Wong Tai Sang and family,
Master Craftsmen of Buddha images

By Kuo Ling Pecaites

During the Kuan Yin session in April at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the most miraculous event occurred. Kuan Yin disappeared! Many meditators tell miraculous stories of auspicious manifestations and visions of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; sometimes these occurrences are witnessed by many people at once. Only rarely, though, can one tell of the wonderful and awesome disappearance of a Bodhisattva, yet all the reciters of Kuan Yin's name watched one morning as she slowly disappeared before their eyes.

How did this happen? What wonderful response was this to the sincere recitation of the Bodhisattva's name? It was, of course, the "Taking apart and moving to the workshop in preparation for gilding" response, for Wong Tai Sang and his family had come from Hong Kong to gild the sixteen-foot high Kuan Yin image that adorned the hall where the recitation session was taking place. They arrived in the middle of the session and with great vigor immediately set to work. In one morning, with the entire family working on various levels and heights of ladders, the statue swiftly disappeared. It was truly an amazing experience for the meditators to open their eyes and discover that Kuan Yin had only sixteen arms, then to return to the hall after walking, circumambulating buildings and reciting Kuan Yin's name, to find that instead of ten heads, she was reduced to one. And then the circle was completed and the one returned to zero as a crew of the residents hauled the massive statue to its new home, the Ten Thousand Buddha Hall.

There, Wong Tai Sang and his family began the long process of sanding and preparing for the gilding of the image. In this age of far-flung families with spider-thin connections, children who don't

Master craftsman Wong Tai Sang at work

know their parents and old people dying lonely in a nursing home, the Wong family is a marvel to behold—three generations work happily, side-by-side, grandparents directing, son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren assisting.

      The preparation process for the gilding is an involved one requiring sanding and preparing the wood, then layer upon different layer of lacquers and paints, some ancient recipes handed down through generations of Buddha-image carvers, some the most modern of paint mixtures. Each member of the family works on all aspects of the project, so that children learn from parents as the tradition is continued and the family woven more closely together.

In the meantime, a new home is being prepared for the Kuan Yin image, the 10,000 Buddhas Hall. The walls will be lined with 10,000 Buddha images, donated by benefactors.

Wong Tai Sang is a unique master of Buddha image carving. His is the only shop in the world producing the traditionally glided, carved wooden Buddha images. A native of Ningpo, on the eastern edge of Chekiang, the town which traditionally produced the finest carvers of Buddha images in China, he watched the carvers come and go as a youth. Fired, by his admiration of their carving and his desire to travel as they did, moving from temple to temple to work on the images, he was determined to become a carver himself, and at age fifteen became an apprentice in a shop. In his many decades of practice, he has become a master in the true, ancient sense of the word, producing awesome images that grace temples around the world.

After the Second World War as times became more turbulent in China, he moved his family and shop to Hong Kong where they have continued to carve images. Since then, some of his family has come to the United States and Wong Tai Sang has, this year, become a member of the Dharma Realm Buddhist University faculty. There he will instruct students in the ancient art of Buddha-image carving, in the most traditional manner, so that this ancient practice is continued in this most modern of countries.


Director of Publications: The Venerable Master Hua
Director of Translations: The Buddhist Text Translation Society
Director of Administration: Bhiksu Heng Shun
President: Bhiksu Heng Sure
Ditorial Board: The Vajra Bodhi Sea Publication Society Editorial Committee



The Sino-American Buddhist Association has sponsored summer sessions for many years. Each year a different Sutra or set of Sutras is explained, each year participants learn the fundamentals of orthodox Buddhist study and practice. Meditation in combination with lectures, classes; repentances, and work enables participants to sustain a high-level of intensity and delve deeply into their minds and the nature of the world around them. Room, board and the necessities of life are provided, leaving participants free to explore the wonder of the Dharma in the pure and peaceful atmosphere of a Bodhimanda, a place of cultivation.

This year, the summer sessions will be retreats at the spacious City of Ten Thousand Buddhas located in Mendocino County, California. The first retreat will run from June 26th through July 17th and be followed by a week of intensive Ch'an meditation, open to beginners and advanced cultivators. The second retreat will commence on July 24th and end on August 21st. Another week of intensive Ch'an will be held from August 21st-to August 28th...

In conjunction with the adult, summer retreats, a summer school for children beginning age 8 will be held at the City. Families are encouraged to come and spend the summer together in an atmosphere conducive to harmonious interaction and independent study.

Of special interest to college students will be unit credits offered through Dharma Realm Buddhist University for courses given during the summer retreats. Languages and English as a Second Language-will be taught: as well as creative and practical arts.

Special projects concerning Buddhism in American Society will provide a meeting ground for ideas and plans to bring Buddhism to-the Western world.

The Great Compassion Dharmas of the Secret School will be taught and the powerful Surangama Mantra will be recited daily to insure the establishment and growth of orthodox Dharma.

RETREAT I                          RETREAT II

June 26      Check in & orient.    July 24     Check in & Or.

June 27      First day of retreat  July 25     First day

July 15      Last day of retreat   Aug. 19     Last day

July 16,17   Seminar               Aug. 20,21  Seminar

July 17-24   Ch'an session         Aug. 21-28  Ch'an session

For details on registration write: Summer Retreat, City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, PO Box 217, Talmage, Ca., 95481.