The popular figure of the Laughing Buddha is well known throughout the world, especially among Chinese and Japanese communities. Regarded by someÂ Buddhist schoolsÂ as a form of the future Buddha Maitreya, he embodies a number of folk traditions found in popular Buddhism.
Known as Budai in China and Hotei in Japan, the Laughing Buddha is represented as a Mahayana monk with a bald head, large belly and broad smile. He leans on a large sack full of inexhaustible treasures and is sometimes regarded as a god of prosperity.
Figures of the Laughing Buddha are often placed near temple entrances to welcome worshippers. In Chinese temples he is sometimes accompanied by the Good Boy and the Bad Boy, judges of the dead who decide whether to send the soul of a head person to heaven or hell. Some images of the Laughing Buddha show him with numerous small children clambering over his body; in Japan, small models of Hotei are made as toys.