How to carve a Buddha

For all those who bear the secret sign of the woodcarvers’ guild (scars on the thumbs and index fingers from slips with the knife 😉 ), here’s a photo essay on how a wooden Buddha statue is carved. This display is at the Mok-A Museum in Korea, with the finished statue about 10 inches high. The founder is officially designated as what can best be described as National Living Treasure #108. Here’s a link to his site, and here’s a link to some photos of his work. (Click on the images here to see them up close.)

I was surprised to discover that even the smaller statues aren’t carved from a solid block of wood. Using multiple pieces like this might give him better control over the grain and quality of the wood, but perhaps this is simply a model of how he works with bigger statues, where a single block of wood would pose too many problems.

After the main pieces have been rough-shaped, he glues them all together. (Hence the twine.)

  o o o o o o o o i p p   o

and here’s what the finished statue looks like. Incredible, isn’t it!

8 thoughts on “How to carve a Buddha”

  1. Wonderful! But, just imagine, you’ve done all that work, even most of the painting afterwards, and then it’s time to paint that moustache! There’s no way I’d be able to get my hand to stop shaking! LOL!

    Thank you for a very interesting post Chong Go Sunim!

    1. Hey Marcus!
      I never thought about the painting! I can’t imagine doing that! He’s painted the individual beads and even the gold lace patterns on the hem of the robes! The woodcarving is within the realm of doable for me, but just thinking about the painting on this makes me feel dizzy!

  2. It’s a really beautiful work.

    Is it a buddha or a bodhisattva? From the headdress, hair, robe and accoutrements, I assumed a bodhisattva, a version of Kwan Seum Bosal. But I dunno…

  3. Truly gifted hands. I have a friend who has turned into an excellent carver in his retirement. I can see a visit to his workshop in my near future.

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