The Jolly Laughing Buddha is also known as Hotei or Pu-Tai. He is extremely popular in China where he is also known as the Loving or Friendly One. He is derived from an eccentric Chinese Zen monk who lived well over a thousand years ago and
He is now a dominant feature of Buddhist and Shinto culture. He has a very open and jolly demeanour he was regarded as an incarnation of the Maitreya bodhisattva who will be the Future Buddha. He has large protruding belly and jocular smile have and is known commonly as the «Laughing Buddha.»
His features graces many temples, restaurants, and jewellery and has come to represent a Buddha of contentment and abundance. He is nearly always seen carrying a linen sack which is always full and is full with many valuable items, such as rice plants (indicating wealth), sweets for children, food items, or the grief of the world. He is the Buddha of the weak, the poor and children.
Laughing Buddha Wooden Statues
These statues are usually represented by a fat, smiling or laughing bald man in monk’s robes and has an exposed pot-bellied stomach symbolizing happiness, good luck, and good fortune. Some statues also have small children at his feet. These statues often have an alm’s bowl representing his Buddhist nature.
In other depictions he may be found on a cart drawn by children, or holding a fan called an oogi. All of these features represent him as an itinerant monk who travels taking away the sadness from the people of the world.
Legend has it if you rub his large stomach, it will produce wealth, good luck, and good fortune. He is also the patron saint of restaurateurs, clairvoyants and bartenders. When one drinks or eats too much friends blame it on the Laughing Buddha’s influence.
Very Large Laughing Buddhas
In Taiwan there are only four Buddhist temples which have him as their main Buddha. The Treasure Cognition temple in Taichung houses Taiwan’s largest statue with his bald head touching the ceiling of the main temple hall.
The Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou China has the largest one in China. It is carved from camphor wood and stands over 60 feet tall, and is gilded with over one hundred ounces of gold leaf.
The Lama Temple which is the only Buddhist temple in Beijing, China has the largest Laughing Buddha carved from single piece of wood.
The Laughing Buddha and Zen
The Laughing Buddha was travelling and handing out sweets to poor children and asking for a penny from Zen monks or the laity he met on the way. One day a monk comes up to him and enquires, «What is the meaning of Zen?» the monk drops his linen sack. «How does one realize Zen?» he replied. The laughing Buddha then took up his sack and went on his way.