About the Seven Lucky Gods

In Japan, when visiting shrines and temples, people purify themselves and offer offerings such as coins and ema to thank them for fulfilling their prayers and wishes. The Seven Lucky Gods provide another way to achieve one’s goals. Today, the Seven Lucky Gods are an international and eclectic group of deities from India, China, and Japan consisting of Ebisu, Daikoku, Bishamonten, Fukurokuju, Juroujin, Benzaiten, and Hotei. However, since Fukurokuju and Jurojin were thought to be the same Taoist deity, either is often substituted by Kichijo-ten or mythical creature known as Shojo. Traditionally, the Seven Lucky Gods are believed to come into town at New Year’s to distribute gifts to those who are worthy, and this belief is carried on in the custom of giving money to children in envelopes with images of treasure ships on New Year’s Day. The emphasis on the seven gods of good fortune extends to many cultures around the world. Seven also appears to be an international sacred number, as many of the words have significant cultural significance. The eclectic nature of the Seven Samurai is evident not only in their country of origin, but also in their traditional associations. Three belong to the Hindu-Buddhist religion of India, three belong to the Taoist-Buddhist religion of China, and one belongs to the Shinto religion of Japan. These groupings appear to have originated in Japan, but why or how they became popular is currently unknown. However, they are distinct and different from each other. Ebisu, the Japanese Seven Lucky Gods, the god of fishermen, merchants and farmers, is often depicted carrying a sea bream on his back and adorning the label of a delicious Japanese beer all by himself. From China, they have Hotei, the god of wealth and health, looking fat and contented; Fukurokuji, the god of wealth, happiness and longevity; and Juroujin, also a god of longevity. From India they have Daikokuten, the god of commerce, trade and wealth; Bishamonten, the god of warriors; and Benten (Benzaiten), derived from the Indian goddess of water, who is revered in Japan as the patron saint of music and wisdom, but is also a symbol of art, knowledge and beauty.