The protector of libraries and collections. Fu Xi (497–569) was a learned abbot and philosopher in Liang, a Chinese kingdom of the period of the Six Dynasties. He invented a rotating vertical table that allowed storage and display, and the honouring, of the entire Buddhist canon, the Daizπkyπ. As a consequence, he and his two sons, Fujπ and Fuken, who usually flank his image, are considered guardians of libraries.
Many ecclesiastical libraries in Japan show these three figures. Fu-daishi himself is usually shown seated on a broad Chinese chair, his two sons as smaller figures standing on either side. The sons are portrayed often as laughing monks, like Hπtei. However, one is shown with his mouth open (saying om, the first syllable), and the other’s mouth is closed (saying hum, the last syllable), indicating their role—like the koma-inu and the Ni-π—as guardians of the Law from beginning to end. Fu-daishi is popularly known as warai Botoke, the laughing Buddha, an image also popular in the West.
- Joly, Henri L. 1967. Legend in Japanese Art. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Co.
Handbook of Japanese Mythology written by Michael Ashkenazi – Copyright © 2003 by Michael Ashkenazi