Wood carvings around the world

 

 

Wood carving is a millennia-old tradition in Taiwan. The following 6 pictures show examples of this art form, produced in the city of Sanyi.

 

Bùdài, who is often called ‘The Laughing Buddha’, does not represent the Buddha Sakyamuni, as is sometimes believed by Westerners, but is a bodhisattva, usually regarded as an incarnation of Maitreya, the ‘Future Buddha’, who, it is said, will return to Earth in due time to save humanity. Bùdài means ‘a sack made of cloth’. This name has been applied to him, as he is usually seen carrying a sack over his shoulder. When asked why he is carrying that sack, he will just throw it to the ground, smiling, indicating that you should let go – the final goal of all Buddhists.

 

Taiwan 2012
Taiwan 2012a
Two images of Bùdài, often called ‘The Laughing Buddha’. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Taiwan 2012a
Carving, depicting a Chinese nobleman. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Taiwan 2012a
Two monkeys, who seem to be ready for pranks. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

According to tradition, the Indian Buddhist missionary Damo (also called Bodhidharma), was the person who brought Buddhism to China, c. 450-500 A.D. It is said that three years after his death, Chinese ambassador Song Yun met him walking in the mountains, carrying one sandal, tied to a stick on his shoulder. Song Yun asked him where he was going, to which he replied, “I am going home.” When asked, why he was carrying only one sandal, he answered, “You will know when you reach the Shaolin Monastery. Don’t mention that you saw me, or you will meet with disaster.”

Regardless of Damo’s warning, Song Yun told the emperor that he had met him, to which the emperor replied that he was already dead and buried, whereupon he let Song Yun arrest for lying. When they arrived at the Shaolin Monastery, the monks informed them that Damo had been buried in a hill behind the temple. When the grave was opened, the coffin only contained a single sandal. The monks exclaimed, “Master has gone back home,” whereupon they prostrated three times.

 

Taiwan 2012a
Taiwan 2012
This wood carver is working on a sculpture, depicting the Indian Buddhist missionary Damo. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Bangkok 2005-07
Wood carver at work, Damnoensaduak, Thailand. He is carving figures into a tabletop, including elephants and trees. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Still, a few houses in Nepalese villages are adorned with beautifully carved window frames, but this millennia-old craft is quickly vanishing, giving way to pre-fabricated windows.

 

Annapurna 2007
House in the village of Dana, Kali Gandaki Valley, Annapurna, central Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Nepal 1998
Sydasien 1978-79
Two window frames in the village of Thulo Shyabru, which is beautifully situated on a ridge in Langtang National Park, central Nepal. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Bornholm 2008b
Carving, depicting an Underjordisk (‘Underground Dweller’), a local type of gnome, which is unique to the island of Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Near the town of Garberville, California, I passed a storage place for hundreds of kitschy wood carvings. More pictures of these images are found elsewhere on this website, see Culture: Folk art around the world.

 

Californien 2013
This picture shows the famous ’Bigfoot’, a creature like the Himalayan Yeti – a giant, human-like ape, which supposedly roams the forests of western United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Chile 2011a
Giant wooden sculpture, depicting an albatross, Valparaiso, Chile. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sydøstasien 1975
This Dayak tribal from the village of Belaga, Sarawak, Borneo, is sitting on an old-fashioned chair, which is carved out of a tree trunk. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The Vasa is a Swedish warship, which was completed in Stockholm in 1628. On its maiden voyage, in August the same year, it sank after sailing only 1,300 metres. Most of her bronze cannon were salvaged shortly after, but then the ship was largely forgotten, until it was found again in the late 1950s. In 1961, it was salvaged, with a largely intact hull, and in 1988 it was moved to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm.

 

Skandinavien 2001-14
Wood carvings, adorning the hull of the ‘Vasa’. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Bayt al-Suhaymi (‘House of Suhaymi’) was originally constructed in 1648, during the Ottoman Era, along the Darb al-Asfar in Cairo, Egypt, which in those days was a very prestigious area of the city. The various buildings of the mansion were erected around a central garden. Today, this house is a museum.

