Ho Tei; Hoteison

Hotei is one of the Shichi Fukujin, Japan’s Seven Spirits of Good Luck. Hotei is the spirit of wealth, joy, and contentment. (Sometimes he is the spirit of being content with what you have; other times he is the distributor of extra luck and wealth.) People love him because he has the reputation of being an exceptionally generous provider, but Hotei represents more than just material wealth: he is the spirit of the joy of life; the many treasures that can’t be counted or quantified.

Hotei epitomizes the phrase “fat and happy.” His joy is infectious. Hotei is envisioned as a Chinese Buddhist priest and may be based on an actual historic Zen master who lived in China sometime between the sixth and tenth centuries CE. After death, he was venerated as the Lord of Good Fortune. A laughing, fat, bald man, his images are often mistaken for those of Buddha. References to the “Laughing Buddha” may actually indicate Hotei.


Fortune-tellers, diviners, bartenders


Hotei is a merry, laughing fat man with a big belly carrying an equally big bag of rice. He has very long ears: the better to hear your petitions with but also indicative of his wealth. Heavy valuable earrings have stretched out his lobes. Hotei is surrounded by lots of happy, laughing children. (He’s a fertility deity, too.)


Rub the fat belly of Hotei’s statue for good luck, prosperity, and wealth.


He holds a fan in one hand and a big, full bag in the other.


Hotei rides in a cart pulled by happy, healthy, rambunctious children. (Pulling his cart is not a chore: they’re having fun and so is he.)


Buddha; Buddha, Laughing; Shichi Fukujin


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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