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.

A Passion for Buddha Statues in Thailand

Every time I visit my friend, Jew, I come away with more respect and admiration for him and what he does. He and I share a passion for the statues he creates, he with a firm love of making Buddha statues and I with a firm love for sharing them with the world.

Jew is a 40-year-old producer of Buddha sculptures in the small village of Nakom Pathom, Thailand, about an hour and a half north of Bangkok. Having known him for 12 years now I always knew that he took over the business from his father who started it 40 years ago. What I learned on this trip was that Jew had taken over a struggling business at the young age of 20. I was always under the assumption that his father had a thriving business that he took over and made better, but this was not the case at all. Jew’s father had only one artist working for him while Jew has created a prosperous business employing all the families in his surrounding village of almost 40 people.  Click here to view his Buddha artists handcrafting Buddha statues. Every day he spends hours going over each of the statues to make sure they are being executed correctly. He is very concerned with the well being of his workers. He pays them well and wants them to succeed. 

I first fell in love with his work because he had the best patinas on his sculptures that initially made me mistake them for antiques. He had beautiful antique patinas that no other producer was able to create. This is still the case today.  He recently developed two new patinas of a stunning antique green and a deep red mixed with gold leaf.  
I went out to dinner with him last night and in his broken English he summed up his worldview…

“When I die, I cannot take money with me. Money paper…I make Buddha, I pray Buddha so I can be born next time.”

When I asked him about his customers he told me the majority of his business, besides Lotus Sculpture, comes from temples within Thailand.  I asked him if he sold to the antique dealers of the Riverside mall in Bangkok who are known to sell fake antique Buddha statues.  He leaned over to me and said, “No, I do not lie.”

This is who he is, he is the salt of the earth with a good heart. I love his family; his crotchety old mom who yells at me every time I see her in Thai I do not fully understand, his beautiful wife and 3 children. And most of all I love him!

View the video above to see how our Buddhist statues are made

Da Nang, Vietnam – The Marble Mountains

Article written January 25th, 2020 by Kyle Tortora

My first trip to Vietnam was in 1998. I was a 22 year old backpacker just out of college, exploring the country without a care or worry in my mind. Vietnam had the distinct smell of salt water and the aroma of food.  It’s as if their unmistakable flavor of fish sauce had permeated the air and surrounded you at every turn.  Twenty three years later it still has that same smell I remember which immediately took me back with nostalgia to my backpacking days.  

I came to Da Nang to visit my white marble statue maker, Lan, and her family. Da Nang is situated at the base of what is known as the marble mountains, a place famous for its abundance of quality, pure white marbles. Lan and I have worked together for 15 years.  She was the first artisan I worked with in Vietnam. Her entire family is involved in the business. Her brother operates the workshop, where all the statues are produced and her cousin, who is the master carver, is responsible for the faces and all the intricate details of the statues.  

All these years later I was still impressed with the quality of the Lan’s sculptures compared to that of other workshops in the area. Seeing her 22 foot Kwan Yin statue with my own eyes for the first time, I was completely blown away!  She has this gossamer, realistic quality where it looks as if her robes are made of pure silk gently swaying in the breeze.  The statue is so lifelike I found myself forgetting it was a 10,000 pound solid block of white marble.  Later that day I visited another workshop where I saw a large Kwan Yin statue carved by a different artist. It completely lacked the life and beauty inherent in Lan’s Kwan Yin sculpture. The Kwan Yin at Lan’s workshop is stunning and has that special untouchable something that makes a masterpiece a true masterpiece. 


 “She has this gossamer, realistic quality where it looks as if her robes are made of pure silk gently swaying in the breeze.  The statue is so lifelike I found myself forgetting it was a 10,000-pound solid block of white marble.”

By standing next to Kwan Yin and gazing up at her one can truly appreciate her immense beauty.