 

Egypten 1999
Egypten 1999
These pictures show some of the Mashrabiya windows in Bayt alSuhaymi, adorned with wonderfully carved wood latticework. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

In a plantation on the island of Fanø, Denmark, various images have been carved from dead trees. The following 7 pictures show some of this artwork.

 

Fanø 2001-12
A gentle wood fairy. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Fanø 2001-12
A crocodile-like monster. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Fanø 2001-12
An exercising ogress. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Fanø 2001-12
A rabbit. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Fanø 2001-12
A dog, lying on its back. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Fanø 2001-12
An ogre. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Fanø 2001-12
A friendly snail. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

USA-Canada 1992
This totem pole at Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, Canada, depicting a bear, was carved in 1966 by Salish people. The bear was a totem animal for several North American native tribes. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

In 1984, I spent a few days with wood carver Joseph Blas, who lived in the Ifugao village of Bocos, near Banawe, northern Luzon, Philippines. – Read more about my interesting adventures with Joseph elsewhere on this website, see Travel episodes: Philippines 1984 – Shamanism among Ifugao tribals.

 

Filippinerne 1984
One of Joseph’s wood carvings on a door panel in his house, depicting everyday life in an Ifugao village. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Filippinerne 1984
These carved wooden figures, depicting house gods, called Bulol, were guarding Joseph’s rice harvest. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Lom Stavkirke is a stave church in the Gudbrand Valley, Norway – one of the largest of its kind in the country. It was probably constructed during the 1100s.

 

Skandinavien 2001-14
Carved dragon’s head on the roof of the church. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Skandinavien 2001-14
Mythical creatures, carved along one of the entrances to the church. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

 

Indonesien 1985
Wooden sculpture, depicting a flute player, Bali, Indonesia. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sjælland 1969-2005
Wood carving below the pulpit in Vejlø Church, Zealand, Denmark, depicting ‘Slattenpatten’ (‘Pendulous Breasts’), an ogress with a dog’s head. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2012
Taiwan 2012
Taiwan 2012
For several years, a collection of weather-beaten sculptures was exhibited outside a wood carver’s workshop in the city of Taichung, Taiwan. These pictures show three of the carvings. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sjælland 2017
Sjælland 2017
This dead elm (Ulmus glabra) on the island of Reersø, Zealand, Denmark, has been transformed into a sculpture, depicting figures from the Norse mythology, e.g. Thor with his hammer, Mjølner. The lower picture shows a nest of European hornet (Vespa crabro), built into a cavity above carvings on the same tree, depicting cats and a female figure. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Tyrkiet 2018c
Wood carving, depicting a cart, pulled by an emaciated donkey, Amasra, Black Sea Coast, Turkey. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

According to the famous Hindu epic Mahabharata, one of the Pandava brothers, Bhima, spent some time in exile in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, northern India. He fell in love with a local beauty, Hadimba (also called Hidimbi), who, as a young woman, had vowed to marry the man, who was able to defeat her brother Hadimb (or Hidimb) – a very brave and strong person. Bhima managed to kill Hadimb, whereupon Hadimba married him. Later, the local people regarded her as a goddess, an incarnation of the supreme Mother Goddess, Devi.

 

Lahaul-Ladakh 2014
This picture shows a collection of carvings, adorning the Hadimba Temple in Manali, erected in 1553 over a cave in a huge rock, where Hadimba supposedly meditated. Later, this rock was worshipped as an image of the deity. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Californien 2011a
Wood carving, depicting ‘Charlie’, mascot of the town of Charlton, Coos Bay, Oregon, United States. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Bornholm 2008b
This man, dressed as a Middle Age artisan, is carving printing blocks in a museum, Bornholms Middelaldercenter, on the island of Bornholm, Denmark. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Hindu temples in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, are adorned with an abundance of wood carvings, depicting mainly religious issues. Some, however, are more profane!

