Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout
fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or
This Hotei lived in the Tang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen
master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with
a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or doughnuts. These he
would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a
kindergarten of the streets.
Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: “Give me one
penny.” And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he
would reply: “Give me one penny.”
Once as he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and
inquired: “What is the significance of Zen?”
Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.
“Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of Zen?”
At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his