Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday’s Mythological Creature of the Day-- Hotei (the Laughing Buddha)

I’ve seen the Laughing Buddha figurines so many times at the Asian restaurants, in new age stores, on people’s bookshelves. The little bold happy guy with a wide smile and a big belly. I’m sure lots of you came across him one time or another. I’ve never known who he was, but figured he was a symbol for good luck and prosperity. Buddha in a happy state of mind, laughing and giggling... A happy Deity, who’ve just returned from nirvana and having a blast, observing the crazy world around him. Well, truth to be told, I’ve also found the figurine to be slightly creepy. Is he laughing with us or at us?

To my surprise, I’ve opened my big Mythological Encyclopedia on an article about Hotei today. Sounded familiar... Oh, I knew it from the name of a very good Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, owned by the same gentleman as Ebisu (one of the most famous Japanese restaurants in the City)...

So, it’s turned out that Hotei (also known as Budai in Chinese folklore, also known as the Laughing Buddha) is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune in Japanese mythology. His name means a cloth sack. He is the god of plenty, and also a representation of communication and joy. The prototype of Hotei is a Chinese Buddhist monk in the 9th-10th century, who’d got famous for his interpretation of some happy signs from "above". He looked unusual for a typical monk (very short, and one couldn’t miss that big belly) and had a distinctive behavioral quirk -- walking around half-naked with a cloth sack on his back. He was attracting so much attention that people started to talk about and draw him, and through these drawings he became a legend. In the 15th century he was included into the league of the Seven Gods of Fortune by the name of Hotei.

I’d love to learn more about this guy!

Check these sites:

This is not truly related but funny!

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