Archive for the ‘Bishamonten’ Category

Guidebook to Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods – August 2013

Sunday, August 25th, 2013
Jump to the INTRO PAGE for Japan'S Seven Lucky Gods

Cutified modern drawing of the Seven Luckies. Click image to get started.

Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods (Shichifukujin 七福神) are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China.  Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu). Three are deva from India’s Hindu pantheon (Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten) and three are gods from China’s Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Jurōjin, Fukurokuju).  In my mind, it is more fruitful to explore the seven within a Deva-Buddha-Kami (Hindu-Buddhist-Shintō) matrix rather than a standard binary Buddha-Kami model. For that reason, special emphasis is given to the three Hindu deva. Although the group’s Japanese origin can be traced back to the 15th century, the set of seven did not become stadardized until the late 17th century.  By the 19th century, most major cities had developed special pilgrimage circuits for the seven. These pilgrimages remain well trodden in contemporary times, but many people now use cars, buses, and trains to move between the sites.  Today images of the seven appear with great frequency in Japanese art and media, but unlike olden times, the seven are now often portrayed as cute, lovable and childlike.  The “cutification” of religious icons in modern Japan is widespread and part of a much larger social trend toward cuteness in billboard advertising, corporate branding, sports mascots, street fashion, product design, and a host of other areas. This integrated primer explores the seven’s historical development in Japanese art and lore.  Enjoy.  Popcorn not included.

Guidebook to Japan's Seven Lucky Gods. Click image to get started.

Guidebook to Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods. Click image to get started.


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Buddha Statues & Japan — June 2011

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Hello Readers,
Knowledge Update for June 2011.

Updates to A-to-Z Dictionary of Japanese Deities

» Bishamonten, God of Treasure, Wealth, & Warriors

This month we turn our attention to Bishamonten 毘沙門天, one of Japan’s popular Seven Lucky Gods. This armor-clad, weapon-wielding, demon-stomping deity was introduced to Japan in the 6th century AD as one of Four Deva Kings Guarding the Four Directions. In this role, he was known as Tamonten 多聞天, the guardian of the north, treasure, and protector of the holy places where Buddha expounds the teachings. The Four Kings soon rose to great prominence in rites to safeguard the Japanese nation. In later centuries, however, Tamonten became the object of an independent cult, supplanting the other three in importance. When worshipped independently, he is called Bishamonten. Around the 15th century, he was enlisted as one of Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods owing to his association with treasure.  Today, as one of the seven, he is often portrayed as friendly and jolly in contrast to his traditional appearance as a ferocious defender of Buddhist law.  He is identified with various syncretic deities including Sanmen Daikokuten, Tenkawa Benzaiten, Shōgun Jizō, and Sōshin Bishamonten.

Come join us for an interesting ride that starts in 6th century Japan and ends in the modern day. This story features nearly 80 “clickable” photos, copious reference notes, spellings in multiple Asian languages, and a handy guide to Bishamon’s changing iconography over the past 14 centuries.

Various images of Bishamonten

Various artwork of Bishamonten, a popular subject of painting and sculpture in Japan.

ENJOY, and gassho
mark in kamakura