When you see statues of a happy, smiling Buddha with a round belly and a cheerful expression, chances are you’re actually looking at a statue of Budai.
When you see statues of a happy, smiling Buddha with a round belly and a cheerful expression, chances are you’re actually looking at a statue of Budai. In China, he’s referred to as the “laughing Buddha” while in the West, he’s rather rudely called the “Fat Buddha” but either way, he looks like he’s having a good time and his smile is infectious!
The real Budai was a Chinese monk in the 10th Century who was considered to be a reincarnation of Maitreya Buddha - the Future Buddha - who would help common folk. His name literally means “cloth sack” as he was often seen carrying his few possessions in a cloth sack, under his arm. He was fond of food and wine (who isn’t?) and would entertain the local children, who would often pat his belly for luck (I hope they asked first).
Budai was known for telling people’s fortunes and predicting the weather. It’s also said that he would sleep wherever he felt a bit sleepy - including outside, because he didn’t feel the cold. He represented both abundance (his round tummy) and contentment (his sack of few belongings) and was generally considered to be a well-liked and jovial figure.