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Three-legged golden toad in feng shui

Three-legged toad Chan chu.

Three-legged toad Chan chu.

In Chinese folk beliefs, there are many auspicious items that can enhance wealth. However, pixiu and the three-legged golden toad (三脚金蟾) are said to be the best wealth enhancers. The toad is also known as ‘chan chu’ (蟾蜍).

Legends associated with the chan chu (toad)

(1) The Chan Palace (蟾宫)

In Chinese mythology, Chang'e (嫦娥), the Moon Goddess, stays in a palace. The Moon Palace (月宫) or Guang Han Palace (广寒宫) is a metamorphosis of a spiritual toad. The palace, therefore, is also known as “Chan Palace”, or “Chan Gong” (蟾宫) in Chinese.

There is a gui hua (桂花) tree in the Chan Palace. (Gui hua is literally known as “cinnamon flower” or “cassia flower”.) The Chinese saying, “蟾宫折桂” (chan gong zhe guì) – “Plucking gui from the Chan Gong” symbolizes the passing of the imperial examination in the ancient days.

(2) Liu Hai & 3-legged chan chu

The original name of Liu Hai is Liu Cao (劉操), taoist name Hai Chan Zi (海蟾子). He was a 61-year-old prime minister of Yan (Five Dynasties & Ten Kingdoms Period) when Han Zhongli (漢鐘離), one of the Eight Immortals, visited him in disguise.

Han piled up ten eggs, alternating each with a coin, into the form of a pagoda. The stacked eggs are prone to collapse anytime. He used this as an analogy to the high position that Liu Hai is holding.

On realizing the transient nature of glory and success, Liu left his premier post. After disposing all his wealth, he went to practise Tao under the guidance of two of the Eight Immortals, namely Lu Dongbin (呂洞賓) and Han Zhongli.

(Note: There is another version that says Liu went to Mount Hua (華山) to practise Tao with a Taoist master Chen Bo (陳摶), who gave Liu the name “Hai Chan Zi”.)

After Liu attained immortality, he returned to earth to subdue demons and monsters. One day, he came across a big and naughty but kind-hearted golden toad that loves to gulp up riches. Liu tried to capture the toad by using a willow branch bundled with coins as the bait. As the toad loves money, it fell into Liu’s trap. Liu managed to grab one of its legs, and during the struggle, the toad lost a leg and ended up as a three-legged toad.

After being tamed by Liu, the three-legged toad accompanied Liu in his rounds of helping people to obtain wisdom and to learn the Tao, as well as distribution of wealth to the poor. In the day, the toad will devour riches from all directions and in the night, will spit out the money to help the poverty-stricken people.

Since then, Liu became popularly known as “Liu Hai” and was looked upon as a Fortune God, while the three-legged toad was referred to as “wealth-beckoning toad” (招财蟾).

In certain regions, Liu Hai is depicted as one of the Eight Immortals, replacing Zhang Guo Lao (张果老), Han Zhongli (漢锺離) or Lan Caihe (蓝采和).

In Chinese folk-art paintings, Liu Hai is often shown as a chubby, lively and adorable boy, luring the toad with a string of coins.

Wealth-beckoning golden toad

The golden toad refers to the mythical toad described in the above legend. Its main characteristics are being three-legged and spitting out riches. Just like the phoenix that will not reside anywhere other than the wutong (梧桐) (Chinese parasol tree), the golden toad is said to live only in places where there are treasures and wealth (鳯凰非梧桐不栖,金蟾非财地不居).

The toad is very sensitive to the scent of riches. Its staple food comprises gold, silver, gems and other treasures. It is, therefore, also being called “treasures-gobbling golden toad” (吞寶金蟾). The popularity of the toad in feng shui is due to the mythology that there are always treasures where the three-legged golden toad is found.

The theory of wealth-attracting toad is said to arise from the Chinese saying, “Plucking gui from Chan Gong” (蟾宫折桂). Although the Chinese saying refers to the achievements in imperial examination, the success will sooner or later lead to wealth. Furthermore, as the saying suggests, the golden toad can enhance both education and career luck.

As such, there is the general belief that having a golden toad in the home or office will benefit from the toad’s ability of gobbling in wealth, spitting out riches, as well as accumulating fortune. In addition, it can counter ‘sha qi’ (煞氣) (negative energies) in feng shui.

