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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

The Making of Buddhist Wood Sculptures in China

According to the Ekottara Agama Sutra (增一阿含經), the first Buddha image was made of wood. It is said that when the Buddha was teaching his deceased mother in the Trayastrimsa heaven, King Udayana of Vatsa in ancient India could not bear his absence and thus made a sandalwood image of the Buddha.

In China, wooden sculptures have been produced throughout the history of Buddhism. However, as the craft was mainly passed down orally among artisans, little is known about the wood species and construction techniques involved. In Japan, where wood is a more predominant and widely used material in sculpture, there have been systematic and scientific studies since the 1960s,* while in China similar work has not been conducted.

Fig. 1. Statue of Guanyin, 117cm, willow, 1100–1200. Rijksmuseum.


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