Despite the common misconception, the Buddha is never depicted as a heavy-set individual; these popular rotund statues actually depict Hotei. The Buddha, whose name was Siddhartha Gautama, is usually depicted as a slim individual with a beatific facial expression.
Hotei, who is generally depicted laughing, is a Bodhisattva symbolizing contentment. He serves as a reminder for Buddhists to approach their problems with good humor and a light heart.
Whereas the Buddha originated in India, Hotei is more associated with East Asia. The confusion may have arisen from the nickname of this Bodhisattva statue, which is often given as the "Laughing Buddha."