This figurine represents the Lucky God Hotei, God of Happiness. He is one of nine statues of the god that were collected by the original owners of the Japanese House and remains part of the house today. This particular Hotei is made of a brown stone or earthenware, and has the most traditional representation of Hotei: round belly, enlarged earlobes, smiling face, and bald head. He holds his characteristic fan in both hands, and there is a large sack at his left foot.
Hotei (Budai in Chinese) is the God of Happiness, one of the Seven Lucky Gods or Seven Gods of Fortune, originating in Daoist belief. Hotei is sometimes considered to be an incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha or simply as a buddha, or an enlightened being, particularly in China; as such, he is sometimes identified as the Laughing Buddha because of his characteristic depiction as smiling and laughing. Other attributes of Hotei include his cloth sack in which he carries his few possessions, a fan, prayer beads wound around his neck or in his hands, his bald head, and his large, bare-chested belly. While he is no longer revered as a god, in folklore Hotei is synonymous with happiness, abundance, and contentment; one belief holds that rubbing his belly brings wealth and good luck. For this reason, Hotei is frequently seen in restaurants and other businesses. His presence in The Japanese House would have been thought to bring prosperity to the family's silk business.