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Furor builds over pagoda restoration

Update: August, 29/2012 - 09:29

 

Far from original: Part of the Tram Gian Pagoda has been rebuilt with totally new materials.— VNS Photo Hanh Phuc
HA NOI — The Tram Gian (One-hundred-compartment) Pagoda would be restored to its original state, a representative from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism's Cultural Heritage Department said yesterday.

The pagoda, in Chuong My District on the outskirts of Ha Noi, 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 has undergone restoration over the past three months without permission from relevant authorities, local media reported. 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-storey 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.

Vu Xuan Thanh, chief inspector of the culture ministry, said the reconstruction of these structures was almost done when the inspection delegation arrived at the site on Friday.

"The only thing we could do at that moment was to ask for a prompt suspension. Of course, it is a provisional solution. For a site with national heritage like the Tram Gian Pagoda, the restoration should have been approved by the Cultural Heritage Department. If not, it's certainly wrong," said Thanh.

An inspector said that in the 2007-09 period, a project to restore the pagoda was approved by the culture ministry. However, without financial resources, it was still only on paper.

"Now they have demolished the pagoda without any legal approval and replaced the old structures with new materials," the inspector said.

The nun in charge of managing the pagoda also took responsibility for dismantling and reconstructing parts of the pagoda at her own initiative without approval from relevant authorities.

Professor Nguyen Minh Thuyet, former vice head of the National Assembly Committee for Culture, Education and Youths, said that act should be widely condemned to prevent similar operations in the future.

".I feel completely shocked and painful because we are losing a heritage of overriding significance. This is the asset of not only Chuong My District, but of the whole nation."

The culture ministry required the municipal administration to work with competent agencies to stop the renovation, tackle the wrongdoing, protect and preserve the old materials, and immediately find ways to save the national historical heritage.

The ministry also called for measures to fully utilise existing building materials to restore the structures to their original states. — VNS

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