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Arts and Entertainment

Pasadena Artist Who Claims To Be Buddha Reincarnated Is Wanted In China

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A Pasadena man who claims to be the reincarnation of Buddha is selling his art for millions. He's also wanted by the Chinese government for fraud. His Holiness Dorje Chang Buddha III grew up in the Sichuan province of China, but now resides in Pasadena, according to Pasadena Star-News. As the leader of an obscure but passionate Buddhist sect, he has followers in the Bay Area and in the San Gabriel Valley. Baffling art dealers, his artwork sells for millions. He sold one ink drawing for $16.5 million in a recent auction in NYC. The piece is called "Ink Lotus" and the artist's statement is: "An utter chaos strewn with broken strokes: a peculiar sight, yet wondrously empowered with soul-soothing charm." The buyer is someone from California who has elected to remain anonymous.

Buddha moved to the U.S. from China in 1999, around the same time that the Chinese government begin trying to shut down certain Falun Gong, a spiritual mind/body religious movement in which leaders often said they had supernatural abilities. Buddha and his wife bought a $2 million house in Pasadena, and his family also owns homes in Long Island. He founded the International Art Museum of America in San Francisco in 2011, which despite the title, initially only featured works by Buddha himself. The museum has since expanded to feature other artists after being criticized for being affiliated with a cult.

Art dealers aren't really sure why Buddha's artwork is selling for so much. Back in 2012, he sold two paintings for $230,000 and $330,000 respectively. While still a lot, it's a big jump from that amount to $16 million. Greg Brown, an art appraiser with an emphasis in Asian art said it "doesn't quite make sense that this man is selling his artwork for this much in only three years."

One possible answer is that Buddha's followers are upping the value, and that Chinese art is in demand. One of Buddha's followers moved from Ohio to California, changing her name from Carol Welker to Zhaxi Zhuoma. She claims that he can use his mind to heal, move inanimate objects and conjure nectar.

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However, back in China, Buddha is a wanted man. The government there knows him as Yi Yungao and Wan Ko Yee, and they say that he has stolen $7.32 million via "fraud by means of deception."

Buddha's followers say that the Chinese government is lying. Helou "Vincent" Huang, who works at the Office of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha in Monterey Park, said that Buddha was accused by two property owners of defrauding them in 2002. He also said that both property owners later recanted their claims.

Huang and Peter Schey, a Los Angeles Human Rights Attorney who successfully defended Buddha in 2008 and got INTERPOL to rescind his arrest warrant, both believe that the Chinese government's motives are political.

"The arrest warrant was motivated by a desire on the part of the Chinese government to persecute him as a result of his religious activities," Schey claimed.

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