Exceptional Japanese Bronze Of A Wandering Hotei (or Budai) A2287
This very fine example of Japanese craftsmanship shows the Budai in traveling mode, his (separate) walking staff being, for the moment, balanced on his bag. And he is not tiny at 8" high, 7 1/2" across and 6" deep, while his twisty staff itself measures 12". The bronze is in perfect condition.
Budai (also known as Hotei or Pu-Tai) is a semi-historical Chinese monk who is venerated as a deity in Chinese Buddhism and was also introduced into the Japanese Buddhist pantheon. He allegedly lived around the 10th century in the Wuyue kingdom. His name literally means "cloth sack", and refers to the bag that he is conventionally depicted as carrying as he wanders aimlessly. His jolly nature, humorous personality, and eccentric lifestyle distinguish him from most Buddhist masters or figures. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the "Laughing Buddha".[ As he is traditionally depicted as fat, he is also referred to as the "Fat Buddha".
Budai has origins centered around cult worship and local legend. He is traditionally depicted as a fat, bald monk wearing a simple robe. He carries his few possessions in a cloth sack, being poor but content. He would excitingly entertain the adoring children that followed him and was known for patting his large belly happily. His figure appears throughout Chinese culture as a representation of both contentment and abundance. Budai attracted the townspeople around him as he was able to predict people’s fortunes and even weather patterns. The wandering monk was often inclined to sleep anywhere he came to, even outside, for his mystical powers could ward off the bitter colds of snow and his body was left unaffected. A recovered death note dated to 916 A.D., which the monk himself wrote, claims that he is an incarnation of the Maitreya, The Buddha of the Future.
As Zen Buddhism was transmitted to Japan around the 13th century, the devout monastics and laymen of the area utilized figure painting to portray the characters central to this "awakening" period of Zen art. Many of the eccentric personalities that were inducted into the Zen tradition like Budai were previously wrapped up in the established culture and folklore of the Japanese people. The assimilation and reapplication of these wondrous charismas to the Zen pantheon assisted in the expansion of the Zen tradition. Budai is almost always depicted with his "cloth sack" that looks like a large bag. The bag serves as a prominent motif within the context of Zen Buddhism as it represents abundance, prosperity, and contentment. Ink paintings such as these attributed to Budai often had an inscription and seal that signaled to high ranking officials.