Laughing Buddha Statue Meaning

Updated April 17, 2017

The Laughing Buddha or Happy Buddha statue depicts a bald, grinning figure with a large exposed belly and a cloth bag. The Laughing Buddha statue is welcome in any Buddhist home for it is said to bring good luck and prosperity.


The Laughing Buddha statue may represent an ancient fertility figure whose large belly promises a bountiful harvest. Chinese legend traces these statues back to a travelling monk who lived in the 10th century AD.


The Laughing Buddha has a fat belly, large ear lobes and always carries a cloth bag. Today, many people believe the bag is full of gold. According to the original legends, however, the bag was full of candy which the monk passed out to children.


The names for the Laughing Buddha statue in China (Budai) and in Japan (Hotei) both refer to the bag he carries. In addition, the Chinese laughing Buddha is sometimes referred to as Pu-Tai, the name of the original monk who sparked the legend.

Fun Fact

Legend has it that rubbing the Laughing Buddha statue's large belly will bring a person good luck.

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About the Author

Debra Stang is a licensed social worker and freelance writer. Her work has appeared on, Bella Online, the National Association for Social Workers website, and Open Travel Info. Her brochure for bereaved families, "What to Do When a Crisis Occurs" won a Missouri Hospital Association award.