“Budai” Laughing Buddha
iPhoneOgraphy – 10 Feb 2016 (Day 41/366)
Budai or Pu-Tai (Chinese and Japanese: 布袋; pinyin: Bùdài; rōmaji: Hotei; Vietnamese: Bố Đại) is a Chinese folkloric deity. His name means “Cloth Sack,” and comes from the bag that he is conventionally depicted as carrying. He is usually identified with or seen as an incarnation of Maitreya, the future Buddha, so much so that the Budai image is one of the main forms in which Maitreya is depicted in China. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese: 笑佛; pinyin: Xiào Fó). In the West, the image of Budai is often mistaken for Gautama Buddha, and is hence called the Fat Buddha (Chinese: 胖佛; pinyin: Pàng Fó).
Budai is traditionally depicted as an obese, 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. He is often depicted entertaining or being followed by adoring children. His figure appears throughout Chinese culture as a representation of contentment.
According to Chinese history, Budai was an eccentric Chán monk (Chinese: 禅; pinyin: chán) who lived in China during the Later Liang (907–923 AD). He was a native of Zhejiang, and his Buddhist name was Qieci (Chinese: 契此; pinyin: qiècǐ; literally: “Promise this”). He was considered a man of good and loving character.