The Laughing Buddha

The Laughing Buddha

The Laughing Buddha, also known as Budai or Hotei, is a popular symbol of happiness, wealth, and good fortune in many cultures, particularly in East Asia. This jolly, rotund figure with a big smile and a protruding belly is often depicted carrying a sack, surrounded by children, or with a bowl of candies. The Laughing Buddha is not a religious figure but rather a representation of a Chinese folk hero who lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). In this article, we will explore the origins, symbolism, and significance of the Laughing Buddha.

Origins and Legends

The Laughing Buddha is based on a wandering Chinese monk named Qieci, who was said to have lived in the 10th century. Despite his humble appearance and lack of material possessions, Qieci was known for his joyful nature and contentment. He would often distribute candy and small gifts to children, and his laughter and benevolence brought happiness to those he encountered.

Over time, Qieci’s legend grew, and he became associated with good fortune and abundance. His depiction transformed into the iconic Laughing Buddha, with a round face, large belly, and a jolly smile. The belief in the Laughing Buddha’s ability to bring luck and prosperity spread throughout East Asia, particularly in China and Japan.

Symbolism and Meaning

The Laughing Buddha is a symbol of joy, contentment, and abundance. Here are some key aspects of his symbolism:

  1. Happiness: The Laughing Buddha’s infectious smile and laughter are believed to bring happiness and positive energy to anyone who comes into contact with him. He serves as a reminder to find joy in life’s simple pleasures.

  2. Good Fortune: It is believed that rubbing the belly of the Laughing Buddha brings good luck and prosperity. This gesture is often depicted in statues and figurines, symbolizing the accumulation of wealth and abundance.

  3. Generosity: The Laughing Buddha’s act of distributing candies and gifts to children represents generosity and selflessness. It encourages individuals to be giving and compassionate towards others.

  4. Contentment: Despite his modest lifestyle, the Laughing Buddha is always depicted with a satisfied and content expression. He reminds us to find inner peace and satisfaction in the present moment, regardless of external circumstances.

Depictions and Variations

The Laughing Buddha is portrayed in various forms and poses, each with its own symbolism:

  1. Sack of Wealth: One common depiction shows the Laughing Buddha carrying a sack, which is believed to contain treasures and blessings. This represents the accumulation of wealth and abundance.

  2. Bowl of Candies: Another popular portrayal is the Laughing Buddha holding a bowl filled with candies. This symbolizes the sweetness and rewards that life has to offer.

  3. Children: The Laughing Buddha is often shown surrounded by children, symbolizing fertility, blessings, and a harmonious family life.

  4. Different Poses: The Laughing Buddha can be depicted sitting, standing, or even reclining. Each pose carries its own meaning, such as sitting Buddha representing meditation and contemplation.

Placing the Laughing Buddha

To fully enjoy the positive energies associated with the Laughing Buddha, it is essential to place him correctly:

  1. Home or Office: The Laughing Buddha is commonly placed in homes or offices, preferably in the main living area. Positioning him facing the front door is believed to attract good fortune, while placing him in the wealth area (southeast corner) can enhance financial luck.

  2. Height and Position: The Laughing Buddha should be placed at a height that allows him to be seen and appreciated. Avoid placing him on the floor or in low areas. It is also recommended to position him on a table or shelf, facing towards the room’s entrance.

  3. Respectful Placement: Treat the Laughing Buddha with respect and care. Avoid placing him in the bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom, as these areas are considered inappropriate for his placement.


The Laughing Buddha serves as a joyful and benevolent symbol in many cultures. With his infectious laughter, big smile, and belly full of treasures, he reminds us to find happiness, be generous, and embrace contentment. Whether you believe in the mystical powers associated with the Laughing Buddha or simply appreciate his symbolism, his presence can bring positive energy and a sense of wellbeing into your life. So, why not invite the jolly Buddha into your home or office and let his laughter inspire you to embrace the abundance and joy that life has to offer?

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