Marble Artists of Central Vietnam

January 18th, 2023

This visit to Vietnam has been an unforgettable experience. From the bustling city streets to the beautiful rural landscapes, Vietnam is full of wonder. The second stop on my Asia buying trip was central Vietnam, where our hand-carved, marble statues come to life!

Every trip to Asia gives me the chance to step away from the normal patterns of my life and allows me to think differently.  Jumping over puddles, dodging the occasional marble projectile as I walk through the streets filled with artists carving marble statues, my mind is free to wander. I always come up with my best ideas when I am strolling around looking for statues. 

During this perfectly happy time, I jumped across a puddle thinking I was landing in a tiny puddle only to discover it was a much deeper lake of marble dust sinking both shoes up to my ankle in sludge. This started my day of marble shopping in Vietnam. Thankfully the day got much better!


Marble Guardian Noi Sculptures

I was immediately drawn to these amazing sculptures (pictured above). I had seen them before in paintings but had never seen sculptures of them. They are Noi, fierce temple guardians who embody good and evil (yin & yang). The detail and realism of the pair are just amazing with their intense stare and rippling muscles.  Watching these magnificent statues being carved is a truly awe-inspiring experience. The skill and dedication of the artisans is remarkable, as they transform single blocks of simple marble into beautiful, intricately carved works of art. I cannot wait to have them in our warehouse to keep all the negative energy from entering!


I have known Lan and Huong for 15 years. After dinner, we all went to a dessert restaurant where I tried 5 different dishes of variations of fruit and coconut milk each stranger and more delicious than the previous dish.  I asked her why it was that Vietnamese people were so happy and carefree.  She replied with a simple answer that was actually the perfect answer….”We feel safe.” 

I meditated on this while staring out the window on the ride back home to my hotel room. When I sat on my bed I immediately deleted all my news apps on my phone. Nothing inspires division, fear and hate more than our modern media.  Good riddance!


Kuan pictured above is one of the main artists who is in charge of the final finer details of a sculpture. When I first started Lotus Sculpture 22 years ago, I used to think that one person carved each statue. That is not the case.  Each statue is carved by a group of artists with each person responsible for a different aspect of the statue.

There are separate people who are responsible for:

1. The rough cut: Artists cut out the outline of the statue from a solid block of marble.
2. Carving the entire body and shape of the face. 
3. Carving the intricate details of the robes.
4. Carving the finer details like the facial expression and slender curves of the fingers.  
5.  Sanding and polishing the final statue.

Highly skilled artists, like Kuan, carve the most important aspect of the statue; the face and hands.  Just watching him work for 10 minutes and seeing the smile of Avalokiteshvara come to life is pure bliss for me!


This buying trip so far has been such an incredible experience.

I’m so thankful to have had yet another opportunity to take an amazing trip to Vietnam and I already cannot wait to come back!

Next stop, Cambodia to visit my wood artists and to look for new stone and bronze artists. Stay tuned!

~Kyle Tortora, Founder, Lotus Sculpture

Vietnam Buying Trip 2023

January 11th, 2023

I finally made it back!

Vietnam is great! Everyone just lives their lives and enjoys it. There isn’t any pretense or anger between individuals. Driving, everyone is cutting people off and doing 3-point turns in the middle of busy roads. No one cares. It’s refreshing. Some people dance in the park at 7 am while others line up for group massages. I love it.  It is the way life should be. 

I always have such an incredible time here visiting the country’s local artisans in search of new, unique, and simply stunning wooden Buddhist sculptures.

As I make my way throughout Vietnam’s quaint coastal towns, jungles, and bustling cities – prepare yourself to be amazed by our artisans showcasing their incredible craftsmanship.

I’ve already discovered an abundance of new, one-of-a-kind, hand-carved wooden figures that radiated love, peace, and harmony. From wooden Buddha statues to Guanyin, Bodhidharma, and Hotei Buddhas, there are so many fantastic sculptures to admire here in this wonderful country.

