A British controversy over naming a Chinese restaurant as “Fat Buddha”
By Walter Jayawardhana, Published on the Buddhist Channel, July 26, 2007
This article appeared on the Buddhist channel recently, concerning the naming of a Chinese restaurant in the UK as “Fat Buddha“. The owner suggests that being offended by the name is “political correctness gone mad”, and the
Indo-Asian News Service quoted an unnamed spokesman of a unnamed Buddhist Association as saying, “Buddhists regard the fat Buddha as lucky. To suggest this is offensive is to misunderstand the faith. Buddhists don”t take offence at anything because to do so doesn”t follow Buddhist teachings.
To suggest that Buddhists should not complain because complaining is un-Buddhist is using Buddhism as a stick to beat Buddhists with. Personally, I do find these things offensive, or at least insensitive, but do not take offense.
In fact the name of the place is not so bad as the Buddha Bar chain of pubs which also decorate their places with Buddha images. I did send them a few emails to register my unhappiness at turning Buddha images into crass gimmicks for alcohol, but with no response.
The Buddha Bar is an exclusive and highly-regarded bar and restaurant in Paris, France, and is a Buddha-themed venue serving Asian cuisine. The two-storey dining area is dominated by a large statue of Buddha. The upstairs bar is a large, ornate dragon. The Buddha Bar originally became popular because of the DJ’s choice of eclectic, avant-garde music.
Buddha Bar has also opened venues in Beirut, Dubai, Amman, New York City, and Lisbon. A brand-new venue, designed to emulate the Buddha Bar in Paris, will open at the Sofitel El Gezirah in Cairo on August 1, 2007. Buddha Bar is also the name of a popular and exclusive, yet unrelated bar in Barcelona. Little Buddha is a new chain of buddha bar but more causy.
(if you want to see some of their imagery there’s a FLASH video here. )
The “Fat Buddha” article seems to misinterpret to some extent, since the “Fat” Buddha in Chinese culture is not a representation of the Historical Buddha, but a later monk who was very handsome and was troubled by the ladies chasing him and wooing him to disrobe. He made an addhitana (vow) that resulted in him becoming very fat and ugly, which also made him happy. In Thailand this character is called Sankhachai and in in China as Hotei where he is usually seen at the entrance to temples, and is a kind of patron Saint of children.