God of Contentment & Happiness
Origin = China Taoism / Buddhism
Chinese Name Budai or Putai
Said to be an incarnation of Miroku Bosatsu
Miroku in China is known as Miluo Fo (or as Miluo Pusa)
Hotei known as the Fat Buddha or Laughing Buddha in the West
Hotei is one of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods.
Reportedly based on a real person.
Associated Virtue = Magnanimity
One of the Hotei statues in our estore
Hotei 布袋. Male. The god of contentment and happiness, guardian of children, and patron of bartenders. Hotei 布袋 has a cheerful face and a big belly. He is supposedly based on an actual person, and is widely recognized outside of Japan as the Fat, Laughing Buddha. He carries a large cloth bag over his back (Nunobukuro 布袋, lit. = cloth bag), one that never empties, for he uses it to feed the poor and needy. It includes an inexhaustible cache of treasures, including food and drink. Indeed, the Japanese spelling of “Hotei” literally means “cloth bag.” He also holds a Chinese fan called an oogi 扇 (said to be a “wish giving” fan -- in the distant past, this type of fan was used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their requests would be granted). Hotei is most likely based on the itinerant 10th-century Chinese Buddhist monk and hermit Budaishi (d. 917), who is said to be an incarnation of Miroku Bodhisattva (Maitreya in Sanskrit).
Hotei is sometimes shown surrounded by a group of small children, romping and squealing in delight around his rotund shape. For many more details on Hotei, click here for story by Jennifer Polden.
In recent times, Hotei is also referred to as the patron saint of restaurateurs and bartenders. When one over eats and over drinks, one may sometimes jokingly attribute it to Hotei’s influence.
L to R
Daikoku, Ebisu, & Hotei
Kamakura Shop Window
Hotei stone statue
Zenyo-in (Inatori City)
Hotei stone statue
Zenyo-in (Inatori City)
HOTEI IN JAPANESE MYTHOLOGY
Below Text Courtesy of JAANUS
Chinese = Budai. A semi-legendary itinerant 10th-century Buddhist monk who became a popular subject in Chinese and Japanese ink painting. His real name is said to have been Qici 契此 (Jp. = Keishi), whose biography is found in the 908 Song Gaosenzhuan 宋高僧伝 (Jp. = SOU KOUSOUDEN) or the "Legends of High Priests of the Song Dynasty." He lived on Mt. Siming 四明 in Mingzhou 明州, Fenghua 奉化, where he frequently strolled through a nearby town carrying his large cloth bag (Ch. = Budai; Jp. = Hotei 布袋). Thus he earned his affectionate nickname, "Priest Budai." Budai's air of "enlightened innocence" led him, like Hanshan and Shide Kanzan Jittoku 寒山拾得, to be admired as an exemplar of Zen values. Although originally he was said to have filled his bag with anything he encountered on his wanderings, later Zen interpretations speak of Budai's "empty bag." Ironically, in Japanese popular culture Budai's bulging bag and contented appearance led to his inclusion in the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. Budai was also thought to have been an incarnation of Maitreya (Miroku 弥勒). In painting Budai is shown with sparse hair, a smiling face, a large bare belly, loose garments and carrying a bag and wooden staff. In later paintings he is shown in a variety of poses, usually seated or sleeping on his bag, but also dancing, walking or pointing upwards at the moon. In Edo period painting Budai is frequently pictured together with groups of playing children. Early Chinese examples include paintings by Liang Kai 梁楷 (Jp: Ryoukai, mid-13c, Kousetsu 香雪 Museum, Koube), Muqi 牧谿 (Jp: Mokkei, late 13c), and Yintuoluo 因陀羅 (Jp: Indara, late 14c, Nezu 根津 Museum, Tokyo), while a plethora of Japanese versions range from works by Mokuan 黙庵 (?-1345) to Ogata Kourin 尾形光琳 (1658-1716) to numerous mitate-e 見立絵 prints in ukiyo-e 浮世絵. <end JAANUS quote>
Hotei -- Netsuke available in our estore
Says the Flammarion Iconographic Guide: Hotei could be the Chinese hermit Budaishi (d. 917), who was thought to be an incarnation of Maitreya; the latter is venerated in some Zen monasteries of the Oubaku sect (as at Manpuku-ji Temple in Kyoto) by the name of Hotei, the “Miroku with the Large Belly.” He is represented as a Buddhist monk: bald, unshaven, smiling, with a huge belly. He holds a non-folding fan in the right hand, and leans on a large sack which contains endless treasures, a sort of horn of plenty for his followers. He is also sometimes confused with Warai-Hotoke (smiling Buddha) or with Fudaishi (Japanese version of the name of the Chinese hermit Budaishi) when he is assigned to guard monastery libraries. In this case he is accompanied by his two “sons.*” In Japan, the image of Hotei is often made as a toy for pulling or tilting. When it has wheels, the toy is called kuruma-sou (the rolling monk). In some representations in Japan, Hotei has an eye drawn on his back, a symbol of universal vision.
* Footnote: A legend relates, against all the evidence, that Fudaishi was the inventor of the buildings intended to contain the sutras (rotating libraries, called kyōdō in Japan), and built by the so-called Azekura-zukuri technique. His two sons, shown clapping their hands and laughing, are sometimes called Fuwaku (or Fuken) and Fukon (or Fujō). Sculptures at Kōmyō-ji Temple in Kamakura, and at Daikoku-ji Temple in Kyōto. <end Flammarion quote>
- Butsuzō-zu-i 仏像図彙, the “Collected Illustrations of Buddhist Images.” Published in 1690 (Genroku 元禄 3). One of Japan’s first major studies of Buddhist iconography. Hundreds of pages and drawings, with deities classified into approximately 80 (eighty) categories. Modern-day reprints of the expanded Meiji-period version are available at this online store (J-site).
- JAANUS. Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. A wonderful online dictionary compiled by the late Dr. Mary Neighbour Parent. It covers both Buddhist and Shinto deities in great detail. Over 8,000 entries. Written in English, yet presenting all key terms in Japanese.
- Buddhism (Flammarion Iconographic Guides), by Louis Frederic, Printed in France, ISBN 2-08013-558-9, First published 1995. A highly illustrated volume, with special significance to those studying Japanese Buddhist iconography. Includes many of the myths and legends of mainland Asia as well, but its special strength is in its coverage of the Japanese tradition. Hundreds of accompanying images/photos, both B&W and color.
- Essentials of Buddhist Images: A Comprehensive Guide to Sculpture, Painting, and Symbolism. By Kodo Matsunami. Paperback; first English edition March 2005; published by Omega-Com. Above clipart in left column scanned from this book. Matsunami (born 1933) is a Jōdo-sect 浄土 monk, a professor at Ueno Gakuen University, and chairperson of the Japan Buddhist Federation. He received the government's Medal of Honor (褒章 hōshō), Blue Ribbon, for his achievements in public service. Says Matsunami: “Bishamonten protects from disaster and bodily harm. Daikoku satisfies the deisre for food. Benzaiten represents sexual desire. Hotei brings laughter, and Ebisu grants wealth.
- Tobifudo Deity Dictionary. Ryūkozan Shōbō-in Temple 龍光山正寶院 (Tokyo). Tendai Sect.
- The Seven Lucky Gods of Japan, by Chiba Reiko. Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1966.
- UCLA Center for East Asian Studies, Educational Resources from teacher Samantha Wohl, Palms Middle School, Summer 2000. See Wohl’s Materials List (based on Chiba Reiko’s book).
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