“It’s my fault,” says Buddhist nun of 1,000-year-old temple

VietNamNet Bridge – The manager of Tram Gian Buddhist temple in Chuong My district, Hanoi, nun Thich Dam Khoa, admitted responsibility for “renewing” the 1,000-year-old temple at a meeting on September 4.

1,000year-old pagoda after and before its “restoration"

The original temple.

Buddhist nun Thich Dam Khoa cried at the meeting, which was attended by officials of Chuong My district, and admitted mistakes in re-building the ancient temple recently.

“It’s my fault! My call for help was not responded to for four years so I had to run risks,” the nun explained.

She said in the last four years, she had sent many petitions to relevant agencies to ask for their permission to restore the seriously downgraded temple, but he had not been replied to. The temple management board, therefore, decided to “restore” the ancient temple in the form of reconstruction.

The nun said of the VND5 billion ($250,000) of investment capital in the “restoration,” VND2 billion was raised from Buddhist followers and VND3 billion was borrowed from neighboring pagodas.

At the meeting, Chairman Vu Van Doan of Tien Phuong commune, which is the home to Tram Gian pagoda, also admitted the local authorities’ loose management.

Doan said nun Thich Dam Khoa sent a petition to the commune authorities in February 2012, but the commune did not report the case to the district government.

Vice Chair of Chuong My district, Vu Van Dong, said there are 327 relics, including 146 accredited relics in the district, including 32 national and 114 municipal level relics.

Dong said the district government only strictly manages 114 municipal-level relics, not the 32 national-level relics, because of unclear regulations on decentralization of management.

“The district government is only in charge of security and land management, not restoration,” he added.

Chuong My district’s officials said that the district authorities were never informed about relic restoration projects which were invested by the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, but once these projects failed, they were blamed for responsibility.

The district’s Party Secretary Nguyen Thi Tuyen asked to have representatives of communes and districts where relics are located in in relic restoration projects.

“The Tram Gian temple case is not only the lesson of Chuong My district, but for other relics and relic management bodies,” Tuyen said.

The district officials committed to urgently check the temple, to protect the remaining structure and materials and combine with relevant agencies to restore the ancient temple as soon as possible.

The pagoda was built in 1185 during the reign of King Ly Cao Tong (1176-1210) and is famous for its 600-year-old bell tower.

However, it underwent restoration over the past three months without permission from relevant authorities. Inspections by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism concluded that the practice had violated the country's Cultural Heritage Law.

Findings reveal that major structures including the main temple, the two-story bell tower and steps from the tower to the forecourt have been dismantled and rebuilt. All the wood structures, roof tiles of the main temple and the bell tower were removed and left unattended behind the pagoda while the blue marble steps were replaced with new stones.
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