Laughing Buddha or Zen Buddha? What a difference ?

Did you know that several very different characters have been nicknamed "Buddha"?

The two main ones are Shakyamuni Buddha (often called "Zen Buddha"), and the Laughing Buddha (or "Chinese Buddha"). Who are they really?

Bouddha Shakyamuni

Shakyamuni Buddha or “Zen Buddha”

He is a real historical figure, the founder of Buddhism. It originated in northern India around 2500 years ago. His real name is Siddhartha Gautama but he was called "Buddha Shakyamuni": "Buddha" meaning "the awakened one" and "Shakyamuni", "the hermit of the Shakya tribe".

Siddharta was a wealthy Indian prince who renounced the throne and the abundance of princely life to devote himself to spirituality and finding how to ease the sufferings of human existence.

According to legend, he was the first human being to experience enlightenment, and he decided to teach his knowledge throughout India to help everyone unlock their potential. His teachings were recorded in the form of sutras and gave birth to Buddhism, a religion and philosophy of life that advocates peace and compassion.

The Laughing Buddha or “Chinese Buddha”

This character is not really a Buddha. But he also really existed! His name is Budai (or Hotei in Japanese).

He is a Chinese Buddhist monk who lived around 1000 years ago, and who traveled all over China with his heavy bag to do good around him: it is said that he repaired children's broken toys, offered money and food to the poorest, and spread joy and good humor wherever he went.

Over the centuries, Chinese tradition has made him the Taoist god of happiness and prosperity: his broad smile and his plump belly symbolize the ideals of a successful life.

His nickname Buddha comes from his resemblance to the Buddha of the future mentioned in Buddhist texts and called "Maitreya Buddha": the Benevolent.

Which of these two characters do you associate with Buddha? Which one to choose for your decoration?

If you want your decoration to be inspired by themes like spirituality, well-being and relaxation, Shakyamuni Buddha is the statue for you.

If you prefer the influences of Chinese culture, the evocation of happiness and prosperity, or if you are superstitious, the Laughing Buddha is there for you!

Which material to choose?

Statues and representations of Buddha are available in several materials, but we particularly distinguish 4 which are the most common: resin, wood, stone and bronze.

Bouddha Thaïlandais en résine

The resin Buddha statue: a perfect casting

Resin is certainly not the noblest material for Buddha statues, because the work of man is then reduced to its simplest expression.

The resin statues are in reality casts, all perfectly identical, of a statue which served as a model. Each molding is then painted in a more or less artisanal way.

The resin statue, however, has the advantage of offering impeccable finishes (no sculpture defects!), and offers a certain modernity which can be an asset to better integrate into modern or contemporary interiors.

Be careful: many resin statues try to pass themselves off as authentic sculptures! In particular, there are more and more so-called sandstone Buddha sculptures, which are in reality casts formed with an amalgam of resin and sand.

Bouddha rieur en bois

The wooden Buddha statue: each piece is unique!

For people who are looking for a more authentic Buddha statue than the resin ones, the wooden statue is an excellent choice! Its price is certainly a little higher. But the difference is not that huge in reality.

And above all, each wooden statue is an authentic artisanal work entirely made by hand. This is noticeable at first glance. While we no longer even look at the countless resin trinkets, as they are so banal and meaningless, a wooden statue will always arouse the curiosity of those who pass in front of it. We like to observe each detail of the sculpture while trying to imagine the gesture of the craftsman. We admire the artistic talent and beauty of the wood. We can't help but caress the material...

As with each unique work, the work of the human hand is perceptible. Sometimes, slight imperfections testify to this authenticity. But here we have a separate object, which is kept for a long time then is passed on, insensitive to the effects of fashion.

Whether you like its style or not, the wooden Buddha statue is always a unique piece.

Statue de Bouddha en pierre

The stone Buddha statue: art in its raw state

The stone Buddha statue is probably the most representative of Asian craftsmanship: if you travel to India, Japan, Thailand or even Bali, you will see hundreds of them, around temples, or even in the parks and gardens.

There are two types of stone statues:

 - Sculpted raw stone statues: they are rare and expensive in Europe because they require many hours of work (stone is a fairly expensive material, and requires a lot of sculpting time), and are difficult to transport due to their very heavy weight. An 80cm tall Buddha statue in raw stone costs between €450 and €1200 depending on the model. Below this price range, it is most of the time a statue in reconstituted stone.

