One of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japanese Shinto symbolisms, Hotei is the representative of abundance and good health. He is the God of contentment and happiness and personifies the sentiments with a happy laughing face and a big belly. He is also considered the God of laughter, contentment and a patron saint of weak, fortunetellers, children and bartenders. His large belly loosely covered with robes is a symbol of generosity, luck and good fortune. He is popularly known as ‘Laughing Buddha’ in the West. Hotei statues are present in the first hall of the Buddhist monasteries as symbols of good luck and prosperity.
Hotei uses this magical bag to feed the needy and the poor, bringing happiness and abundance. A type of Chinese fan that was used by the aristocracy to tell the vassals that their request will be granted is also seen in the hands of Hotei symbolically meaning a ‘wish fan’, where the wishes would be granted. He is often portrayed in sculpture and statues surrounded by happy children, playing around his belly or just romping around him. Some artists and sculptors have also portrayed him sitting on an old cart as Wagon Priest and the cart is being drawn by boys.
In Japan ‘Ho Tei’ means a cloth bag and the God Hotei is represented as a large bellied happy person with a cloth bag, over the shoulder full of treasures, gifts and good food that is never known to empty. According to myths and legends surrounding the origin of Hotei, it is traced to a 10th century Buddhist monk in China, Budaishi or Budai, an incarnation of Lord Buddha or Maitreya or future Buddha. The philosophy behind the incarnation of future Buddha is that he will bring salvation so the Budai’s pleasing features, jovial countenance and hope for the sufferers made him one of the popular Buddhist icons. In the annals of history, it has been written that he was canonized as the Last Chinese bodhisattva.
With changing times, Hotei is also known to be the patron saint of bartenders and restaurant owners, as overeating and extra drinks are attributed to the influence of Hotei.
Due to immense popularity of Hotei both in the pantheon of the seven Gods and individually as Laughing Buddha, numerous statues and sculptures are available to suit all decors and preferences. Artists create beautiful and exquisitely detailed pieces in ivory, wood, inlay, metal and stone delineating his big belly and exuberance in great detail.
Browse our Seven Lucky Gods Collection
You can browse much more carved Mammoth Ivory Tusk artifacts at our Mammoth Ivory Figurines collection