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755. Budai Heshang

China, Late Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), circa 1600
Height: 16,5 cm, Width: 13,2 cm

Provenance: Private Collection, United Kingdom

A rare lacquered and gilt wooden figure of Budai, also known as the Laughing Buddha (Budai Heshang). He is depicted as a plump and bald man with elongated earlobes, wearing a Kasaya robe, his breast and ample abdomen exposed. He sits in the position of Royal Ease, both feet peeking out from under his hem. His right hand, resting on his raised knee, holds a rosary. His left arm rests on a cloth sack, which he also holds in his hand. His well carved features have a jovial expression. He sits on a separate stand, comprising two rows of lotus petals.

Budai Heshang, was an itinerant monk, who lived in China around 900 AD. He is named after the hemp sack he carries, in which he kept his possessions. Being poor but happy, he is the embodiment of contentment, plenitude and wisdom. It is believed that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck and prosperity.

There is a large lacquer Budai in the National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen (inv.nr. Dep.43). This popular figure is also depicted in many other sizes and materials such as wood, stone, bronze, porcelain and soapstone.

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