Takarabune and Seven Lucky Gods of Japan (part 1)

ship of fortune detail

The Seven Lucky Gods (Shichifukujin) are a group of deities from Japan, China and India. Each deity has existed independently for centuries before a monk called Tenkai 'created' the group in the 17th century (Muromachi period) to symbolise the essential virtues of man. Each God therefore, represents a different virtue;
Ivory ornamental model of a Japanese Ship of Fortune in sail

Popularity


Popularity is represented by Fukurokuju. Fukurokuju is the God of Wisdom, Longevity, Virility and Fertility and he originates form a myth about a Chinese hermit who performed miracles. His name, when broken down, means happiness, riches and longevity. He is three feet tall, has a large head, big eyes and a long white beard. He wears garments like an old Chinese scholar and he likes to play chess. He sometimes has cranes and/or a tortoise near him. He is closely associated with Jurojin as they are both said to inhabit the same body.

The Crane and the Tortoise


The crane is considered auspicious in Japan. It is a symbol of longevity and is regularly seen with Fukurokuji. According to tradition if a person folds 1000 origami cranes their wish for health will be granted.

The tortoise is a symbol of longevity due to its long life span. Also closely associated with Fukurokuji the tortoises shell is said to protect it from any enemy. The tortoise is also an attribute of Kompira the deity of seafarers. In Chinese mythology the tortoise is one of the four Auspicious Creatures and represents the element of water. It is the black warrior depicting strength and endurance.

Detail of a Ship of Fortune depicting Jurojin

Longevity


Longevity is represented by Jurojin. Jurojin is the God of Wisdom and Longevity and originates form China. He has a white beard and there is a scroll attached to his staff which is said to carry all the wisdom of the world on it. He is closely associated with Fukurokuju as they are both said to inhabit the same body. He also said to be a heavy drinker and womaniser.

Dignity


Dignity is represented by Bishamonten. Bishamonten is the God of dignity and the good fortune, wealth, happiness, righteousness and religious faith. Originating from India, he is often mistaken for the God of War due to his physical appearance and clothes. He wears armour and a helmet and carries a spear and a tower which signifies faith and treasure. He is tall and has a bushy beard and the pigeon is his messenger.