|False history: A statue of a dragon head with an elephant trunk and a lion's nose appears at the Huong Pagoda Complex. Officials said it has never appeared in Vietnamese cultural history. — Photos vnexpress.net
HA NOI (VNS) — A new building has been constructed without authorisation on a protected area of the Huong Pagoda Complex, according to officials from the Ha Noi Department of Culture.
Called Huong Nghiem, the three-storey building stands opposite from the Chan Tinh Tower, which is located 100m from the Thien Tru Pagoda in the centre of the Huong Pagoda Complex in My Duc District to the east of Ha Noi.
The scenic spot attracts a great number of pilgrims and tourists during its three-month festival every year, which starts on the sixth day of first lunar month.
A delegate of managers and researchers from the Department of Culture inspected the site on Monday and determined that the Huong Nghiem was built without permission, according to Truong Minh Tien, vice director of the department.
The Huong Nghiem building replaced old houses that date back to 1970, said Thich Minh Hien, chief monk of the Huong Pagoda Complex.
"The building also comprises guest rooms, a dormitory and refectory," he said. "The building was completed and used in the past two years. It helps serve tourists, especially during the festival when a million pilgrims and tourists flock to the site every year."
Monk Hien explained that he submitted a report to the My Duc District authorities to notify them that the building will be opened and that it was approved.
Huong Nghiem building is located on a protected area, which stipulates it should be preserved in its original condition, according to the national Law on Cultural Heritage.
"As Huong Pagoda Complex was recognised as a National Relic Site in 1962, the construction of any structures in protected areas needs to be determined by the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, not the local government," vice director Tien said.
Dang Van Bai, vice chairman of the National Cultural Heritage Council, said if the construction is necessary, the site's management board should ask for permission and find a solution to ensure the new building is harmonious with the heritage space and existing structures.
Researcher Tran Lam Bien, a member of the heritage council, agreed.
"Huong Nghiem is a bulky three-storey building, covering 400sq.m. We don't agree with the chief monk's opinion that it's a supporting construction and does not detract from the heritage site."
Bien also pointed out that the building uses wooden swinging half doors that are not suitable for a religious site. Moreover it is decorated with statues of a dragon head with an elephant trunk and lion's nose, Bien said.
"These are really strange objects that never appear in Vietnamese cultural and religious history. It may be a personal creation and shouldn't be applied at the religious site."
Nguyen Mau Chi from Hue City first visited Huong Pagoda 20 years ago. He was impressed by the beauty of the pagoda and the harmony between the natural sight and architectural structures.
When he returned to the site this year, it came as a shock when he saw the old beautiful pagoda sandwiched between new structures including the Huong Nghiem building.
"I feel disappointed because the tranquility, solemnity and modesty were lost," Chi said. "Huong Pagoda Complex is full of restaurants, shops, noisy visitors and new buildings that are not suitable for the surrounding space and nature."
Le Loan, a student from Ha Noi, said she has volunteered to serve Huong Pagoda festivals in recent years and had the chance to stay at the building twice.
"The old house before was too run-down, and we had to stay in bad conditions," said Loan. "When the Huong Nghiem building was finished, it opened to pilgrims and visitors to the pagoda to stay for free."
"I think a new building with convenient bedrooms will serve tourists better. However, it should not damage the heritage space of Huong Pagoda, of course."
Leaders of the Ha Noi Department of Culture requested that the local government submit a report with details pertaining to the Huong Pagoda Complex heritage site and the process of Huong Nghiem's construction in order to decide how to handle the case. — VNS