English  

Hotei

  Of the Eighteen Lohans (Japanese Rakan), pupils of the Buddha, perhaps the outstanding and most popular character is Hotei, who also is one of the Shichi Fukujin, the seven Japanese Shinto-gods of luck. He is the god of happiness, laughter and the wisdom of contentment, and is the patron of the weak and children, fortunetellers and bartenders. Hotei is distinguished by his body of generous proportions and round stomach exposed beneath loose robes. His big belly is a symbol of happiness, luck and generosity. On his back he carries a huge linen bag (ho-tei) from which he gets his name, containing precious things and gifts of good fortune, including children. He also holds an uchiwa, a flat of Chinese origin used by ancient chieftains as an emblem of authority and wish granting. He may sit in an old cart drawn by boys, as the Wagon Priest, and can be compared with the Buddhistic Mi-lo-Fo.  He is usually identified with a Chinese priest of the tenth century named Chishi, who was popularly called Putai no San, or "Mr. Linen Bag", and combined the craft of fortune-telling with begging.
  In Chinese Buddhism he is known as the Loving or Friendly One. According to legend he carried a sack of candy to give to children. He is sometimes worshiped as a god of good luck and prosperity. He is always represented as very stout, with the breast and upper abdomen exposed to view. His face has a laughing expression, and he is also known as the Laughing Buddha. He stands in the first hall of the Buddhist monastery. Because of his constant good nature, he has become the symbol of philosophical contentment.