3. Ishigami Hotei



Hotei okimono
Stone embedded in a root and lacquer
Japan, Edo-Meiji period, 19th century
H.: 20 cm

Hotei called Budai in Chinese, is also known as the Laughing Buddha, a major figure in Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism. He represents generosity, wealth and abundance. He was originally a Chinese chan monk (? – 916) in the Later Liang Dynasty (10th century). He is considered, according to the Mahayana school, as an incarnation of Maitreya, the Buddha of the future. Adopted by Taoism, he is seen in this tradition as a god of abundance. In the Shinto pantheon of Japan, he is one of the Seven Gods of Happiness.
Hotei is usually depicted with a smiling face, a wide naked belly, bald, and very long ear lobes (a sign of high spirituality), and carrying a canvas bag and a staff. The stomach was considered in Chinese mythology as the seat of the soul, and Budai (Hotei) broad belly can be seen as an allegory of his heart. The legend has it that he put broken wooden toys that children entrusted to him in his bag, and that he brought them back to them repaired.