HOTEI - God of Contentment & Happiness
Origin = China Taoism / Buddhism
Associated Virtue = Magnanimity
Chinese Name = Budai or Putai. One of Japan's Seven Lucky Gods.
Male. The god of contentment and happiness, Hotei has a cheerful face and a big belly. He is widely recognized outside of Japan as the Fat Buddha or Happy Buddha or Laughing Buddha. He carries a large cloth bag over his back, one that never empties, for he uses it to feed the poor, the needy, and children. 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. He is supposedly based on an actual person, most likely 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; Miluo Fo in Chinese, also Miluo Pusa in Chinese).
In Japanese artwork, Hotei is sometimes shown surrounded by a group of small children, romping and squealing in delight around his rotund shape. 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.
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 by Kano Yukinobu (1643 - 1682)
Says the Flammarion Iconographic Guide to Buddhism:
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>
HOTEI -- One of Japan's Seven Lucky Deities
The Shichifukujin are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu) and Japan's indigenous Shinto tradition. Three are from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India (Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten) and three from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Jurōjin, and Fukurokuju). In Japan, they travel together on their treasure ship (takara bune 宝船) and dispense happiness to believers. Each deity existed independently before Japan's "artificial" creation of the group in the 17th century. Images of the seven appear with great frequency in modern Japan. The Shichifukujin are an excellent example of the way Hindu, Buddhist, and Shinto beliefs live side by side in Japan, influencing one another, and even lending each other gods !