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Budai Or Pu-Tai Is A Chinese Folkloric God And Not Buddha

The Image Of The Fat ‘’Buddha’’ Is Not Buddha

  • Budai or Pu-Tai is a Chinese folkloric god. His name means "Cloth Sack”. Usually he is seen as or identified with an avatar of Maitreya, the future Buddha, so much so that the Budai image is among the main forms in which Maitreya is shown in China. He is always shown laughing or smiling, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha. The Laughing Buddha emerged from Chinese folktales of the 10th century. In the West, the figure of Budai is often misunderstood for Gautama Buddha, and is therefore called the Fat Buddha.


  • Traditionally Budai is shown as a fat, bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads. He carries his few belongings in a cloth sack. He is often shown being followed by adoring kids or entertaining. Throughout Chinese culture his figure appears as a symbol of satisfaction.


  • As per Chinese history, Budai was an unusual Chan monk who resided in China from 907 to 923 A.D. Qieci was his Buddhist name and he was a native of Zhejiang. He was respected as a man of good and loving personality.

Traditions that revere Budai


  • Some Buddhist societies consider him a bodhisattva or a Buddha often identifying him with Maitreya.
His identification with the Maitreya is related to a Buddhist hymn he uttered before his death:

  • Maitreya, the true Maitreya
  • Has billions of incarnations.
  • Often he is shown to people at the time;
  • Other times they do not recognize him.


  • In folklore Budai is admired for his wisdom of contentment, plenitude, and happiness. One belief common in folklore maintains that rubbing his stomach brings prosperity, good luck, and wealth.
  • In Japan, Hotei continues in folklore as among the Seven Lucky Gods.

I Kuan Tao

  • Sculptures of Budai constitute a central part of I Kuan Tao monuments, where he is generally referred to by the Sanskrit name Maitreya. As per I Kuan Tao, he represents several teachings, including open kindheartedness, wisdom, generosity, and contentment. He is expected to follow Gautama Buddha as the next Buddha.