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Plan to save ‘restored' 1000-year-old pagoda

Update: August, 31/2012 - 10:06

HA NOI — Initial studies indicate that the main original timber and stone components of the Tram Gian (100 compartments) Pagoda in Ha Noi's Chuong My District are still intact, architect Le Thanh Vinh, director of the Institute for Relics Conservation said yesterday.

Much of the almost 1,000-year-old pagoda was recently dismantled for complete renovation without permission from authorities.

This compromised its original appearance by replacing old timber columns, roof tiles and other original materials with new one.

"Documents and images of the pagoda together with scientific checks should enable the building to be restored largely to its original state," Vinh said at a press conference yesterday.

"Of course, we can't restore it completely, but we will try our best and we will soon finalise proper solutions."

"Normally, materials from ancient buildings are numbered when removed. However, in this case, this did not happen, so it will take time."

Director of Ha Noi Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism Pham Quang Long said he hoped the restoration would bring back the pagoda's historical value.

"In my opinion, the losses are not small because many minor details and materials are missing, so a complete restoration is impossible," Long said.

Long reiterated that the reconstruction of parts of the pagoda had seriously harmed the historical relic.

"It is so serious that the project was suspended immediately and all competent authorities including the culture ministry, culture department and district's people's committee jumped in to deal with the problem," he said.

Chairman of the Ha Noi People's Committee Nguyen The Thao on Wednesday called for an immediate suspension of the project and the dismissal of the head of the Tram Gian Pagoda management body.

He also required those in charge of the relic management at all levels to take responsibility.

"All timber materials, rock foundations, roof tiles as well as other original materials that have been removed must be saved," Thao said.

"A plan to restore the pagoda to its original state should be mapped out as soon as possible provided that all these materials are completely re-used."

In September 2011, an investigation by the culture authorities concluded that much of the pagoda was in need of repair, including a shrine to the pagoda's abbots, and a building housing a musical stone and drum.

A month later, the municipal authorities gave the go ahead for the dismantling and then restoring these constructions. However, due to a financial shortage, nothing was done.

According to the pagoda's abbot, Thich Dam Khoa, recent heavy rains and flooding damaged the shrine as well as the drum house.

"The flood season might have demolished them, destroying Buddhist statues and making the building insecure for visitors," Khoa said. "That's why the managers decided to dismantle and rebuild these works."

At the press conference, the director of the municipal culture department and representatives from Chuong My District and Tien Phuong Commune were bombarded with questions, particularly those regarding to "accountability". — VNS

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