spiritnoname wrote:Why would a Zen person need an altar?
No Buddhist needs an altar for practice, but it is nevertheless a good thing to remind you of your practice, as a focus for your life and as a place you can take refuge. There is no exception for that in Zen (why would it?).
Knickknack altars littered with every little think people pick up that reminds them of Buddhism, Big kuan yin here, little Shakyamuni there, maybe a tara or ho tei. These kinds of altars are basically the change bowl where you through your keys, pens and pocket change of Buddhism.
I don't think Kannon or Shakyamuni are knick-knack. I am not sure, if you've been to a Zen Temple before, but on some of the altars of Zen Temples in Japan are many different statutes like Jizo, Kannon, Shakyamuni, Benzaiten/Saraswati etc. I don't see, why this should be a problem... Or do I get you wrong?