Malaysia: Life can be fun
When westerners think of "Buddha," usually they don't visualize the Buddha of history, meditating or teaching. Instead, they visualize a fat, bald, jolly character called "The Laughing Buddha." The Laughing Buddha emerged from Chinese folktales of the 10th century. The original stories of the Laughing Buddha centered on a Ch'an monk named Ch'i-t'zu, or Qieci, from Fenghua, in what is now the province of Zhejiang. Ch'i-t'zu was an eccentric but much-loved character who worked small wonders such as predicting the weather.
The tales of Ch'i-t'zu spread throughout China, and he came to be called Pu-tai (Budai), which means "hempen sack." He carries a sack with him full of good things, such as sweets for children, and he is often pictured with children. Pu-tai represents happiness, generosity and wealth, and he is a protector of children as well as of the poor and the weak. Today a statue of Pu-tai often can be found near the entrance of Chinese Buddhist temples. The tradition of rubbing Pu-tai's belly for good luck is a folk practice, however, not a Buddhist teaching.