Sadly, I arrived the week before Tet or Chinese New Year and all the artists were on break. In planning my trip I knew about Tet and figured being there a week before would give me time to see the artists before the shops would close. I was very wrong, no one was working. I found the workers take off 2 weeks prior to Tet and then a month following.  Instead of hearing the incessant clinking sound of chisel on stone all I heard were birds chirping and wind blowing through the palm trees.  All the carvers had gone home to their villages to visit with family and friends. It is the equivalent of going to Europe in August when everyone flocks to Mediterranean beaches.  

Standing on top of a block of white marble where a God waits to be born.

One thing that I am always impressed, when I visit any stone worker, is seeing the raw block of stone they have yet to begin carving. Climbing over them you can appreciate their pure size and mass. The raw white marble blocks are massive, larger than any I have seen in India or Indonesia.  It is an amazing talent a stone artist has to visualize the god or goddess that is sleeping within the stone, waiting to be rendered by the hammer and chisel. But that is exactly what these artists do and I am amazed by it every time I see it.

Later in the day Lan and her brother took me to a beautiful seafood lunch on the beach and a leisurely stroll through the historic town of Hoi An for Vietnamese coffee.  For anyone visiting Vietnam, Hoi An is a must see.  Even though you are navigating your way through a maze of tourists it still has an old world charm visible through its tiny avenues and beautiful colonial architecture.  Walking around the old streets I appreciate knowing that I will be returning to this part of the world for the rest of my life.  I often think of how fortunate I am to be doing the work that I am doing…..today was one of those days.

New Stone & Wood Shipment from Bali arrived February 10th, 2019

A shipment of stone and wood statues has just arrived from Bali. We get about 4 containers a year from Bali but this one was special. I was excited to see the wood panels I custom designed on my last trip to Bali. I knew that I wanted to give my wood artists more work and I have been hearing from customers, like you, that you wanted more wood wall panels.

I spoke with my fat and happy Buddha artist, Will, about him carving large Fat and Happy Buddha masks with only the smiling face of the Buddha as a wall hanging. Here they are and they look amazing! The grains of the wood are beautiful and just add life to the joy emanating from the Happy Buddha mask! I am so happy with Will’s work!

Click here to view the Fat and Happy Buddha Masks and all of Mr Will’s work.

The first fat and happy Buddha mask we unwrapped from this shipment.  Beautiful!
View our smiling Happy Buddha masks hand carved by the artist, Mr. Will

I also spoke to a wood artist, Mr Komang, about carving different types of wood panels. He typically only carves trees and flowers for panels but I love his work so I really wanted to work together with him to help him grow so I sent him pictures for ideas about what I would want for Lotus Sculpture. He was very excited and said he could surely carve what I was looking to do. We quickly agreed on the designs and this is the first time I am seeing them. They came out exactly how I envisioned them! I am so happy that I am bringing a new artist into the fold and giving him more work!

Kyle, founder of Lotus Sculpture, holding the first panel I unwrapped in this shipment of Mr Komang's work
View all our wood panels of Lakshmi, Ganesh, Buddha and OM symbols carved by Mr Komang

We also received about 50 stone statues mostly of the Buddha that will prepare us for the coming Spring season!

You can always view our Garden Buddha Statues here.

Or click here to view our New Arrivals which are posted daily.

Life of the Buddha – The Light of Asia

stone-garden-buddha-statue
Stone Buddha garden statue wearing painted robes

The Buddha brought the world a philosophy in which to navigate the world of suffering.  Here is a brief account of the life he led and the experiences that showed him the middle way to the cessation of suffering and samasara.

Birth

Siddhartha Gautama, known as Buddha, the “Awakened,” was the son of Suddhodana, ruler of the Sakhyas, a region lying to the northeast of Oude, in northern India and now this place is inside the border of the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal. It is believed that Queen Maya, wife of the King Suddhodana, had a dream that a shiny light appeared in the sky, gradually approached her, and melted into her body. The queen filled with joy described the dream to her husband and both of them met a wise man to know the meaning of the dream. The wise man’s words made the king very happy as the man explained that the king is going to have an heir to the throne. The prophecy came true and the queen gave birth to a beautiful son in the Lumbini gardens. All the people experienced great happiness and peace of mind. The joyous parents named the cute little Prince “Siddhartha”, which means “the one who has brought about all good.”

