Traditional beliefs of Laughing Buddha

Laughing Buddha statues represents a stout, smiling or laughing bald man in robes with a largely uncovered pot belly stomach, which symbolizes happiness, good luck, and plenitude. Some statue has small children at his feet and another item that is usually seen with the Laughing Buddha figure is a begging bowl to represent his Buddhist nature.

In some scenes the Laughing Buddha may be found sitting on a cart drawn by boys, or wielding a fan known as an oogi (said to be a "wish giving" fan -- in the distant past, this type of fan was used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their requests would be granted). All of these descriptions display Hotei as a traveling monk who goes around and takes the sadness from people of this world.

Legends say that, if one rubs the Laughing Buddha's great belly, it brings forth wealth, good luck, and prosperity. Hotei is also represents as the patron saint of restaurateurs, fortunetellers and bartenders i.e., when a person overeats or over drinks, friends jokingly attribute it to the Laughing Buddha's power.

The Laughing Buddha's statue graces many temples, restaurants, and amulets, as he has become a deity of contentment and abundance. The icon of Hotei is almost always seen carrying a cloth or linen sack (that which never empties) which is filled with many precious items, including rice plants (indicating wealth), candy for children, food, or the woes of the world.

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