- Reconstructed stone statues are generally made from a rough cast, then finished by hand. Reconstituted stone is most often a mixture of noble stone reduced to powder (marble, Java stone, etc.), and resin or cement. They are much less expensive than their raw stone counterparts, but their appearance is increasingly successful thanks to the technical progress of craftsmen.

Whether they are made of raw stone or reconstituted stone, stone Buddha statues have the advantage of being able to be placed outdoors without requiring a lot of maintenance. You can therefore display them all year round on your terrace or in the garden.

Be careful, however: reconstituted stone is sensitive to severe frost. Below -10°c it will be preferable to put the statue under shelter.

Note: there are also representations of Buddha made of semi-precious stones (jade, lapis lazuli, etc.). They are generally very small (less than 10cm in height).

Statue de Bouddha en laiton

The brass Buddha statue: a noble material to celebrate the greatness of Buddha.

Nothing is too good for Buddha! The devotion of the faithful is such that the rarest and most expensive materials have been used to create sumptuous statues bearing the image of the Awakened One.

Let's mention brass, which offers us truly superb pieces. Brass is an alloy that allows you to create, by casting, magnificent statues which are distinguished by their beautiful golden color, their patinated finish and their very authentic traditional style. Having a bronze Buddha statue is like having a little piece of Asia at home!

Brass statues are more expensive than those made of wood or reconstituted stone (of equal size). But they really have a style of their own and radiate a very special aura.

Statue of Shakyamuni Buddha: the different styles, gestural expressions (mûdras)

If you prefer Zen Bouddha statues, here is some information that may help you choose yours.

Among the different representations of Buddha Shakyamuni, there are 2 major styles: the Burmese style and the Thai style.

Then, for each of these 2 styles, Buddha can be represented in different postures (standing, sitting or lying), and his hands can form various traditional gestural expressions, called Mûdras. Here's a quick overview.

Statue de Bouddha de style birman

Burmese style

In the Burmese style, Buddhas represented with a ball-shaped bun are generally grouped together.

Statue de Bouddha de style thaïlandais

Thai style

The Thai style Buddha can be recognized by its bun cut in the shape of a lotus flower bud.

The gestural expressions of Buddha, or Mûdras


Bhumisparsa-mudra: the gesture of calling to the earth

Buddha is represented sitting in the lotus position, the left hand is flat on the feet, the right hand, fingers outstretched, touches the ground.

It was in this posture that Buddha called the earth to bear witness to his spiritual awakening, when demonic forces attempted to overthrow him in order to place their king, Mara, under the sacred bodhi tree.


Dhyana-mudra: the gesture of meditation

Buddha is also seated in the lotus position. His two hands are placed one on top of the other, palms up, fingers outstretched, and resting the legs of Buddha.

This is the most commonly represented gesture, the one performed by Buddha during his long sessions of fasting and meditation under the sacred bodhi tree.


Vitarka-mudra: the gesture of argumentation

When performing this mudra, Buddha is most often seated in the lotus position, or sometimes standing. The right hand is raised to chest level, the ends of the thumb and index finger touching. The left hand can make different gestures depending on the statues.

This is the gesture that Buddha adopted when he taught the doctrine to his disciples and explained to them the divine law.


Dharmachakra-mudra: the gesture of starting the wheel of law

For this gesture, Buddha can be represented standing or sitting in the lotus position. Both hands are placed in front of the torso. The right hand is extended towards the sky, the thumb and index finger touch; the left hand is oriented towards the earth, with also the thumb and index finger touching; in certain representations, the fingers of both hands touch each other.

This is the gesture Buddha made during his first public sermon.


Abhaya-mudra : le geste de protection

When he performs the gesture of protection and absence of fear, Buddha is most often represented standing. But there are also statues in Abhaya-mudra where he is seated in the lotus position.

This gesture gave Buddha the power to repel evil attacks. A raging elephant was once rushed towards Buddha to kill him before he attained enlightenment. Buddha made this gesture and the elephant stopped and then knelt to pay homage to him.


Anjali-mudra, or Atmanjali-mudra: the gesture of prayer or homage

This posture exists in a sitting or standing position. Buddha's two hands are joined at chest level, fingers extended upwards, almost as if in a Catholic prayer.

It is a gesture of ritual prayer, or also the salutation that Buddha's disciples performed to pay homage to their master.

One last piece of advice...

I hope this information has been useful to you, and that it will help you choose your Buddha statue.

