Dharma Data: Laughing Buddha

A rather inaccurate name given by Westerners to the Bodhisattva Maitreya as he is depicted in Chinese iconography. Maitreya means the Loving or Friendly One and consequently ancient artists thought it appropriate to depict this bodhisattva as a rotund, cheerfully smiling character. Statues of Maitreya are usually found at the entrance of Chinese temples and among more superstitious Chinese Buddhists are sometimes worshipped as a god of good luck and prosperity.