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Subject:WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: Mahouny Sun, Sep 23, 2007 IP:

First of all, I am sorry for my poor English.

I recently found this very interesting forum and I hope that someone can help me identify in witch dynasty this wooden, 65-cm height, statue of WeiTo (Temple Guardian) was made.

I think it's Ming dynasty , but some friend of mine told me that it may be also from Tang dynasty.
I want sell this splendid statue, but I am not sure about the dynasty and I have no clue how much it my cost.
Any idea ?

Thank you very much.

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: pierre vdw Mon, Sep 24, 2007

Bonjour Mahouny,

Your statue is indeed very much of the Tang dynasty style, and very beautiful to look at by the way.
But was it made during that period?

One of the characteristic of the Tang technique to apply polychrome (colors) on statues is the application of white color, as a base, on the entire piece. ("couleur de fond blanche" in French. )
The statue was painted white first,then they would start putting various colors on top of the white one.

I can't see clearly from you picture if this is the case or not.
You should be able to tell by scratching a little area covered by color and see if the base is white.

If so, your statue is certainly very well preserved for a Tang piece and is worthwhile being authenticate by a laboratory.

They can look at the surface first (cost about 200 Euro)to determine if it is old, and eventually make a Carbon 14 test (cost about 800 Euro.)to determine it's exact age.
Amazingly a C14 test will give the age with more or less a 20 years margin.

Now, beware that there are similar fakes statues on the market. I have seen one recently (head only) and will post a picture of it in a few days so you can see what it looks like. Very similar to this one.

Another thing to look at is the hole at the back of the statue. It was supposed to be covered/sealed and contain various herbs/insects head and a hand written message.
You don't have it by any chances?
If you do, we can determine the age as a date will be indicated on the message.

And, regarding holes at the back of a statue, I did not made any research on that subject but it will be interesting to know from when this kind of tradition started. I don't recall seeing any from the Tang dynasty. Qing: yes, Ming: a few, but before? I don't know. Maybe a member of this forum can tell us?

Give me the result regarding the scratching test I will try to help you further if I can.

I'm still taken by the well preserved condition of the statue for a 1.000 year old piece.

I join a few pics of wooden statues from my collection to illustrate the various states of decomposition through the years.

1st is an early Qing one (1723 to be precise)
2nd is not Chinese, but from about the Tang period
3rd is from the Han period or slightly before.


Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: mahouny Tue, Sep 25, 2007

@ Pierre

Bonjour Pierre,

Thank you for your fast and interesting answer.

Once again sorry for my poor English.

I checked statue once again , and indeed the first layer is white, some king of "sous couche" or base for other colors.
Unfortunately I have no back cover of statue.
Thank you for your pictures.

I am antiques restorer for 12 years (in Asian, Precolombian, and primitive arts), and I can tell you that my statue has only two very minor restorations.
Preservation of antique pieces, IMHO, depends of much things, as:
were they exposed outside or inside of buildings, or not.
Were they exposed to the sun,rain, wind, snow, high or low temperatures, were or not wooden pieces "eaten" by insects.
How were they "treated" by their owners, and so on...

For example your second statue, I think, made from hard wood, and was exposed (or found) outside

And sometime 2 - 3 month of wrong conservation in private collection , can make more damage to
very well preserved piece.

I think my statue was well preserved and treated all time.
Wood is very old if you look inside of statue,
and I'am at 99% sure that it was not made from old block of wood to make it old.
Also there is a very strong feeling of "spirit" presence, when you hold this statue in your hands, when you look in his face.
I tried to make pictures as good as I can, but
IMHO, pictures cannot show even 10% of the beauty of this piece.
Whet you look at the pictures you may think that polychrome is almost fully preserved, but is not .
There is only 30-35% of polychrome, and in some places wood looks almost same as polychrome.

Any how I will make C14 test.
I never did it before because I know it's very long...

I join more pictures of statue.
Color may vary from real.

Best regards,

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: mahouny Tue, Sep 25, 2007

Sorry for typing error.

...some king of "sous couche" = ...some kind of "sous couche"


Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: pierrevdw Wed, Sep 26, 2007

Hello Khamzat,

Yes, not all wooden pieces are as bad as mine. All depend of the exposure to the elements as you said.

Looking at the close up pictures, indeed it seems to be an old statue, not a modern reproduction.

The style is certainly Tang, not Ming. The shoes are Tang, the arms, the head , etc... even the flowers represented on the last close up picture, all that is in the style of the Tang dynasty.

For what I can see,the polychrome is also better preserved in protected areas than is exposed areas.

All these are good signs.

The C14 analysis should take no more than 1 or 2 weeks, depend on how busy the lab is.