The words of hermit Asita

Asita was a Holy teacher and he came to visit the newborn. He saw many good signs in the child and told the king that if the child chooses to stay with the king, then he will be one of the greatest rulers in history, who will rein a large kingdom and keep the people happy. However, if the child chooses to leave the palace, seeking a way to end all suffering of humanity, then he will attain the greatest knowledge and will become the greatest spiritual leader ever.

Childhood

The queen Maya could not stay long with Siddhartha and she asked her sister to take care of the little prince. The Prince grew up to be a handsome and kindhearted young man. He always loved to remain alone in the garden, when other children of his age group were busy with harsh games. He spent his childhood in Kapilavastu and its vicinity, and was very passionate to all the living beings; even the wild animals were friendly with him. Many instances that took place during his childhood describe the passion, love, and kindheartedness of the prince. The prince was very bright and intelligent in studies but never liked to learn how to rule a kingdom.

Marriage

The king was so happy to know about the intelligence of his son, while sad that the prince was very gentle. Therefore, he along with the minister made a plan and found the perfect match for the Prince. Siddhartha was married to Princess Yasodhara at the age of sixteen.

thai buddha
Sukhothai style Thai Buddha statue

Path of renunciation

Prince Siddhartha was happy with his wife and they were blessed with a son, named Rahula. At the age of twenty-nine, the prince wanted to know more about his people and the world outside his palace gardens.  He managed to get out of the palace and roam in the streets, with his servant Channa. The sight of a decrepit old man, a sick man, and a corpse changed the life of the prince and turned him to the path of renunciation. These sights made him leave the palace, wealth, power, father, wife, and his only child to find a way to renounce the world of miseries and sorrows.

Enlightenment

The prince reached Magadha, and met the saints Arada and Udraka and learned from them. He was not satisfied with their teachings and moved to Nairangana River, near the holy town of Gaya. He then began to practice yoga, severe austerities, and Pranayama for several years. He finally tried to attain supreme peace by practicing self-mortification. He sat below the sacred Pipal tree or fig tree at Bodhi Gaya, abstained from all temptations, his mind became calm and relaxed, and by midnight, he attained nirvana. He woke up very happily with a calm and peaceful smile, and his face shone with divine splendor and effulgence. He became the Buddha, meaning the Awakened One. He was also known as Sakhya-Muni.

His Teaching or Dharma

Buddha traveled to different villages and farms of Banaras and wanted to spread the knowledge to all people and relieve all from the sufferings of this worldly life. His teachings were so powerful that regardless of the conditions, caste, creed, or types of men and women, people began to listen to his teaching and found that self-realization is the only way to get supreme peace of mind and happiness. Buddha treated all people as one, without any discrimination for the rich or poor, simple or intelligent, of noble birth or low. His first teaching, known as “Turning the Wheel of the Dharma,” given to five monks, who pleaded for knowledge to Buddha in the Deer Park, at Sarnath around 527 BC. He also revealed the four noble truths of life. People were attracted to him and he used different ways of teaching, which included interesting stories that will appease the children.

King Bimbisara was a disciple of Buddha and always visited Vulture’s Peak, where Buddha and his disciples lived. Buddha returned to his kingdom and by his great teaching converted his father, wife, son, and all his dear ones to his disciples.

enlightened buddha statue
The Buddha in the moments after his enlightenment

Final Journey

At the age of eighty, Buddha felt that it is time to return to the palace where he grew up.  He summoned his faithful Ananda, and started to Kapilavasthu. On the way, Buddha and his disciples passed through the village of Kushinagar. Buddha told Ananda that this is the place where he shall pass away.

Buddha, “the enlightened one,” traveled preaching the Dharma and was successful in saving many people from sacrificing the lives of innocent animals, as a part of their religious customs. Buddha is the founder of Buddhism and his teaching is known to fill with excessive intellectualism and agnosticism. The great historian Edward Arnold referred to the great legend Buddha as the “Light of Asia.”

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