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This large, very heavy statue depicts the smiling, jolly Hotei, one of the Seven Lucky Gods. Hotei, a folklore deity from Taoist-Buddhist traditions, is supposedly based on a Chinese monk named Budai. He carries a branch in his left hand that supports a sack on his back; in the legend, this bag never empties and is filled with food, sweets and rice plants. In his right hand, he carries an alms bowl and a double gourd for water for his travels. He is incredibly detailed, down to the lovely folds in his robe and the tiny beads he wears around his neck. His smiling mouth is not carved on, but carved out. Even his toes have carved toenails.
The "cloud" that Hotei is standing on is a large burl from a cypress tree, complete with a knot hole and age crack. Hotei is, of course, carved from the same piece of burl, but he has been smoothed and buffed, while the base is "au naturel," bumps and all. This statue weighs 9 pounds, 9 ounces and stands 16 inches tall. The bottom measures 7-8 inches from front to back and about 10 inches wide (measurements are approximate because the shape is irregular). There are some scratches in the wood, but no chips and no cracks other than those shown.
Hotei/Budai statues appear in Chinese, Japanese and Thai temples, so we have designated this simply as an Asian statue. The Hotei statues carved from burls, in particular, were most often carved in Thailand. The burls are 600+ years old and have become very scarce there.
When Hotei is standing, rather than sitting, he symbolizes wealth. One of the popular beliefs about Hotei is that by rubbing him about the head and shoulders can bring good luck and prosperity. The temptation to rub his protruding pot-belly, however is irresistible. Fortunately, that is believed to bring abundance and contentment also.