Our final advice? Listen to your heart, trust your instinct: it's the best guide to choosing well!

By observing the different Buddha statues offered to you one after the other, you will quickly feel a preference for a style, a material, a posture... Follow this feeling, and if your finances allow it, choose the Buddha statue that most widened your eyes and stimulated your curiosity. You'll probably keep this item for a very long time, so it's definitely worth it to choose the statue you like the most.

See you soon.

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Comments (8)

    • Cathy Parmentier
    • 2019-04-06 21:25:43
    Un immense merci ! Les deux bouddhas choisis sont juste superbes ! J'adore !
    • 2019-11-03 09:24:03
    Bonjour, je viens d'acquérir un couple de bouddhas enlacés, assis... On dirait presque deux poupons... Ils sont magnifiques et dégagent une tendresse incroyable. Pouvez-vous me donner la signification de cette statue? Merci. >> Réponse de Kalya : Bonjour, merci pour ce commentaire. Désolée, je ne connais pas la représentation du couple de Bouddhas enlacés et ne peut donc pas vous renseigner à ce sujet ! Je pense qu'il s'agit plus d'une représentation artistique que traditionnelle.
    • Francoise VAGENENDE
    • 2020-07-14 13:15:48
    Merci pour ces explications très claires et qui m'ont permis de mieux connaître les Boudhas.
    • Christelle
    • 2020-09-02 14:05:51
    Bonjour, merci pour cette présentation très complète. J'ai reçu un bouddha mais il s'est cassé au niveau de la tête lors d'un déménagement. Il a été recollé par la personne qui me l'a offert. Pensez vous que je peux le conserver en l'état ? Merci à vous >> Réponse de Coco Papaya Bonjour, Merci pour cette question. Il m'est difficile de vous répondre sans disposer d'une photo de la statue concernée. Mon avis est que vous devriez décider de cela par vous-même. Le Bouddha vous plait-il encore malgré cette réparation ? Si oui, rien ne vous empêche de le conserver. En Asie, en visitant des temples bouddhistes, on rencontre régulièrement des statues de Bouddha qui ont "un vécu" et même des défauts d'aspect. Mais tant que la représentation ne fait pas offense à Bouddha, elle n'est pas enlevée. Si vous souhaitez que je vous donne des conseils plus précis, pourriez-vous svp envoyer une photo de la statue à ? Bien à vous. Kalya / Coco Papaya
    • Mamilise FRAN
    • 2021-01-16 16:48:15
    J'ai lavé à l'eau additionnée d'un peu de produit vaisselle un Bouddha (reproduction du musée du Louvre) en résine qui était recouvert de résidus tabagiques. J'ai eu la surprise de voir disparaître son revêtement noir satiné. Que puis-je faire pour réparer ma bêtise ? Merci d'avance. >>> Réponse de Coco Papaya Bonjour Mamilise, Merci pour cette question. Malheureusement, je ne suis pas en mesure de vous aider. Notre expérience nous a appris comment bien entretenir une statue de Bouddha en bois, en bronze, ou même en pierre. Mais pour les statues en résine, nous manquons d'expérience. Si cette statue n'est pas de grande valeur, vous pouvez essayer de la repeindre avec une bombe de peinture : ce revêtement tient très bien sur les statues en résine. Mais nous ne sommes pas en mesure de vous garantir le résultat, désolée ! Bonne chance à vous pour cette mission :) Kalya / Coco Papaya
    • V. Chantal
    • 2022-04-03 17:25:59
    Mon amie m' a offert un bouddha, il n'a pas de gros ventre MAIS d'épais sourcils, une grosse poitrine , dans la main droite il tient un vase et dans la main gauche je dirais une clef. Pouvez-vous me donner la signification de cette statue et son origine MERCI
    • Kalya de Coco Papaya
    • 2022-04-15 12:21:42
    Bonjour Chantal, Merci pour votre message. J'ai effectué quelques recherches pour trouver une représentation du Bouddha qui vous a été offert, mais sans succès. Pouvez-vous svp m'en envoyer une photo par e-mail à ? Je serai ravie de vous aider ! Bonne journée à vous ! Kalya
    • Viviane
    • 2023-02-27 16:22:54
    Bonjour, j'ai un bouddha en position "penseur" mais je n'arrive pas à connaitre la signification de cette posture ? peut on peindre, ou agrémenter des statues sans que cela change le bienfait de cette statue svp ? merci
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