This figurine represents Hotei, the God of Happiness, one of the Taoist Seven Lucky Gods. This Hotei is depicted with his characteristic large, bare belly, large earlobes, and holding a fan in one hand and a rucksack at his feet. The Hotei may have once been painted, but is now a gray-brown color with color paint remnants in places (such as yellow on his inner sleeve and red on his skirt).
Hotei (Budai in Chinese) is the God of Happiness, one of the Seven Lucky Gods or Seven Gods of Fortune, originating in Daoist belief. Hotei is sometimes considered to be an incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha or simply as a buddha (an enlightened being), particularly in China; as such, he is sometimes identified as the Laughing Buddha because of his characteristic depiction as smiling and laughing. Other attributes of Hotei include his cloth sack in which he carries his few possessions, a fan, prayer beads wound around his neck or in his hands, his bald head, and his large, bare-chested belly. While he is no longer revered as a god, in folklore Hotei is synonymous with happiness, abundance, and contentment; one belief holds that rubbing his belly brings wealth and good luck. For this reason, Hotei is frequently seen in restaurants and other businesses. His presence in The Japanese House would have been thought to bring prosperity to the family's silk business. The Hotei collection in The Japanese House includes nine statues in total. They were collected by the family over many years and were brought along with the house in 1979.