Who is the Laughing Buddha?
Originally known as Pu Tai or Hotei, the chubby (fat) laughing Buddha is a Chinese monk, Chan - a zen monk that lived over a millenium. The laughing Buddha is not part of Thai Buddhism, or Theravada Buddhism, but is a part of Maitreya Buddhism. In China they refer to this Buddha as the love Buddha or friendship Buddha.
Many people wear these Buddha amulets in China. Well, many more than do in Thailand. In Thailand I have seen only a couple large statues of the laughing Buddha. You can see one here that is at a very small temple with a large cave.
The name of this temple is Wat Promrattanporn and it's located in Krabi province, on the way out to Huay Toh waterfall outside of Krabi town. This is a very small wat, but it has a couple amazing things to see in the large cave. There are only a handful of Thai monks here - and I guess it originally had a Chinese abbot - though now the abbot appears to be Thai originally.
The laughing Buddha stands for many things... he is said to be the patron of the weak, the underpriviledged, and especially for children - with his jolly countenance. Often times you will see the laughing Buddha with a bag full of something. I always guessed it was money, but, apparently it is filled with rice plants, sweets for children, food, and other things to help the unfortunate people of the world. If we had laughing Buddha amulets - would you like to buy one?
Please write us and let us know. We might be able to find some for you. :) In some sculptures and drawn images the laughing Buddha is sitting on a cart and pulled by kids. Sometimes he is holding an OOGI - a fan that indicated to followers that if they wished something - it would be followed with a fan from the OOGI.
Pu Tai was an ascetic monk with no real home. He traveled across the country of China and brought goodwill to those that didn't enjoy a priveleged life. In this image I think the Buddha (long ears and Buddha hair) is a cross between the laughing Chinese Buddha and the regular Theravada Buddha - skinny - gaunt.
This Buddha is not smiling but looks friendly. He has two bags of something. If I remember correctly, the one is a bag of money - of gold pieces. The other - I'm not sure. Candy for kids like the Laughing Buddha? Again, this is found at Promthepprattanporn Cave in Krabi, Thailand.