 

Nepal 1991
This picture from a Vishnu temple on Durbar Square, Kathmandu, shows two of this supreme god’s avatars (incarnations). The one to the left is the second avatar, Kurma, half man, half turtle, who plays a vital role in the epic drama ‘The Churning of the Milk Ocean’. (Read about this legend elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Hinduism.) The figure to the right is the third avatar, Varaha, a gigantic boar, who kills the terrible demon Hiranyaksha. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Nepal 1985
These carvings on the Old Royal Palace, Durbar Square, Kathmandu, depict a wrestler (malla), and a griffin, devouring a snake. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Nepal 1985
Nepal 1985
These carvings, also on the Old Royal Palace, Kathmandu, depict various mythological creatures. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Nepal 1991
This carving on a temple rafter at Pashupatinath depicts a couple, making love in a rather advanced position. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Nepal 1991
The carvings on this beam in a Hindu temple, Bhaktapur, depict a deity, possibly Krishna, whose skin was blue, and a woman, giving birth. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Sydasien 1978-79
These carvings adorn a Hindu temple on Durbar Square, Kathmandu, dedicated to the supreme Mother God, Devi, who, in the form Kali, wears a garland of human skulls. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

 

Taiwan 2014d
Daoist wooden images in the Fushing Temple, Xiluo, Taiwan, depicting Lohan (‘Worthy Ones’), i.e. persons, who have attained a very high level of knowledge and understanding. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

The Oseberg Ship is a very well-preserved Viking ship, unearthed in 1904 from a large burial mound near the Oseberg farm in Vestfold, Norway. It is thought to date from about 800 A.D. Today, it is displayed in the Vikingskipshuset (Museum of Viking Ships) in Oslo.

 

Skandinavien 2001-14
Skandinavien 2001-14
Carvings on the Oseberg Ship, depicting the Midgard Serpent, also called Jormungand, a giant, which has assumed the form of an enormous monster. The gods try to drown it by throwing it into the cosmic sea, but it merely winds itself around the entire Midgard (abode of humans), biting its own tail. A völva (a prophetess) has foretold that at Ragnarok, when the world comes to an end, Thor is going to fight a final battle with the Midgard Serpent, which he succeeds in killing, but he himself will succumb to the monster’s poison. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

Skandinavien 2001-14
Skandinavien 2001-14
Carvings on the Oseberg Ship, depicting human faces, (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Formerly, when a Dayak tribal chief in Borneo passed away, an ornate burial pole would be erected on his grave. When the pictures below were taken in 1975, this custom had already vanished. – Read more about Dayak tribals elsewhere on this website, see Travel episodes: Borneo 1975 – Canoe trip with Punan tribals.

 

Sydøstasien 1975
Sydøstasien 1975
Dayak tribal chief burial poles, Belaga, Borneo. (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Taiwan 2009
Tribal art, carved in wood, Sanyi, Taiwan. Many more pictures of Taiwanese tribal art are found elsewhere on this website, see Culture: Folk art of Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

USA 2002-10
USA 2002-10
These wooden window panels in the Wendell Gilley Museum, Mount Island, Acadia National Park, Maine, United States, depict a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and a great horned owl (Bubo virginianus). (Photos copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Sjælland 2006-11
These wood carving in Højerup Church, Stevns Klint, Zealand, Denmark, depict two creatures, which resemble a mixture of a dragon and a Bird Phoenix. This carving is probably influenced by Chinese mythology, in which the masculine virtues of the dragon and the feminine virtues of the Feng-Huang (often erroneously called ‘Chinese Phoenix’) complement one another. For this reason, they are often depicted together on Daoist temples. – More about these creatures, and about Daoism in general, is found elsewhere on this website, see Religion: Daoism in Taiwan. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Uttarakhand 2008
In the village of Sangam Chatti, Uttarakhand, India, women have created art from dead branches, which have been washed up along the river banks. Faces are applied to some, while others resemble birds or dinosaurs. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

Nepal 1985
Beautifully carved wooden door in the city of Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. (Photo copyright © by Kaj Halberg)

 

 

(Uploaded March 2018)

 

(Revised continuously)