Ho Tai, “the Laughing Buddha”

Ho Tai
Ho Tai

I thought I’d try my hand at drawing a Ho Tai, also called the Laughing Buddha. Unlike commonly assumed, this is not a Chinese representation of the original Buddha (Siddharta Gautama Buddha) but a rather different historical figure. He lived during the 9th Century and was a Buddhist monk. He worked away happily in the monastery kitchens and loved his food but he is not as famous for his prodigious girth as for his kindness and generosity. He often visited local villages and distributed food and gifts to the poor – especially children – becoming something of a Santa Claus type figure depicted carrying a sack full of goodies. After his death he was elevated to god status by the Daoists. It is easy to find all different sizes of Ho Tai figures in shops in your local Chinatown. Now you can impress the proprietor by knowing the correct name! (Note the pronunciation is ho – long o, and tai like tie)

image (cc) 2009 Hilary Farmer