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LEXICON

 

 

Seven Gods of Fortune

Name given to seven deities worshipped in Japan, most of whom derive from the Eight Immortals (fig.) of China, with Ebisu (fig.) being in fact the only one of the group to originate from Japan. Akin to the Eight Immortals, who cross the ocean on a raft from their home in the Taoist paradise to worship Xi Wangmu after attaining their Enlightenment, the Seven Gods of Fortune are often depicted on their ship, often a dragon boat and usually with a sail adorned with the Chinese character Bao (宝), which means ‘Treasure’. In Japanese, this boat is called Takara Fune or Takara Bune (宝船), which in Chinese is referred to as Bao Chuan, i.e. ‘Treasure Ship’. According to tradition, the seven deities arrive in town on New Year and distribute gifts to worthy people, often monetary gifts enclosed in red envelopes called hong bao (fig.), that sometimes are adorned with a depiction of the Treasure Ship in gold print. The seven are known by the names: Hotei, Jurohjin, Fukurokuju, Bishamonten, Benzaiten or Benten-sama, Daikokuten or Daikoku, who is associated with Mahakala (fig.), and Ebisu, with the latter two often being paired in art. In Japanese, the Seven Gods of Fortune are together referred to as Shichi Fuku Shin (七福神), which in Chinese is pronounced Qi Fu Shen, while in Thai they are collectively known as Thepachao Chohk Lahp Thang Jet (เทพเจ้าโชคลาภทั้งเจ็ด).