Saturday, March 31, 2007

seven gods

INTRODUCTION. 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 Shinto tradition. Three are from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India (Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten) and three from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Juroujin, and Fukurokuju). In Japan, they travel together on their treasure ship (takara bune 宝船) and dispense happiness to believers. Each deity existed independently before Japan's "artificial" creation of the group in the 17th century. Images of the seven appear with great frequency in modern Japan, and the most common ordering is: Ebisu, Daikoku, Benzai, Hotei, Fukurokuju, Juroujin, Bishamonten. Each deity is presented briefly below. Click any deity name for full textual reviews & numerous photos. Click here for photo montage. SEVEN VIRTUES. Says the Flammarion Iconographic Guide: This popular group of deities recalls "the seven wise men of the bamboo thicket" or the "seven wise men of the wine cup" whose images are popular in China. The Japanese group was artificially created in the 17th century by the monk Tenkai (who died in 1643 and was posthumously named Jigen Daishi), who wanted to symbolize the essential virtues of the man of his time for the Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1623-1650 AD). The seven virtues are:
Candour (Ebisu)
Fortune (Daikokuten)
Amiability (Benzaiten)
Magnanimity (Hotei)
Popularity (Fukurokuju)
Longevity (Juroujin)
Dignity (Bishamonten)

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