Depiction of golden toad

The golden toad is always depicted as having only three legs. It has the Taiji Symbol on its head, and on its back is the image of the “Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper” (beidou qixing 北斗七星). In its mouth is a coin (or two strings of coins). Beneath the toad is a bed of coins and gold ingots.

Having the “Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper” on its back signifies the blessings of the lucky stars. Words of blessings are also carved on the coins, such as “zhao cai jin bao” (招财进宝), “cai yuan guang jin” (财源广进), “nian nian you yu” (年年有余), etc.

A variation of this is the toad without a coin in its mouth. This type of golden toad, besides beckoning wealth, can counter ‘sha qi’ as well.

Correct placement of the three-legged toad

The way of placing the toad depends very much on its design.

(1) With a coin in the mouth

Throughout the year, position the toad to face inwards to signify its spitting riches into the house. It should preferably be one to two feet above the ground, and in an auspicious location in the home (such as the Money Spots). Do not put it in the bedroom, kitchen or bathroom. Also, never display it facing the toilet as the toilet is considered filthy.

There is a popular Cantonese idiom, “jian cai hua shui” (见财化水), which seems to be related to some feng shui principles. Roughly translated, it means “money opportunities gone at the sight of water”. Hence, do not place the golden toad facing a fish tank, swimming pool, pond, etc.

For those who do not mind the trouble, they can consider the following way of display as well. When leaving for work in the morning, turn the toad to face outwards to represent its going out to consume wealth. On returning home in the evening, remember to turn the toad back to face inwards, so as to symbolize letting it spit out the riches accumulated during the day. This needs not be carried out every day. Do it only when you remember.

The toad with a coin in the mouth is better in attracting wealth than counteracting of sha qi.

[Note: It is best to display the toad in a bowl. To represent the toad is spitting out treasures, fill the bowl with Chinese ancient coins or other symbolic treasures (e.g. semi-precious stones). The filled-to-the-brink bowl denotes abundance in riches.]

(2) Without a coin in the mouth

The golden toad of this design is more powerful in its ability to diffuse ‘sha qi’, dispel evil spirits and rid of trouble-makers than beckoning wealth.

Building structures like hospital, cemetery, funeral parlour and columbarium are very ‘yin’ (陰) places. If you are living near such places, then your home is affected by ‘yin sha’ (陰煞).

The toad’s master, Liu Hai, possessed strong ‘yang’ energies as he was trained under Lu Dongbin and Han Zhongli. Being his constant companion, the toad is also considered to be strong in yang (陽) qi. It is, therefore, a good cure for ‘yin sha’.

The toad should always be placed facing outwards, especially towards any ‘sha qi’ that is affecting the house.

In the office, you can display the toad on the upper left side of your desk to disperse envy and hate (if any) from co-workers.

Golden toad ornaments and figurines

The following is recommended when using ornaments or figurines of the golden toad:

  • For necklace or choker, the toad’s head should preferably be facing upwards, so as to suck in riches from heaven.
  • For bracelet, wear it on the left hand. According to folk custom, wealth goes in via the left hand and out from the right.
  • Hang some golden toad ornaments in the car to dissipate negative energies.
  • As the toad loves to devour treasures, wear it when going to places where there are lots of riches, e.g. banks and jewellery shops.
  • Do not let outsiders touch your toad figurine. If an outsider has handled it, wash it with clean water and wipe dry with a new cloth. For one whose material cannot be cleansed with water, just use a new cloth to wipe it; then sun-bathe (avoid direct sun) it for about 10 minutes.

Materials used for making the three-legged toad are usually Hetian jade (和田玉), jadeite (翡翠), obsidian (黑曜石), topaz (黄玉), charcoal, crystals, wood, resin and metal (e.g. copper, bronze and brass).

It is generally believed that a golden toad that has been ‘kaiguang’ (開光) will be more effective than one that has not gone through the ritual.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 pinkytoky


Ced Yong from Asia on December 09, 2016:

Very informative, and beneficial hub. :) I have a golden one diligently biting on its coin for over ten years.

pinkytoky (author) from Singapore on November 09, 2012:

Good Luck, Peter!

Peter Geekie from Sittingbourne on November 09, 2012:

Thank you pinkytoky,

I have had my three-legged toad (with coin) for a few years now. I never knew just how or where to position it for maximum effect. Now I do so I will just wait for the wealth to flood in !

kind regards Peter

Cristale Adams on July 06, 2012:

The toad at the top is kind of scary looking. Well informed and well put together. Great job!

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