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Laughing Buddha - Abundance, Happiness, and Prosperity
The Laughing Buddha (also known as Hotei in Japan or Pu-Tai in China) is thought to be based on an actual wandering Chinese monk who lived at the time of the Liang Dynasty (907-923 AD). He is incorporated in Buddhist, Taoist and Shinto traditions. He is most often depicted with a large round tummy, laughing or smiling. He also sometimes carries a cloth sack which never empties. In this bag are sweets for children, food, precious items, rice plants etc. He is like a patron for the weak, poor and children and as well as giving it seems he takes away our woes and sadness. He symbolises good luck, contentment and abundance. He also sometimes carries a wishing fan, granting peoples wishes.

In Feng Shui he is a symbol of wealth. He can be placed anywhere in your home, work or temple! (or probably more realistically on your altar).

He is not the same as Gautama Buddha, the main Buddha associated with founding Buddhism. But there does appear to be a link as some strings of Buddhism do regard the Laughing Buddha as an earlier incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha (or future Buddha) who is predicted to succeed the Guatama Buddha, and this is partly because of the words attributed to him before his death:

“Maitreya, the true Maitreya has billions of incarnations.
Often he is shown to people at the time; other times they do not recognize him.”

It seems a more recent addition, the idea that you can rub the Buddha’s belly to bring luck and wealth. This practice is not a part of Buddhist doctrine as such but more something that has evolved over time. Rubbing his belly or not, having this symbol around helps remind us that a prosperous, loving, giving life is possible on earth. So often we are convinced that we cannot have a plentiful and abundant life and live in balance. Well, the Laughing Buddha actually says you can!
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