The Happy Buddha- Pu-Tai

Published: 22nd February 2010
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Chinese Happy Buddha statues are one of the two kind of Buddha statues. There are Happy or Laughing Buddha statues, and then there are the more serious types of Buddha statues. It is said that the Chinese Happy Buddha is actually based on the characterization of an actual Buddhist monk who lived more than 1,000 years ago. His Chinese name was Pu-Tai. Pu-Tai was a good person. He was a kind and benevolent man who shared all he had. Most representation of Pu-Tai actually show him holding a bag with is full to overflowing with good things, like food or candy or money. It is said that Pu-Tai spent much of his life distributing the items found in his bag to the children of the poor. He is said to nourish and care for children and the weak or poor. His duty is to care for those who need someone to take up for them.

Pu-Tai is said to have been so kind that he has become the incarnate of the bodhisattva who will come at some point in the distant future as the Maitreya. Buddhists look forward to a future date when the Maitreya will come to earth bringing with him world peace and harmony between warring factions. According to legend, from time to time throughout the history of mankind, Maitreya is born among men. Though he is recognized as a generous and wise man, he is never recognized by the men of the age for who he really is. The Maitreya lives his life around those who never know the real person.

Pu-Tai is represented as a heavy, bald, laughing man. These characteristics symbolize happiness, good luck, and fortune. Sometimes he is shown with children, other times he has a fan in his hand. The fan is a symbol used by nobility to communicate to their vassals that their wishes will be granted. So, a statue of Pu-Tai holding a fan represents that he is coming to take away the sorrows and unhappiness they feel and replace them with happiness and wealth. Pu-Tai images in statues often also have a bag of money or Chinese coins in their hands.

The image of Pu-tai is not limited to China. This image and story has traveled across the world wherever Buddhism has been transported. In Japan he is known as Hotei. In North America it is not uncommon to see statues of Pu-tai or Hotei in restaurants, temples or worn on amulets. In Western culture, the image of the Happy Buddha comes to mind when people think of Buddha.

There is a strong cultural tradition that rubbing the fat belly of Pu-tai or the Happy Buddha will bring good luck, fortune and prosperity. This isn't actually a part of Buddhism, but it is a common practice to carry small happy Buddha statues in your pocket. The legend states that there is nothing that will bring more happiness to Pu-Tai than watching all the sorrow and suffering of mankind changed to happiness and prosperity. His inner smile is so bright that it radiates throughout his entire being and is certain to bring happiness wherever he may be. Set this Happy Buddha in a place of honor where he may work to lift the burdens you must carry.

Please click on the links to purchase Happy Buddha statues, other Buddha statues, or other Tibetan statues.

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