The Laughing Buddha, also known ad Budai, Hotei and Fat Buddha, is often mistakenly thought as Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism. The Laughing Buddha is thought to have originated from a monk named Qieci, from Fenghua (now the province of Zhejiang), an eccentric man who was much loved.
Stories of Qieci is spread across China and eventually become known under a name which means “hempen sack”, Budai. He carries a sack full of goodies such as sweets for children and often pictured with children. The Laughing Buddha represents happiness, generosity and wealth while also a protector of children, the poor and the weak. Often you can see the statue of the Laughing Buddha these days near the entrance of Chinese Buddhist temples and it is folk practice to rub his belly for good luck.
Interestingly, in Chinese Taoism the Laughing Buddha he seen as a god of abundance and in Japan he is called Hotei and is one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Shinto. The Laughing Buddha is also referred as the patron of restaurateurs, fortune tellers and bartenders.
Laughing Buddha statues often depict a jolly man carrying quite an array of items and in Feng Shui Laughing Buddha statues are often used and what the Laughing Buddha carries may be something you want to gain more of, so keep an eye out. A pot of gold and gold ingots are of wealth while a sack abundance, maybe even a gourd which is a symbol of good health and longevity.
If you practice Feng Shui it is said there are several places that make a good position to place a Laughing Buddha statue, from what I heard the best places include facing the main door, in the living room, on a deck and either an office table or reception desk.
His birthday is said to be on the first day of Chinese New Year