But Lin has only managed to give away some 3,000 figures — or 15 percent — of his collection.
“More people want to get rid the statues than receive them. I get phone calls almost every day about unwanted statues,” he lamented.
As the calls keep coming, Lin is struggling to find enough space to accommodate the growing collection.
The statues currently fill up his shop, studio and a warehouse in northern Taoyuan county.
He opens his shop for school trips and has previously loaned statues to film companies wanting to recreate temple scenes.
This year he plans to open a gallery displaying some 1,000 statues of the goddess of mercy Guan Yin in her namesake town in Taoyuan where he lives.
There are few artisans left like Lin with the knowledge to carve and restore statues of gods.
He started out aged 17 with twenty other apprentices but only he and one other from the class remain in the trade.
Demand is waning and those who want statues often buy cheaper imported ones.
“This is a sunset industry,” he sighed. “None of my three sons are interested in following my footsteps. I have to do it for as long as I can.”
But he vows to carry on collecting the unwanted statues.
“I am doing this all by myself with my limited physical strength,” he said, a reference to polio he contracted as a child.
“But I just can’t bear to see the statues of deities abandoned.”
PICTURES BY SAM YEH/afp