HOTEi, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan...
Hotei (in Japanese) is one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. He is known as the God of Happiness, a patron of children, fortunetellers, bartenders, and politicians. He is often smiling and has bristly whiskers around his face. The fat stomach, which protrudes from the robes he wears, symbolizes the largeness of his soul.
He was a Zen priest who could quote Buddhist text verses almost nonstop. Some sources affirm that he was an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Miroku (Maitreya in Sanskrit), the Buddhist Savior of the Future (Giraud 404).
According to legend, Hotei is also a fortuneteller whose predictions always come true.
Hotei is often shown surrounded by a group of small children, romping and squealing in delight around his rotund shape. In addition, he has a reputation for giving gifts.
A Custom belief that by placing a drawing of Hotei, shown in a treasure boat along with the six other Lucky Gods, under one's pillow on the first night of January, one's first dream of the new year will be an auspicious one. Try it next year my friends... source: Jennifer Polden (Univ. of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
This particular antique depicting Hotei in ceramics was captured at the private museum of Ibusuki Hakusui-Kan, a remote Ryokan (Hotel) in Kyushu. I was an invited guest during a photshoot on Kyushu.