Follow along as I share my encounters with the talented artists of Lotus Sculpture and give you a sneak peek into which statues may be coming with me!

I took a half day and went to Tam Doa which is a mountain town outside of Hanoi.  It is perched up on the side of a mountain surrounded by pristine untouched forest with clouds swirling through the trees.  I went to a temple near the top of the mountain.  Above the main temple was another smaller temple that I had to climb a ton of steps to get to.  When I reached the top, no one was there.  I went into the small temple and walked around the main shrine of Lord Buddha.  There was a nun reading out loud in a chanting cadence, I assume a prayer.  The Buddha had an electric chakra behind his head that was flashing different colors.  I sat down in front of the psychedelic Buddha to just absorb the scene.

I have rarely felt the true meaning of a word like I did in those 10 minutes in that temple. I felt the true essence of the word, PEACE.  Listening to the nun chanting while looking at the lights moving behind the mesmerizing Buddha, I felt like I was whole and happy like I could feel the earth spinning beneath me while sitting. That one moment was worth the 24 hours stuck on a plane to get there.
It was wonderful!
Kyle with female wood artistsan in Vietnam
3 years ago I met the artist Houng and his wife.  When I saw her again her face lit up! She was so happy that I came back to their village.  Her joy was infectious!  The whole time I was laughing and playing with her and thinking to myself, “is this really my job?  I am a lucky man!”
Kyle with wood artisan in Vietnam
I met this 24-year-old artist for the first time. His name is Mike.  He had great energy.  He brought me in to sit for tea.  He first poured Vietnamese tea, then immediately poured it out and changed it to Chinese tea.  I am not a tea drinker at all but this tea was delicious!  We mimed simple questions and answers for a while, all the time with a huge smile on his face.  When I was leaving he gave me a bag of the Chinese tea because he saw how much I loved it.   He carves statues of Rams and frogs which is not exactly what I buy.  He knew I had no interest in his statues but could not have cared less. He is a precious soul.  I look forward to seeing him on my next trip.  
I took half a day to visit the limestone cliffs of Ninh Binh.  OMG, what a beautiful surprise this was!  I felt like I was in one of those Old Chinese rice paper paintings, surrounded by huge, lush limestone cliffs jutting out of the water as we paddled around in our canoe.  What a beautiful surprise! 

Below are the faces of the artists Lotus Sculpture buys our wood statues from. I visited in the week before their Lunar New Year; Tet. It could not have been a better time for them to sell some of their statues. They were overjoyed to have some extra money right before they go on a month’s vacation for the New Year.  On behalf of the artists, I will also say thank you to our wonderful customers. None of this would be possible without you!

Collage of wood artists in Vietnam.
Collage of wood artists in Vietnam.

Dharma Mountain and Forest Meditation Temple

I remember the first time Tai came into our warehouse.  I was instantly drawn to him and his bright youthful smile. He was dressed in his mustard-colored monk’s robes with a brown shawl. He radiated bliss and happiness. He walked around the warehouse like he had been there a thousand times before, laughing as my dog, Oso, came up to greet him with a sniff, and taking pictures with my employee, Mark.  He was looking for a Buddha statue for the main shrine of his new Temple in Valley Center, Dharma Mountain and Forest Meditation Temple  (Thiền Viện Pháp Thuận). He was the happiest person I had ever met.  
Since that first meeting, Tai has become a regular here at Lotus Sculpture.  Over the years we have made several deliveries of temple sculptures to Dharma Mountain including a large 7 foot meditating Buddha sculpture that is nestled under a tree in their large open front yard. More recently, we delivered a large incense urn to be placed in front of the Buddha. It has been a pleasure visiting Tai over the years and watching the temple grow.  

I have a deep sense of peace and contentment whenever I am in the open spaces of the temple with Tai. Oso is always welcome to join me. He runs freely on the grounds and has even jumped into the temple pond for a quick swim. 

