We try to answer as many questions as we can. Before emailing us your questions at our Contact page. Please check here for previous answers that may answer your questions, or check our main home page which contains extensive glossaries and information on appraising. Please be aware that in sending us your questions, you acknowledge we may post your question here for others to benefit. WE WILL NOT IDENTIFY YOU BY NAME. Do not send us emailed questions if you are concerned about privacy.

I viewed your beautiful site and looked at the paintings on pith paper. What is pith paper? Please enlighten me.

Pith paper – or rice paper (a misnomer) as it is sometimes known – is made from the inner pith of the plant Tetrapanex papyrifera, which is a member of the Araliaceae family. The plant is a shrub native to Southern China and Taiwan. As well as a painting material, pith paper was used to make artificial flowers and surgical dressings. Hope this helps. 

Reply from questioner: “If you’re not an expert, I don’t know who is.” 

I have antiquities from Gandhara, Taxila and other places. If you like I can send you the items. You can see it yourself. With best wishes.

Antique Zen specializes in Buddhist antiquities, antiques and art – and especially antiquities – from Asia generally. Certainly, if you have anything Buddhism related or of very special interest as Asian art we’d be glad to review your collection. Antique Zen is a small private collection, museum quality. A good start would be to attach scanned or digital photos of anything you think might be of interest, along with any ‘history’ or provenance. We like to have a ‘history’, certified by an authority, on most of our collection. Our clients are all particular on this. Please forward any pictures, a synopsis of the history and value if you have anything you think might be right for us. Please do NOT send the actual antiques until we’ve viewed your pictures. We cannot and will not accept responsibility for anything sent to us unsolicited. Thank you, again.


Do you sell antiques from Nepal as well? I would like to supply to your company.

Certainly, our focus on Buddhist and Asian antiques includes a passion for Nepal, Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and many other countries. However, we do not work with suppliers. Art and Antiques are by their very nature rare and unique. We hunt for our collection in museums, high end auctions and estate sales. We have never – to date – acquired any antique sent to us. We prefer to find the treasures. It is part of the joy of collecting. 

However, if you mean you have a special Buddhist or Asian Antique, which can be appraised and certified and has provenance, we might be interested. It must be rare and a ‘one-of-a-kind’. Please do not send us art or antiques – only pictures.

I have a 14th century Tibetan Buddha statue that I would like to sell, but I need to have it appraised. Do you know who provides reputable appraisal services? Thanks for your assistance.

There are reputable appraisers in most countries, but you should ask for references. The highest credibility would be the expert appraisers at the larger auction houses – Sotheby’s, Christie’s and so on. These normally have affiliates in many countries. If you are in the United States or Canada there is a wide network of experienced appraisers. You say you have a 14th century Tibetan Buddha. How do you know this? Has it been authenticated. If it is already authenticated by a reputable appraiser or dealer you likely don’t need an additional appraisal. However, if it has never been certified or appraised it is better not to refer to it as 14th century without a solid basis for this determination. There are many fakes and ‘artificially aged’ art works on the market, some with authentic-looking certificates. The surest form of evaluation is provenance (who owned it previously, and – preferably – a linking chain back as far as possible). If your goal is to sell it, you should probably approach the large auction houses – most of which have genuine Asian and Orientalia experts. If this is for insurance purposes you will need to pay for an appraisal, and the references are vital. Look first at what documentation you have. Then look to the experts. We regret we do not offer appraisal services at this time, except on objects we are interested in acquiring. Good luck with your precious statue!

I have many collections of fine Tibetan and Nepalese works of art. We have been in this field for more than half a decade and have various dealers. A few of my collections are listed: gau, large ritual gilded bhairav mask, ritual crown (helmet), Tibetan teapots, gilt copper mandala, Altar tables, jewellery boxes, Repousse sculptures, Tibetan beer jugs, ritual wearing masks, gilded incence burners, gilt copper bookcovers, Repousse fragments from temples, and many more decorative artifacts. All above mentioned items are made of repousse, gilt-bronze, copper, silver, gold and iron. And are available in different designs and various sizes.

Antique Zen’s specific mission is the finest of museum-quality Asian antiques and art. We regret that we are not able to represent you. While your inventory sounds very fine and Repousse – hand hammered metal – is very lovely) it is clearly not rare or one-of-a-kind art or antiques. There is a very solid and growing market for the beautiful crafts you list, however we are specifically focused on antiquities and certified art by known artists or antiques with known provenance. Best wishes.

I am looking for a small bronze Buddha, probably a replica of the Kamakura Buddha, 4-6 inches in height. As I want to use the Buddha for a home altar, it would need to be on the small side of statues, certainly no more than 8 inches tall. And it does not have to be a true antique. But I am interested as well in its sculptural details, though simplicity and peacefulness are also of great interest to me in a piece. 

