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Hotei, ink on paper
Important Cultural Property
1 hanging scroll
Ink on paper, hanging scroll
Southern Song-Yuan period (China)/13th century
Kyushu National Museum
The big-bellied, round-faced laughing man with a pig-like nose is Hotei or Budai who, as an incarnation of Maitreya, attracted many believers. The major feature of this painting is the brushwork: Thin sumi ink with little water is used for the hair and beard, while the lines of the clothes are drawn with watery darker sumi, which spreads along the lines on the paper. The darkest sumi is used only in the eyes, which suggests that the painter of this sumi-e had a good understanding of the color and spreading properties of sumi and created the painting by making the most of the unique sumi properties.

It has been said that Mokkei, a Chinese monk and painter, created this painting. Mokkei was a monk and painter who lived in the thirteenth century from the late Southern Song period to the early Yuan period. He was called “Osho” and held in high esteem in Japan as a special monk. Ancient documents, such as “Gomotsu On-e Mokuroku” and “Muromachidono Gyoko Okazari-ki,” show that this painting was possessed by the Ashikaga Shogun-ke (the family positioned to accede to the shogunate) as Mokkei’s painting in the Muromachi period. Later, it was possessed and prized by people in power, including the Tokugawa Shogun-ke and had been known as a venerable Chinese painting for over 500 years in Japan. It is also famous as a hanging picture used in tea ceremonies and popularly called “Belly-rubbing Hotei.”

In the upper part of the painting, there is an anecdote of Hotei written by Kanokyokei (thirteenth century), a Chinese monk.

Legend on the painting (from the left): 大開笑口以手捫/胸全無些伎倆/争可在天宮唖/罪過我閻浮着/你(イ+弥-弓)儂 Kyokei