The Laughing Buddha is all about blurring the cultural divide between the Chinese, Japanese, Indian and now the Western world as it brings good fortunes to millions of Feng Shui enthusiasts.
Described as the Happy Man in the hundreds of Handloom House outlets in India, for years, now he is known as the Laughing Buddha even among the semi-literate sales persons. Chinese, of course, call him Hotei. He is believed to have existed in China as a real Buddhist monk China over 1,000 years ago.
Hotei, being a cheerful, contented Buddhist monk, is a wonderful little icon; where just the appearance can have the ability to cheer anyone up from a bad day. His largely exposed potbelly stomach protrudes in front of him as you almost hear the belly laughter emerging from the idol.
Typically, the origin of the Laughing Buddha, or Hotei, is from a mix in Buddhist and Shinto religions and can be traced back to the time of the Liang Dynasty in China. During this time, the story is, that there lived a Buddhist monk known as Pu-Tai and it is he who is today known as Hotei or Laughing Buddha or the Happy Man or Maitriya.
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Pu-Tai's was to be regarded as the Future Buddha but due to his large protruding stomach, he was caricatured as the "Laughing Buddha."
However, Laughing Buddha is also seen as one of the seven Japanese Shinto-gods of luck.
Back when Buddhist monks were propagating their religion in Japan, they wanted a sure fire way to touch the hearts of the local Shinto inhabitants. By manifesting Buddhist principles into Shinto kami, the monks were successful in presenting Buddhism as the same fundamental truth. Kami are seen as Shinto gods and were worshiped as such. The Buddhist monks were able to better communicate their ideology to the Japanese natives by using the Kamis as examples in common Buddhist practice. Thus, Buddhism became very widely accepted in Japan. Not limited to Japan he is a part of Chinese culture too. Chinese temples have Laughing Buddha located at the temple entrance and is often worshiped as a god of good luck and prosperity. The more popular version of Laughing Buddha is always seen carrying a sack filled with many precious items, including chocolates for kids, food for the poor and gifts for the impoverished.
Some time he may be found sitting on a cart drawn by boys or he may be found wielding oogi (a wish granting fan).
His large, fat stomach is a symbol of happiness, luck, and bounty.
Interestingly, the name Hotei – in Japanese - actually means "cloth bag" or "glutton." It is believed that if one rubs the belly of Buddha, it brings good luck and wealth.
Another item that is usually seen with the Laughing Buddha is a begging bowl. This represents his Buddhist philosophy.
The Laughing Buddha graces many houses, temples and restaurants. He has become a symbol of contentment as one of the seven happy gods.
One of the major mistake westerners seem to be doing is to confuse the Laughing Buddha with Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. Gautam Buddha, whose original name was Siddhartha, was born in Lumbini (Nepal) over 2500 years ago. Laughing Buddha is one of the Buddhist monks who followed the religion founded 1500 years before his birth.
Buddha means the enlightened and it is believed that there have been 7 Buddhas. Six others preceded him, remained reclusive, meditated privately and departed unknown to the world. It was the seventh Buddha, Gautam Buddha that made himself public, delivered sermons and founded Buddhism.
Buy the energized painting of Laughing Buddha surrounded by bamboos.
Buy the energized painting of Colorful Laughing Buddha.