|This is a picture of a Laughing Buddha on a hotel green in the Dominican Republic back in 1990. Little did I know I'd be posting this for Yard Art on Thursdays in 2010. Neither did the hotel. I wonder if it's still there?|
Budai (Chinese: 布袋; pinyin: bùdài), pronounced Hotei in Japanese, is a Chinese folkloric deity. His name means "Cloth Sack," and comes from the bag that he carries. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese: 笑佛). In English speaking countries, he is popularly known also as the Fat Buddha.
Budai is often depicted as having the appearance of an amply proportioned bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads. He carries his few possessions in a cloth sack, being poor but content.
His figure appears throughout Chinese culture as a representation of contentment. His image graces many temples, restaurants, amulets, and businesses.
Amongst Westerners new to Buddhism, Budai is often confused with the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. However, the two are visually very distinct. Gautama is commonly depicted as being tall and slender in appearance (although since no images of him from his lifetime exist, this depiction of him is unverifiable and possibly idealized); Budai is short and overweight. (Buddha means "one who has achieved a state of perfect enlightenment" and there are several people who have been given the title.)