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Antique Japanese Ivory Okimono
Happy Buddha Hotei
Backpacking with Reishi
Signed: Ryuba. Early 20th century
H 4.75 in.(12cm.), W 2.5 in.(6.5cm.), D 2 in.(5cm.)
Condition: Very Good!

The Happy Buddha, or Laughing Buddha, whose Chinese name is Pu Tai, Sanskrit Maitreya (Future Buddha), and he is lovingly called The Cloth Sack Buddha "Hotei" in Japanese. Zen paintings often pictured the joyous Buddhist monk Hotei as an eccentric wanderer with an empty sack, a protector of children unconcerned with material wealth. Ironically, since Hotei is one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, his empty sack was later made into a treasure bag, and Hotei is believed to dispense riches to the poor and needy at will.

However, this wonderfully realized okimono of Hotei is represented as a Medicine Buddha. Here he is shown carrying a treasure bag, with a cluster of reishi (Chinese: Ling-chih, or wood ear fungus) tied to his fan. It is note worthy that the carver Ryuba has succeeded in rendering the reishi with great charm, his meticulously artistry in noting its smooth stems and bumpy caps captured a finesse rarely seen in a cluster of fungus. On its main feature_the Hotei Buddha is rendered with high spirit and striking simplicity. It leaves no doubt that Ryuba is a master of his art, despite that he is virtually unrecorded in our library of references.

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