The Laughing Buddha

Laughing buddha
A 20th Century Laughing Buddha

It’s hard not to smile looking at a “Laughing Buddha”, nickname for the Buddhist figure also known as “Budai” or “Hotei”. The Budai’s can be found in many temples, in paintings, as carvings or statues.

Figurines of the Laughing Buddha have been made in virtually every material known to man from bone to solid gold. He is nearly always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname. This happy Budai has become a patron of the weak, poor and children, also as figure of abundance. In modern times he has become a sort patron saint of restaurateurs.

This Buddha is based on a wandering Liang Dynasty (502-557) Chinese monk, but he appears in Buddhist, Taoist and Shinto culture. The Hotei is usually shown carrying a sack which is filled with many precious items, which like a cornucopia never empties of food and candy for children. In Japanese folklore, this Buddha is one of the Seven Shichi Fukujin” (Lucky Gods), he is also used as a symbol of good fortune his figure strategically located in the  Feng Shui method of decorating.

The Laughing Buddha figurines were not only made in China, but have been produced in Europe since the mid 18th Century , notability by the famous Meissen porcelain works in the mid-1700s. The example pictured here is a modern Chinese example, most often seen in Chinese restaurants. this one was made during the 1980’s.

Values for Laughing Buddha’s vary depending on size and quality,  an early Meissen example can sell at auction for over $8000.00.  For those of us with smaller bank accounts there are a lot of other options, a late one like the one pictured often go for less than $75.00, even some late 19th Century examples caqn be found going for less than $200.00.