寿 [shòu], has been written in many different ways through thousands of years. Below, you can see 5 bats surrounding the character for longevity, a powerful motif.
The 5 bats represent the five 福 or the Five Blessings in the ancient Book of History which are: longevity, wealth, health and peace, love of virtue (or doing good), and a natural death in old age.
The character for longevity is highly valued and revered. It represents efficient use of energy and conservation of energy, a key concept in Taoism. This concept of 寿 or longevity is very important in Chinese culture. It means, for example, that one does not fight unless necessary. Or one does not force oneself to do things that are unnatural. If we expend or use energy unnecessarily, our bodies age faster and our lives become short. To be blessed with a long life therefore implies that one is able to accept what happens in life and find peace or “to go with the flow.”
Bats are representative of longevity in Chinese art and culture. Like most animals, they are good at conserving energy and tend to live long lives for animals of their size. Bats also symbolize happiness and prosperity because the word 蝠 [fú] sounds identical to 福 [fú], which means fortune, prosperity, and happiness.
By the way, I found this interesting information about bats on Animal Planet recently, which I think is illustrative of the concept of longevity, as well as the practice of meditation:
Bats that live in cooler climates hibernate through the winter. Their heartbeat slows. Their rate of breathing lowers so much that it can seem as if they have stopped breathing. Their bodies cool to match the temperature of their shelter. They spend the winter in a deep sleep. Hibernation helps bats survive until the weather is milder and food is more plentiful.
Sometimes a bat must wake from hibernation to move from a disturbed roost or to drink water. Waking can cause a bat to use up the energy it had stored as fat for the winter. A bat that is awakened several times might not survive the winter.
So to have a long life, we can observe nature and learn how animals and plants survive. In nature, animals and plants generally do not fight or use energy unless necessary. When they use energy, they use it efficiently. (This understanding also underlies almost all practice of martial arts.) Mentally, it is also important not to fight with ourselves. I heard this saying once: Buddha said, “If you lay down your sword, you become a buddha.”