There are many reproductions available, although if it is an altar piece you should take your time and ensure you feel a ‘personal’ affinity to the rendering. We regret that we cannot assist you in this search since we deal strictly in very fine museum quality antiques and art. There are many, many reputable dealers available that can help you (and, unfortunately, some not-so-reputable dealers) – and we hesitate to mention a specific supplier since this is outside our specialty. The only Buddhas we currently have in this size are quite priceless. I have a trinity of precious Buddhas – Shakyamuni, Amita and Yoshifu (or Manla, the Medicine Buddha). These are gold gilt and solid bronze, with very fine detail, about 4.5 inches tall. As always with trinity sets, these cannot be sold separately. They are very precious, and they have all had their “eyes opened” in temple blessings, so they are strictly for worship. They are also very expensive. We wish you the best in finding your special altar piece. Take your time.


Are Kannon and Kuan Yin the same?

In the general sense, yes. They are both emanations of Avalokitesvara. There are literally dozens of manifestations of this most blessed of compassionate Bodhisattvas, some male, some female. In China, Kuan Yin (Kuan Shi Yin, he who looks down with compassion, sometimes spelled Guan Yin), is often portrayed as female, to represent compassion. Kannon (or Kwannon, Kanzeon) is the Japanese Kuan Yin, although typically is portrayed as male. In China, Guan Yin was reincarnated in many lives, including a popular tragic princess who is butchered by her own father (a King) for becoming a nun. Also, in China, Guan Yin is popular as the Bodhisattva who eases the suffering of women in childbirth. Over time, Guan Yin reincarnated and manifested many times as a woman, sometimes as a man. In Japan, however, Kannon is almost always male, often depicted with a mustache. In Tibet, where Avalokitesvara is the patron Bodhisattva (the Dalai Lama is the living incarnation of Avalokitesvara), he is always male, with literally dozens of exotic and esoteric forms – including the thousand armed depictions.

Do you have a catalogue of your wonderful art?

It isn’t possible to have a print catalogue. Our collection changes so rapidly. This is why we have the online website. We try to update the website frequently and to answer all questions about specific art. 


I have a Daruma doll, given to me by a friend. Is that a Buddha?

Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidarma, the founding father of Zen Buddhism, the first patriarch. Bodhidarma (in Chana Damodashi, putiduluo, Zunshe) is beloved worldwide as the Bodhisattva who brought Buddhism to China and founded Kung Fu (he taught the monks Kung Fu as a form of ‘exercise’ and ‘non harmful self defence’. He is universally popular in both China and Japan, although he was born in India as a prince. You’ll recognize Daruma dolls or Bodhidarma statues by their wide staring eyes and “exaggerated” features. Tradition says that Bodhidarma was not an “attractive” man and had a wild look. He spent seven years without food and water, meditating in a cave in China, where he obtained Enlightenment. In Japan, Daruma is considered a powerful talisman, is often painted bright red – symbolizing luck. In one tradition the fierce eyes are not painted. The person receiving the doll meditates over it, wishing for a blessing or healing. The receiver then paints one of the eyes as he makes his wish. When his wish comes true he paints the other eye in thanks.

I have a Tsangs-pa. Which Bodhisattva is he?

Actually Tsangs-pa is a Yi-dam, the Tibetan form of Brahma, an Indian god. He should have four heads, each with a third eye, and four arms holding two skulls, a bow and an arrow. Yi-Dam’s are protection gods of Tibet and Lamas, often represented with their Sakti. They are sometimes gentle, depicted as a Bodhisattva, or angry. They are particular to Tantric Buddhism – one of the shorter pathways to Enlightenment that requires a Lama for guidance and the practice of a form of ‘magic.’ Outside of Tibetan or Tantric Buddhism, the Yi-dams are not common.


I have a Guan Yin on an elephant, although a friend tells me it is not Guan Yin.

Your friend is likely correct. Typically, in China especially, a Bodhisattva on an elephant would more likely be Samantabahadra (in China Pu-hsien and in Japan Fu-gen, in Tibet Kun-tu Bzang-po) the Bodhisattva of Universal Kindness. The face is very similar – kind, beautiful, serene – to Guan Yin, and this mistake is often made. Samantabahadra, while not as popular as Guan Yin, is widely venerated as ‘he whose bounty is omnipresent’, and he represents Buddhist Law and compassion. He is considered by some the “chief” of the Bodhisattvas, the Law. He is the protector of the famous Lotus Sutra by the followers of Nichiren in Japan (as Fugen Bosatsu).