Laughing Buddha



The rotund figure with smiling eyes, caught in a moment of infectious laughter, is a very common sight in homes, offices, hotels and shops. This is no surprise, for the Laughing Buddha as he is aptly called, is a symbol of happiness and abundance.

Origin of the Laughing Buddha

There are many theories regarding the origin of this stout cheerful man. In China, he is called Pu-tai-Ho-Shang or Hemp-bag monk. It is believed that at the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, there was a monk called Angida. Legend has it that Angida was a kind and benevolent man who caught snakes to prevent them from biting passers-by. He would then extract their venom and set them free. The Chinese believe that the Laughing Buddha has been derived from this monk.

An alternative theory is that the Laughing Buddha was a Buddhist monk during the Liang Dynasty in China in 907 AD. He was regarded as a pre-incarnation of Maitreya Bodhisattva (the future Buddha). In Japan, the Laughing Buddha is called Hotei. He is one of the seven lucky Gods.


Laughing Buddha Idols and Images

Laughing Buddha idols and images are almost always seen carrying a sack that is filled with ‘goodies' like sweets, food, rice plants (these symbolize wealth). Sometimes, he is seen holding a wish-giving fan or sitting on a cart drawn by boys.

The purveyor of joy is a bald man clothed in robes. His large protruding belly symbolizes abundance, good fortune and mirth. He is often seen with a begging bowl. Some statues of the Laughing Buddha also show children playing at his feet.

According to tradition, rubbing the belly of the Laughing Buddha brings good luck and prosperity.

Handicrafts Trade
Suggested Reading