Statue of Buddha Made by Paper – Eh-Zung Tsai
The legend said “Paper first, earth second, wood third and gold forth”. This means that the statues of Buddha and gods are the most efficacious if made from paper. The paper statues of Buddha started from the Eastern Han Dynasty. Wood and clay statues of Buddha started from Wei, Chin and Six Dynasties, and wood carving, gold and copper statue of Buddha started from the Sui and Tang Dynasties.
Many years ago, Eh-Zun Tsai’s father used to be the only artist who made the faces of ritual gods by paper. He made masks and heads of the Buddhas’ and gods’ by paper. Eh-Zun Tsai officially returned to Beigang Town to take over his father’s work in the year of 1998, when he started to think of research, discovery and attempting to make a whole statue of the Buddhas and gods by paper. However, all the paper made statues of Buddhas and gods were burnt during the festivals for the past one thousand years. Even if you wanted to learn, no one was able to teach you. This technique is basically lost completely. However, Tsai used his research spirit to study every historical book and record that was related to “statues of Buddhas and gods made by paper”. After six years of hard work, he finally put the puzzles together one piece after another.
There are two kinds of statues of Buddhas and gods made by paper. One is the southern style, which is called paste paper in Taiwan. It uses other materials such as bamboo and wood to create the figures first, paste paper outside and then finally color and decorate. However, the statue is not very solid because of the way the paper Buddha and god statue is made, since it is only pasted by a layer of paper. This is commonly known by the name of eggshell, which does not preserve well and needs to be replaced every year. However, Tsai makes the paper statue with the northern style, which was long lost for over one hundred years. This style is used to make statues of Buddhas and gods that can be worshiped for the long term. It uses bamboo paper, which is similar to the paper making technique invented by Cai Lun in Ancient China of the Eastern Han Dynasty, to make figures of statues. Not only do the four limbs have joints, but they can also move around. The statues that are made by paper can even be preserved for up to tens or hundreds of years.
For over one thousand years, the technique was burnt and destroyed on every ritual and it could not be passed down or improved. Tsai is now using his own technique to make different kinds of statues of Buddhas and gods to leave the most valuable assets for the future generations of descendants.