Gilding in Buddhism is a long standing tradition in which Buddhist use gold leafing to highlight the importance of their belief in this ancient statue. Even today, gilding is used on Buddha statues serves as a hallmark of the buddhist religion. Buddha sacred gilding stems from practices started long ago, and beautiful gilding utilizing genuine gold leaf still is used to emphasize the significance of this statue according to Buddhist tradition.

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Gilding In Buddhism

What Is the Significance of Gold Leaf?

Gold leaf has long been used in ancient times to indicate regality, sophistication, or the utmost importance. Instead of using imitation leaf which can sometimes be composed of alternative brass leaf, you’ll find most people use genuine gold in accordance with ancient practice .

Gold in general is of significant importance. Statues of all sorts have been layered in genuine gold to indicate their significance. Even buildings are treated this way, as many influential buildings around the world featuring gilded domes. Buildings and statues that are layered in head-turning and meaningful pure gold are usually laid using oil based adhesive as opposed to water based adhesive. This is because it is the only adhesive that is suitable for outdoor use.

Gilding In Buddhism

What Is the Story of the Clay Buddha in Gold?

Buddhist have overlaid their Buddha statue in gold because they regard Buddha as of the utmost importance in their lives. This ancient practice spans centuries when applied to various statue types, but when it comes specifically to Buddha statues, know that the laying on of gold leaf is seen as a way to pay homage to Buddha’s teachings.

More specifically, clay buddha statues are known to represent the fact that Buddhists believe there is a potential to be unlocked in every individual but in order to achieve it you have to “chip away” at the clay on the outside. Thus, you may find some Buddha statues fashioned with clay to symbolize this meaning, or you may find statues simply plated in plain gold leaf for reasons relating to significance and immortality to the Buddhist faith.

Buddha statues are fashioned in honor of a man named Siddhartha Gautama. Though the events that are retold concerning his life are widely regarded as legend-inspired only, he taught many things regarding life practices and beliefs that many people abide by today. It wasn’t until several centuries after his death that Siddhartha Gautama was labeled the “awakened one” which roughly translates to “buddha” as we know it.

Do Buddhists Wear Gold?

According to our research, it is a very common practice for Buddhists to wear a golden Buddha ring on their ring finger. Others may invest in Buddhist jewelry or beaded prayer bracelets. It is important to note, however, that not all Buddhists will wear jewelry. In fact, for many monks, wearing jewelry is expressly forbidden.

Therefore, you may find a wide range of people either wearing or not wearing jewelry in the Buddhist religion, depending on how strict they adhere to the religious lifestyle.

How to Do Gilding in Buddhism

When Buddha statues are gilded, much the same technique is used as with other techniques. Gilders start a clean and sanded surface, with old paint removed by hand to provide the perfect foundation. From there, adhesive is applied before careful and methodical laying of gold leaf occurs. Once the gold leaf is applied, it can then be gently buffed and any gaps or recesses fixed.

Genuine gold leaf does not require you to seal the surface as genuine gold will not tarnish.

Buddhists Gilding

It is important to note that large and small Buddha statues may not always get covered in genuine gold leaf. Though this might be thought of as the most exquisite and meaningful way of gilding a buddha piece it certainly isn’t the only means.

Other metal leaf types that have been used to build Buddha statues include genuine copper leaf and silver leaf. These metal leaf types are also sometimes combined to give a two-tone effect or to make a non-traditional Buddha statue much different than the ones most commonly seen.

Gilding In Buddhism

Importance of Gilding in Buddhism

As mentioned, gold leaf gilding is a technique used by many in both modern and ancient days to highlight the importance of a particular figure, painting, or building. Traditional gilder’s tools are typically used to make these art projects come to life, and it is likely that gilding is used in the Buddhist religion to highlight the importance of Buddha’s teaching and sayings in the time that he was alive.

Gilding in Buddhism Play a Significant Role in Buddhist Religion

As you can see, the use of gold leaf, and other metal leaf types, play a significant role in the religious beliefs of Buddhist people. To pay homage to the original Buddha and his teaching, people lay gold leaf on the Buddha statue in dedication to him both in temples and in their homes. Today, it can be used in much the same way, with people continuing to pay their respects to Siddhartha Gautama, most commonly referred to as “the Buddha ”.


What tools are needed for gilding?

Tools most commonly needed for gilding include a soft brush, foam brushes for adhesive application, water or oil based size, metal leaf (genuine gold, imitation gold, or other metal leaf types), and a sealant. Remember that sealant is only necessary for use with any metal leaf that is not genuine gold. You should never seal genuine gold as it will change the gold’s appearance over time.

How is imitation leaf different from genuine gold leaf?

An imitation leaf may sometimes be used for statues, but it isn’t always, especially when used outdoors. Imitation leaf, or composition leaf*, is a type of gold leaf that isn’t composed and true gold. Instead, it contains metal alloys including zinc, copper, and brass that give the illusion of gold. This “gold leaf” is much cheaper than the real thing, but can look similar.

When did gold leafing statues first begin?

The gold leafing of statues is believed to have started with the ancient Egyptians long ago. Interestingly, their process for creating gold leaf wasn’t much different than today. It involved the pounding of gold into sheets thin enough to adhere to a statue surface, although methods used today can produce sheets thinner than even a human hair.

Is it better to use oil or water based size?

If you are planning to use your gold leaf for an outdoor project it is essential that you use oil based size. This is the only adhesive that is feasible for outdoor use. Only use water based adhesive on projects that will stay indoors.

Do I need a gilders brush?

Gilders brushes are great if you need to cover intricate full details of a piece in gold leaf because it can help you tamp down the gold leaf better. Otherwise, a clean soft bush will do. Many resort to using makeup brushes or something similar if the project is to be completed casually at home.

Was Buddha real?

Buddha refers to a man who lived long ago by the name of Siddhartha Gautama. He is best known for this teaching, though many of the legends told about his life are indeed legends. Still, there are many that hold to these stories and follow ritualistic practices in accordance with Buddhist religion.

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