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Book: Buddhism in Five Minutes

Chapter: 12. Who is the Fat Buddha Figure?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.40749


Surprising as it may be, the fat Buddha is not a more rotund version of Gautama Buddha himself, although he has earned his nickname because of this misconception, and hence his name is often capitalized. The “fat Buddha” figure, also known as the “laughing Buddha,” represents a semi-historical, popular, non-canonical figure, derived from Chinese folklore, who became incorporated into the Chan (Zen in Japan) Buddhist tradition. Known as Budai in China, Hōtei in Japan, and Podae in Korea, the “fat Buddha” appeared in Chinese iconography during the Song dynasty (960–1279) and was allegedly modeled on Qici (–916), an eccentric Chinese Buddhist monk from the Chan tradition who lived around the tenth century during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (907–60) in the Wuyue kingdom.

Chapter Contributors

  • Paulina Kolata ( - pkolata) 'University of Chester'