I always comment on the lifelong relationships I have developed with my artisans.  The relationships that have blossomed between my customers and I have been just as valuable and have brought Tai’s blissful disposition into my life. For that, I am forever grateful. 

~Kyle Tortora, Founder, Lotus Sculpture


Postures of the Buddha

Large_Chiang_Saen_Buddha_Statue
View all Buddha Statues from Lotus Sculpture

The Buddha is often depicted within art and sculpture holding many different poses or postures.  A lot of times these poses include specific hand gestures as well as positioning of the legs.  Many people wonder the meanings behind these certain hand gestures and seated positions.  The Buddha is often seen with either his ankles tucked, called the Double Lotus position, or with one leg resting atop the other which is called a Single Lotus position.  These seated positions are in combination with certain hand gestures called Mudras.

One such posture that is commonly seen is the Buddha sitting with crossed legs (Double Lotus) and both hands resting palms up upon his knees.  This stance represents meditation and is the most common posture due to the Buddha’s enlightenment through meditation underneath the Bodhi Tree.  This stance, called the Meditation Buddha, represents inner wisdom, emotional stability, and clarity of the mind.

Another important posture is that of the Buddha with legs crossed (Double Lotus), left hand resting face up within his lap, and right hand pointing to the ground with his palm facing towards him.  This pose is regarded as the Buddha calling the earth as witness to the moment he reached enlightenment.  This stance, called the Enlightenment Buddha, signifies gaining insight, achieving great character, and having self-discipline.

Here are a few more common postures of the Buddha:

Protection Buddha: The Buddha sits in either Double or Single Lotus position with right hand raised facing outward and left hand in the lap.  This position represents having courage and offers the bearer protection against fear, delusion, and anger.

Teaching_Budda
Teaching Buddha Statue

Teaching Buddha: The Buddha sits in a Double Lotus position with hands up at chest level.  His hands form a circle by joining thumbs and index fingers with the right palm facing in and the left facing out.  This position brings about wisdom, understanding, and finding the truth behind your life’s path.

Contemplation Buddha:  The Buddha stands with legs together and both arms against the chest, palms in, and right hand on top of the right.    This pose represents patient understanding.

View all Buddha Statues from Lotus Sculpture

Buddha as Wandering Ascetic & His Path to Enlightenment

After leaving his Fathers kingdom behind him in renunciation of his former plentiful life as a prince, Siddhartha Gautama began to drift from place to place as a devoted wanderer.  In search of the ultimate meaning of life he found and studied with the wisest men of the time.  But to his disappointment, no matter how far he traveled, not one knew the answer to ending the suffering that had so greatly affected him.

View All Buddha Statues from Lotus Sculpture

As his frustration grew, Siddhartha turned to asceticism, an extreme life of deprivation, in hopes that he might find the answers he was looking for.  For six years Gautama starved and deprived his soul in search for meaning, hoping that these extreme measures may hold the truth.  But soon he found that this new extreme, a life of complete scarcity, nor his previous life of opulence held the answers he was so determined to find.  Gautama then decided to take the middle ground.  He began to eat and nourish himself again but sought a new path to enrich his soul.

One full moon day within the month of May, Gautama sat beneath a Bodhi tree in a state of deep and unhindered meditation.  He decided he would not leave his position beneath the tree until he was able to find the answers he had spent so long seeking.

He was tested constantly by the evil Mara who tried to steer him from his concentration and ultimate goal.  Mara sent upon him the temptation of women, the torment of torrential rain and lightning, and armies of weapon clad warriors.  But not one was able to sway him from his mission.  As he sat beneath the Bodhi tree, Gautama eventually realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it from one’s life.  It was then that he became the Buddha, or the Awakened one.

After reaching enlightenment, the Buddha sought to teach his ultimate wisdom to others so that they too may be free of suffering.  He went to five holy men and explained his realization, making them his most devoted disciples in spreading his knowledge upon the world.  For the next forty five years the Buddha and his disciples traveled throughout India teaching the Dharma to all those who would listen.

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