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Laughing Buddha (Happy Buddha); known as Hotei (Japan) and Pu-Tai (China), these figures embody the ideals of the good life: health, happiness, prosperity and longevity.

They represent the later Buddhist notions that the good life was indeed attainable in this world. It consisted of self-mastery, a happy demeanor, purposeful endeavor, a deep commitment to the welfare of others and enlightened awareness.

Scholars believe that the Laughing Buddha is in fact modeled on an historical figure, a fat wandering Zen monk named Pu-tai.
All sources describe him as obese, with wrinkled forehead, and a white protruding belly which he left uncovered. There was another feature of his bodily appearance that captured attention.

Wherever he went, he wore a pu-tai (Japanese Hotei) or cloth-bag. Thus he came to be known as Pu-tai Hoshang or hemp-bag monk.
Legend has it that in this bag he carried candy for the children. Over the centuries within China, Buddhist notions of happiness based on self-mastery and enlightened insight were fused with popular Chinese life-ideals of happiness through material prosperity, thus today the hemp sack may be interpreted as filled with gold, filled with happiness, health, and other aspects of abundance.
Rubbing of the belly (and nose, cheeks, mouth etc etc.) is commonly believed to bring good luck.

Now you may notice the extra long fingernail on the mans pinkie finger. A relatively common practice with Asian males. I looked it up on the internet and found some funny theories...

1.) Organic coke spoon. As if we needed to ask.
2.) Booger scoop and earwax excavator. Gross, yes, but sure keeps that coke from falling off.
3.) In the old days in China, long fingernails were a sign you were rich and didn't do manual labor. Now they grow out the pinkie as a sign of culture, breeding and wealth. No doubt there's some truth to this. A bit of browsing turns up photos of ornate fingernail protectors worn by ladies of the imperial Chinese court. Bizarre though such talons may seem to some, one could argue that as an indicator of culture, breeding, and wealth they beat having to buy a Jaguar and read Proust.
4.) Someone told me the nails are long so the little finger reaches past the last knuckle joint on the ring finger. If it does, you are rich and intelligent! Maybe, but if I'm Anna Nicole Smith trying to size up a prospective soul mate, I'm going to need to see more than a pinkie nail.
5.) A sharpened, hardened nail is a dangerous weapon and can be a sign of prison time. Or of a man who opens a lot of envelopes.

I hope you like the photo...
- Dan

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Additional Photos by Dan Walsh (danielswalsh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1458 W: 363 N: 2367] (13597)
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