Crash Course: How To Identify The Authenticity Of Ancient Chinese Buddhist Statues By The Back And Underneath Of A Piece


Forgers make replicas of a Buddhist statue based on published references such as the publications from auctions and even the photos on the internet. These references usually only have the image of the front of a Buddhist statue but not the back and the bottom. The forgers never see the back and the bottom or they are lacking the related knowledge. Therefore, they can only rely on their imagination to recreate these parts. They finally make some strange and bizarre design components.

For example, the hands of Buddha are unnatural, the drapery of a Buddha’s robe might fold strangely. As the deity of compassion, Bodhisattvas are typically represented with precious jewellery, elegant garments and graceful postures. For the replicas, the jewellery of a bodhisattva usually does not sit properly. If the back of a Buddhist statue looks more cursorily completed than the front, then this statue may be a replica. There usually are two holes in on the head and the back of the wooden Buddha statues of the Ming and early Qing Dynasties. Then people put some jewelleries, Buddhist scriptures into statues. This may be the knowledge that forgers do not know and they cannot model it.

Actually, every component, such as the back, bottom, hands, feet, jewellery and drapery of Buddhist statues are important. They are the parts that the forgers cannot model easily. We should pay careful attention to them.

By Jason Ma, a Buddhist art expert in Hong Kong

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