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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Shichifukujin

七福神

The Seven Lucky Gods or Shichifukujin are an mixed bag of lucky demi-gods frequently seen in temples all over Japan.

Seven Lucky Gods

The eclectic band of deities consists of Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten, Ebisu, Fukurokuju, Hotei and Jurojin.

Only Ebisu is native to Japan, whereas Benzaiten, Bishamonten and Daikokuten originate in India and Fukurokuju, Hotei and Jurojin originally came to Japan via China.

Benzaiten, or Benten, is a goddess of music and art and is the only female member of the group usually depicted carrying a lute (biwa).

Bishamonten is a deity for warriors and war and is often seen with a fierce countenance to ward off evil and carrying weapons or clad in armor. Bishamonten's messenger is a pigeon.

Ebisu is a deity for fishermen, good luck and business and is seen with a fish (tai, sea bream) and a fishing rod.

Shichifukujin

Daikokuten is the deity of wealth and prosperity and the guardian of good harvests and is often paired with Ebisu in Japanese folklore.

Fukurokuju is the archetypal, venerable Chinese sage of longevity and wisdom depicted with a long, white beard and learned scroll.

Hotei or the "Laughing Buddha" with his bulging paunch and ready smile is the embodiment of earthly contentment, fulfillment and happiness.

Jurojin, like Fukurokuju, represents longevity and wisdom and is also seen with a beard and literary scroll.

The grouping of the gods in a group of seven is no accident as the number seven has long been associated with good fortune all over the world. The seven gods ride together in a treasure boat (takarabune) loaded with treasures (takarazukushi), which is distributed to the worthy and deserving at New Year - a motif that originated in China.

Images from Joganji Temple, Tokyo.

Ebisu and Daikoku

Shichifukujin

Tabi Boots

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