How much I desire!
Inside my little satchel,
the moon and stars

One of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods, Hotei is 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.