The Shichifukujin 七福神 are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu) and Japan’s indigenous Shintō tradition. Three are from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India (Daikokuten, Bishamonten, & Benzaiten) and three from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei,Jurōjin, & Fukurokuju). In Japan, they travel together on their treasure ship (Takarabune) and visit human ports on New Year’s Eve to dispense happiness to believers. Each deity existed independently before Japan’s “artificial” creation of the group. The origin of the group is unclear, although most scholars point to the Muromachi Era (1392-1568) and the 15th century.
Origin = Japan.
Shinto Name: Kotoshiro-nushi-no-kami
God of the Ocean, Fishing Folk, Good Forture, Honest Labor, Commerce. Virtue = Candor, Fair Dealing
Holds a fish (TAI, sea bream or red snapper), which symbolizes luck and congratulation (Japanese word for happy occasion is omede-TAI); fishing rod in right hand; folding fan in other; grants success to people in their chosen occupations; son of Daikoku. Popular among fishing folk, sailors, and people in the food industry.
Origin = India.
Skt. = Mahakala
Intro to Japan 9th C. AD
God of Earth, Agrculture, Farmers, Wealth, Prosperity, Flood Control, The Kitchen. Virtue = Fortune
God of five cereals; rice bales; treasure sack (bag); magic mallet in right hand; sometimes wears hood; rat (found around food); often shown with Ebisu, who is said to be his son; merged with Shinto deity of good harvests, Okuninushi no Mikoto. Also a member of the TENBU. Popular among farmers, agricultural businesses, & traders.
Origin = India.
Skt. = Sarasvati
Goddess of Music, Beauty, Eloquence, Literature, Art. Virtue = Amiability
Japanese mandolin, lute, magic jewel, snake, sea dragon. Only female among the seven. Member of the TENBU grouping. Popular among artists, musicians, and writers.
Hotei 布袋 (PLEASE STOP CALLING THIS GUY BUDDHA!!!!!)
Origin = China.
Chn. = Putai, Budai
Budaishi (Jp. = Fuudaishiten)
God of Contentment and Happiness. Virtue = Magnanimity
Bag of food and treasure that never empties; oogi (fan), small children at his feet; supposedly only member of seven based on actual person (although Jurōjin / Fukurokuju might also be based on real person); known as the Laughing Buddha; rubbing his stomach is said to bring good luck; incarnation ofBodhisattva Maitreya (Jp. = Miroku). Popular among bartenders and all classes of people. Best known of the seven outside Japan.
Origin = China.
Taoist Hermit Sage
God of Wealth, Happiness, Longevity, Verility, and Fertility. Virtue = Popularity
Huge elongated head; long white beard, cane with sutra scroll, crane, deer, stag, tortoise (symbols of longevity); scroll said to contain all the wisdom in the world; said to inhabit same body as Jurōjin (the pair are two different manifestations of the same deity); wields power to revive the dead. Popular among watchmakers, athletes, others.
Origin = China. Identified with Laozi (Jp. = Rōjinseishi), the founder of Chinese Toaism
God of Wisdom & Longevity. Virtue = Longevity.
Also spelled Jurojin.
Long white beard, knobbly staff with scoll of life attached; tortoise, deer, stag, crane; in same body as Fukurokuju (the pair represent two different manifestations of the same deity); scroll said to hold the secret to longevity; sometimes carries a drinking vessel, as he reportedly loves rice wine (sake). Popular among teachers, professors, and scientists.
Origin = India.
God of Treasure, Bringer of Wealth, Defender of the Nation, Scourge of Evil Doers, Healer of Ilness. Virtue = Dignity
Wears armor, carries spear and treasure pagoda; centipede is messenger; Vaisravana in Sanskrit; also known as Tamonten(the commander of the Shitenno or Four Heavenly Kings), and a member of the TENBU Popular among soldiers, doctors, and certain Buddhist monestaries; the only member of theShitenno worshipped independently.
TREASURE BOAT & TREASURE
The treasure ship (Takarabune 宝船) is laden with treasure (Takara 宝). Says JAANUS: “The Chinese character BAKU 獏, a Chinese imaginary animal thought to devour (i.e. prevent) nightmares, is sometimes found written on the sail. Often auspicious cranes and tortoises are depicted in the sky and the sea. Although the origin of treasure-boat paintings is not clear, one Edo-period record indicates that they were started in the Muromachi period.”
- Hat of Invisibility = Kakuregasa 隠れ笠, and Cloak of Invisibility (Lucky Raincoat) = Kakuremino 隠れ蓑. Allows one to perform good deeds without being seen.
- Robe of Feathers = Hagoromo 羽衣. A long loose flowing garment giving one the gift of flight. Attribute of Benzaiten.
- Magic Mallet, Mallet of Good Fortune = Uchide no Kozuchi 打出の小槌. Brings forth money when struck against an object or when shaken. Common attribute of Daikokuten.
- Bag of Fortune = Nunobukuro 布袋 (lit. cloth bag). Includes an inexhaustible cache of treasures, including food and drink. Common attribute of Hotei.
- Never-Empty Purse or Moneybag = Kanabukuro 金袋. Bag of unlimited wealth, prosperity & fortune.
- Key to Divine Treasure House = Kagi 鍵. The treasure house is symbolized by the stupa (pagoda) held by Bishamonten.
- Rolls of Brocade = Orimono 織物. Scarves and clothing were considered treasures in ancient times and used in various rituals. Not sure of its meaning here.
- Scrolls of Wisdom & Longevity = Makimono 巻物. Common attributes of Jurōjin and Fukurokuju, who are said to be two different manifestations of a single deity (the god of wisdom and longevity).