Sunday Signs & Symbols: Laughing Buddha and the Number Eight

Today, I am attending a wedding. This ritual of joining two people together in marriage is full of rich symbolism.

Several months ago, I attended a wedding where the groom was of Chinese descent and the bride was of Filipino descent. They incorporated important symbols from each of their cultures into their special day. As I entered the dining room at the reception, I was greeted by an army of laughing Buddhas all arranged neatly in lines. Each Buddha had its arms raised, holding up a small piece of paper. On these slips of paper were the names of each guest and the table number they were assigned to sit in. How lucky of me to be assigned to table 8!

Buddhists believe that Buddha achieved enlightment and his image came to embody this state of being. In turn, the Chinese culture projected ideas of health, happiness, prosperity, and longevity on to the Buddha. Rubbing the Buddha’s belly is considered to be lucky.

In Cantonese and regional dialects, the pronunciation of the word “eight” is similar to the pronunciation of the words “wealth” and “prosperity”. Because of these similarities, the number eight has become synonymous with these words.

Years ago, we worked with a Chinese-American realtor when my husband and I looked to buy a house in a neighborhood with a significant Asian population. We learned that a house on the market with a price tag of multiple 8s or ending in an 8 meant the seller was Chinese. When our realtor put a bid to purchase her own house, her figure included three 8s at the end.

As the Summer Olympics in London approach, I think back to four years ago when China hosted the Summer Olympics. The Opening Ceremony was held on August 8, 2008 or 8/8/08 as close to 8:08:08 pm, Beijing time. How fortunate for the Chinese to work these logistics in their favor! It all makes sense.