Buddha Statue Maker | Ko Chin-chung
- Chinese Name: 柯錦中
- Born: 1965
- Birthplace: Changhua County
- Did You Know That …?
- The technique Ko uses to decorate Buddha statues is a registered national intangible cultural heritage in mainland China – “painted line carving (漆線雕).” Originating from the southern city of Xiamen more than three hundred years ago, the traditional technique embodies the unique Southern Fujian culture that is part of Taiwan’s diversity today.
Ko Chin-chung is a notable Buddha statue maker who has been creating colorful and lively wooden Buddha sculptures for four decades. His excellent skills and comprehensive knowledge of Buddha statues has made him the first “Da Dun Arts and Crafts Master” in the Buddha statue category. In 2016, Ko was honored was the title “national preservationist” in recognition of his role in preserving the nation’s intangible cultural heritage.
Following the path of carpentry of his father and uncles, Ko was introduced to wood crafts, Buddha statues, and other folk art at an early age, and started to learn making Buddha statues when he was thirteen.
After four years of training, Ko went on to study art and design at Ming-Dao High School, where he acquired more professional skills in sculpturing and painting. Meanwhile, Ko also worked as an assistant to a sculptor in Changhua, learning and practicing step by step every single skill required in the making of Buddha statues.
By the age of 23, Ko had become an skillful sculptor and established the San Hing Schiff States (聖興西佛國) in his hometown Lukang to start his lifelong career as an artisan. To make Taiwan crafts distinguishable from those from China, Ko took part in every step to create unique statues with character.
For four decades, Ko consistently produced Buddha statues for numerous temples across Taiwan. His works show off wood’s natural elegance and simplicity while the golden lines and colorful decorations from the “painted line carving” technique give the statues an exquisite look and vibrant ambience.
Ko believes that the tradition portion of traditional crafts refers to technique, while contemporary materials are the new elements that should be integrated with traditional technique to create new crafts, so that traditional crafts can be preserved and passed down through innovation and creativity.
Seeing that the crafts industry has gradually declined in recent years, Ko started developing wooden treasure bowls with painted line carvings to give such technique more possibilities. Ko carved patterns such as dragons, phoenixes, koi carps, and lotus flowers to make traditional treasure bowls more sophisticated and artistic.
Ko noted that his treasure bowls embody the elements of “good fortune” and “auspiciousness” to make people appreciate the beauty of traditional crafts. He also hopes that by developing new crafts continually, traditional crafts will not be lost in the passage of time.
Editor's Note: The veteran artisan has also been credited as "Ke Chin-chung."