing a headband that covered her forehead. When he untied it, it revealed a small, but unsightly scar between her eyes. She explained that someone had thrown a rock at her as a child which left the mark.
Wei Gu told his wife about the mysterious old man he had met on the road and begged for her forgiveness. His wife quickly forgave him and told him that the person he had met must have been an immortal. Soon after, the legend of Lao Ren spread throughout China and became the subject of folklore and myth.
Yue Lao has historically been a very popular deity and young romantics still commonly pray to him today. He is considered to be something of a “Chinese cupid.” After praying to Yue Lao, it is common for worshipers to wear a thin, red string around their wrist to signify their wish.