Fat Buddhas

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Fat 'Buddhas'

These are not images of Buddha (Shakyamuni), at all. A fat body is usually, as we know, an indication of access to lots of food.  Therefore it indicates blessings in the form of prosperity.  Sometimes it is also, not surprisingly, associated with fertility.

One statue found in Chinese and Vietnamese commercial establishments is actually that of Jambhuvala the guardian king of prosperity, Mi Fo.  He may be seated on a sack of treasure holding in his left hand a gold ingot that looks like a boat or hat. He is associated with the jewel-spitting mongoose often misunderstood as a mouse, rat, or shrew.  He may also be depicted with a fan or a walking stick, and a mala in his left hand.  The Tibetan counterpart is Namtoseh.

Then there is a Chinese form some think is an aspect of Maitreya, the bodhisattva or future Buddha.    

one person's experience with this kind of Thai or Chinese image

Hotei 

He is the laughing monk with hands held up over his head as if supporting the heavens, therefore some equate him with Indra, the sky god.  Some people think we ought to rub his belly.

The renowned Shao Lin Temple ("young forest") is named after its setting, a pine forest at the foot of the western slope of the mountain of Songshan (Central Mountain) outside Lo-Yang, in Hunan province, China.  Currently known mainly for its martial arts tradition, construction was begun by Emperor Xiao Wen (439-493) for the Indian monk, Ba-tuo so that Buddhist and related information could be translated into Chinese.  It is that monk who is depicted as the standing pot-bellied figure referred to as the "happy Buddha."  

"Ho Tei is Equanimity. Ho Tei is, "Canít do anything about that! Oh, well!" "Thatís a tough one! Gotta let that one go!" 

The reason you see Kwan Yin and Ho Tei often paired is because theyíre a very good balance to each other. Kwan Yin is, "I want to fix that, my kid hurts, I want to reach out." And Ho Tei is "Well, I guess they get to hurt themselves -- I told them not to, but, hey!" 

            ~ Jim Wilson at GBF, June 13, 1999 in March 2000 Newsletter

Some give the name Ho Tai to the chubby figure with children crawling upon him and/or animals before him, who is actually bodhisattva Kshitagarbha.  He is called Hvashang or Huashang both in Tibetan and Chinese.  He was the emissary sent to invite Buddhist teachers to China. 

Yes, there is confusion surrounding Hotei; Buckwheat and hemp, too. Not to mention tobacco!

There was also a 13th-century rebellious monk called Ji Gong who is also depicted as fat and happy, but he is usually depicted  with his wine pot.

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