Keep us inform of the result.

In the meanwhile I will try to find out
1- When did the tradition of "statues with hole at the back" started.
2- Is it appropriate for WeiTo to be an "offering" statue to the temple.
As you probably know, statues with hole at the back were offered to the temple by the believers either to request something or to thank the Gods for something. Their message/request was inserted in the hole.
WeiTo must be placed in a very specific position in the temple, not just about anywhere at the feet of a God.
So we better look at this as well.

If you don't mind, and as you are in the restoration business, can I ask you:

I have this very old wooden statue, Han to Warring states.
It was still humid when I got it, since then, due to the drying process, a crack appeared on the torso and is now stopped just on the edges. (see pics, before and now.)

I gave it a good mineral oil bath recently to try to stop this crack to go any further. Is there anything else I could or should do?

Thank you and best regards,

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: mahouny Thu, Sep 27, 2007

Bonjour Pierre,

Add humidifier to the room where you keep your wooden pieces, to help stabilize the humidity level.

Here also a few tips :

Wood can best handle temperature changes and relative humidity if they occur gradually.
Abrupt changes can stress your wooden pieces.

Use dehumidifiers during wet, rainy times and in damp rooms to remove excess moisture from the air.

Limit exposure to sunlight with the use of shades, drapes, blinds, shrubs, or window tinting.

Avoid placing wooden antiques near air ducts or heat radiators.

You can also, ask for liquid wood preservative in shops that sells products for antiques restauration.

I was told by two friends, that I really should choose a good laboratory for C14 test, because some time dating error may occur ( as for the Shroud of Turin) and this will create a bad story for the piece (impossible to sell for a good price).

They (my friends) even says that sometimes, in my country, for some reasons pieces are deliberately wrong dated...
And it's impossible to prove the wrong dating
without another test from other laboratory.

Did you heared this kind of stories ?


Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: pierrevdw Thu, Sep 27, 2007

Hi Khamzat,
Thank you for the information about wood preserving.
I have one of those humidifier machine, I will put it with my wood pieces.
I never heard about false C14 test. What country do you live in? and which city?

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: mahouny Fri, Sep 28, 2007

Dear Pierre,

I live in Paris.

I was told at least 3 stories (from different persons) of wrong dating by C14.
I have saw those pieces and I am absolutely sure that they are very very old.

However they were tested as "modern" !?

Laboratories promise you to keep information confidential, but it's not true...
If you have an "important" piece (that was the case with all 3 items), or you are known in business, you may be sure that the rumors that your items are fakes will spreads out quickly.

Two of tested pieces ( Khmer wooden Buddha on N�ga and Taino bone vomit stick) were retested , one Germany and other in U.K. and it was reveled that they are old.

However, how to be sure (as a buyer) which test to trust ? Which laboratory ?
I will not give their names, but they are all well known in countries they are based.

Now owner have two options, he can try to sell piece with good test, but... rumors, rumors, rumors...

Second option it's to make C14 test one more time to be sure which result to believe, first or second.
The problem that it is costly test.

As for me I don't want to take any risk, because I want sell this statue, so I will carefully search for a GOOD laboratory.

Best regards,

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: pierrevdw Fri, Sep 28, 2007

Hi Khamzat,

Try this one:
1 hour by TGV from Paris, and no rumors.

More over, the owner of this lab is specialised in Asian antiques.
He can tell you about it's authenticity by doing a stereoscopie, which is cheaper than C14.

Best regards,

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: Khamzat Tue, Mar 25, 2008

I finally got the Carbon 14 results :) made in Z�rich university.

95.4% probability : 1290AD (95.4%) 1430AD

So it's from beginning of Ming Dynasty. (Maybe

Once again I was told about "wrong dating" by French laboratories.

Even more !
I have two analysis certificates from same French laboratory (by same person) with same number for same item... but with completely different results !!!

One test says that the piece is modern fake!
And second says that it's authentic!

Second test was made after a call from scientist who discovered huge miscalculations in first report.

Sad but true...

So be careful when you chose a expert or laboratory for tests, especially if you live in France.

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: pierre vanderweerden Tue, Mar 25, 2008

Hello Khamzat,

Interesting result. Thanks to keep us informed.

Subject:Re: WeiTo - Temple Guardian
Posted By: Franky Tue, Mar 12, 2024

I just got this really nice statue of a Wei Tuo Guardian,
High 55cm/21,65 inches

sadly saturated by worms holes ...

Said to be Qing dynasty but seems really old
Maybe early Qing dynasty ???

Any idea about age ?
Value ??
and how to treat wood/worms holes... ?

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