Monday, March 22, 2010
Hotei. Male. The god of contentment and happiness, Hotei has a cheerful face and a big belly. He is supposedly based on an actual person, and is widely recognized outside of Japan. He carries a large cloth bag over his back, one that never empties, for he uses it to feed the poor and needy. Indeed, the Japanese spelling of "Ho Tei" literally means "cloth bag." He also holds a Chinese fan called an oogi (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.
Small human children near his feet
Daikoku at left, Ebisu in middle, Hotei at right; Meiji Period Bizen Ceramic