Hotei – The Laughing God


In Japanese mythology, Hotei is one of the Seven Lucky Gods, and believed to be based on an actual person who carried a big bag full of food and goodies for hungry people and especially for children. In the Japanese spelling of “ho tei,” his name literally means “cloth bag.”

Hotei comes out of the Chinese Taoist-Buddhist tradition and is considered the God of contentment, happiness, satisfaction and abundance. He portrays the wisdom of being content and represents magnanimity, one of the seven Japanese virtues.

According to tradition, if you want luck and health, you must rub his statue’s tummy, which is big and always exposed. Occasionally you will see a statue of him with lots of laughing children clustered around and on him.

In the early 60s, my then husband was the physician aboard a troop transport going in and out of Okinawa. He brought home the one pictured above (and next). It is 16 inches tall, made of camphor wood and even almost 50 years later, you can still smell the camphor.


That started my collection of Hotei statues. Over the years of moving around, some of them have been lost. One small ivory one was a special one I hated to lose. This small bronze figurine and bell with Hotei as the handle are among the small ones that survived.


Many times he is depicted with his hands up in an expression of joy.


This one I made out of ceramic and painted with a glaze to look like stone.


Often, Hotei is shown in a seated position. He appears to be a very contented guy, with the bag by his side.


In my four trips to Japan, I found him in every shop, in all sizes and positions. He is probably one of the most popular of the Seven Gods. Here is one more that occupies a place of honor in my home.


As you probably suspect, I rub at least one of these tummies every day. I desire the contentment and wisdom he offers. I suggest you look up more information on the internet. There is so much more to be learned about him.

~ Sayonara ~

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