Budai (Chinese: 布袋; pinyin: bùdài) or Budai Luohan, pronounced Hotei in Japanese, is a figure that appears throughout Chinese culture. He is a representation of contentment and abundance, and is sometimes seen as a deity by religious Taoists and Buddhists. His image graces many temples, restaurants, amulets, and businesses. He is almost always shown smiling or laughing, hence his nickname in Chinese, the Laughing Buddha (Chinese: 笑佛).
Budai is based on an eccentric Chinese Zen (Chán) monk who lived in the time of the Liang Dynasty. He has since become incorporated into a number of Buddhist, Taoist and Shinto traditions. Some Buddhist traditions use him as an representation of the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the predicted Buddha to succeed Gautama Buddha in the future. In Japan, Hotei persists in folklore as one of the Seven Lucky Gods (Shichi Fukujin).
 As Angida Arhat
Budai derives from the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, where there was a monk named Angida, whose name also meant calico bag. Angida was one of the original eighteen Arhats of Buddhism. According to legend, Angida was a talented Indian snake catcher whose aim was to catch venomous snakes to prevent them from biting passers-by. Angida would also remove the snake's venomous fangs and release them. Due to his kindness, he was able to attain bodhi. Both Budai and Angida have similar resemblances, as they both are rotund, seen laughing and carrying a bag, However, in Chinese art, Angida is portrayed as Budai, so it may be unclear whether the imagery between the two are similar in any way. In Nepali, it is also called hasne buddha.
 As a Chinese Buddhist monk
In the Chinese tradition, Budai was a monk who lived during the Later Liang Dynasty (907–923 AD) of China. He was a native of Fenghua, and his Buddhist name was Qieci (Chinese: 契此; pinyin: Qiècǐ; literally "Promise this"). He was considered a man of good and loving character. Apart from his character, his identification with the Maitreya Bodhisattva (the future Buddha) is also attributed to a Buddhist hymn (Chinese: 偈语; pinyin: Jiéyǔ) he uttered before his death:
- Maitreya, the true Maitreya
- has billions of incarnations.
- Often he is shown to people at the time;
- other times they do not recognize him.
Budai is often depicted as having the appearance of a fat bald man wearing a robe and wearing or otherwise carrying prayer beads.
 Faiths that revere Budai
 Zen Buddhism
The primary story that concerns Budai in Zen (Chán) is a short kōan. In it, Budai is said to travel giving candy to poor children, only asking a penny from Zen monks or lay practitioners he meets. One day a monk walks up to him and asks, "What is the meaning of Zen?" Budai drops his bag. "How does one realize Zen?" he continued. Budai then took up his bag and continued on his way.
 I Kuan Tao
Statues of Budai form a central part of shrines in the I Kuan Tao. He is usually referred to by his Sanskrit name, Maitreya, and is taken to represent many important teachings and messages, including contentment, generosity, wisdom and open kindheartedness. He is predicted to succeed Gautama Buddha, as the next Buddha. He helps people realize the essence within, which connects with all beings. and he fosters the realization of tolerance, generosity and contentment; thus, he helps to bring heaven to earth.
 Phra Sangkadchai/ Phra Sangkachai
In Thailand Budai is sometimes confused with another similar monk widely respected in Thailand, Phra Sangkadchai or Sangkachai (Thai: พระสังกัจจายน์). Phra Sangkadchai, a Thai spelling of Mahakaccayanathera (Thai: มหากัจจายนเถระ), was a Buddhist Arhat (in Sanskrit) or Arahant (in Pali) during the time of the Lord Buddha. Lord Buddha praised Phra Sangkadchai for his excellence in explaining sophisticated dharma (or dhamma) in an easily and correctly understandable manner. Phra Sangkadchai also composed the Madhupinadika Sutra.
One tale relates that he was so handsome that once even a man wanted him for a wife. To avoid a similar situation, Phra Sangkadchai decided to transform himself into a fat monk. Another tale says he was so attractive that angels and men often compared him with the Buddha. He considered this inappropriate, so disguised himself in an unpleasantly fat body.
Although both Budai and Phra Sangkadchai may be found in both Thai and Chinese temples, Phra Sangkadchai is found more often in Thai temples, and Budai in Chinese temples. Two points to distinguish them from one another are:
- Phra Sangkadchai has a trace of hair on his head (looking similar to the Buddha's) while Budai is clearly bald.
- Phra Sangkadchai wears the robes in Theravadin Buddhist fashion with the robes folded across one shoulder, leaving the other uncovered. Budai wears the robes in Chinese style, covering both arms but leaving the front part of the upper body uncovered.
Budai in folklore is admired for his happiness, plenitude, and wisdom of contentment. One belief, popular in folklore but not part of Buddhist doctrine, maintains that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck, and prosperity.